Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Green Challenge

I never thought I'd start a post with the phrase "I've just been tagged..." because I don't usually know what to say. (My apologies to others who've tagged me in the past and I let it fall through the cracks.)

But today I got tagged by Kimberley of ParisianEvents, who is passing along the Green Challenge to bloggers: How do you introduce environmental sustainability in your daily life?

My mind races. This topic requires a fair amount of intellectual honesty. Have I been recycling every plastic yogurt container or just the ones I've rinsed out? Well, I can fudge on that one. I immediately start feeling guilty about my Nespresso maker, which is environmentally unfriendly. I did write to the Nespresso Company last month asking why they don't have a capsule recycling program here like they do in Switzerland. That may have been a noble effort, but doesn't really qualify as action helping the environment.

I start to worry if I am actually doing anything to introduce environmental sustainability in my daily life. What am I going to write about for the Green Challenge? Nature hates a void, and my brain starts filling up with everything that I'm not doing. This isn't helpful.

Old-fashioned Protestant guilt snowballs as it serves up my list of naughty environmental behavior: I keep the heat higher than I should in the apartment -- I just don't function well in the cold. Bad, bad. I forget to take my baskets when I go to the Shopi and end up bringing home 6 or 7 plastic bags, which Paris doesn't recycle. I buy water in plastic bottles. I buy prepackaged goods. I leave the lights on in rooms that I'm not using.

Help help help! I'm not doing so well in the day-to-day green score, I am thinking. Guilt is wracking my soul. I may have to write a lovely fib or something.

Then I pause and take a mental step back, for a little perspective. Wait a minute. How am I green in my everyday life? Here's the answer:

I moved to Paris.

Eighteen months ago I lived in a lumbering old six-bedroom house in Massachusetts, far more space than I needed for me and my two teenagers, who were away at school most of the time. I had to heat, clean, and maintain all that space. I had a wonderful green yard and a garden -- certainly good for the environment, but requiring lots of mowing and dreaded leaf-blowing when I couldn't muster the energy to rake it all myself. And an occasional bit of Round-Up for persistent weeds. I had a nice station wagon that I drove everywhere, a necessity of suburban life. I ran loads and loads of laundry each day. In the US, I got a triple-grande no-foam non-fat latte from Starbucks, every single morning.

Then I moved to Paris: I sold my car. I live in 70 square meters. I travel on foot, public transport, or bike. I read the New York Times online. I air-dry my laundry. I give old clothes to Emmaus or La Croix Rouge. I return the metal hangers to the dry cleaners. I recycle in the two bacs in the courtyard, according to the Mairie de Paris guidelines. I have yet to grace the doors of any Starbucks in Paris. I may not be Madame Verte, yet, but maybe I'm not such an environmental sinner after all.

Can I keep my Nespresso maker, please?

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