There's the implication on many eco-blogs that "do it yourself" and "homemade" is the answer to all environmental conundrums. They talk about do it yourself projects with a sense of deep satisfaction, as if learning to make your own cheese will lead to life contentment.
I enjoy do it yourself projects. I really, really do. I like the feeling of independence and pride I get from making my own, and I like the savings. But there are actually very few things I do myself. And there are many things that I could do myself, but I choose not to.
- The other day I made my own tortillas. I enjoyed it, like I always enjoy cooking from scratch. But will I do it on a regular basis? Uh, uh. Not a chance. Even though buying tortillas means excess plastic waste. Even though there are probably some suspect ingredients in my preferred brand of tortillas. The thing is, we eat a lot of burritos around here because they are so exceptionally convenient. I can get burritos on the table in ten minutes if I use store bought tortillas. I'm already making my own bread, muffins, pitas, and granola. Homemade tortillas just don't fit into my schedule.
- I buy Charlie's Soap laundry detergent powder and Seventh Generation dishwasher powder. In theory, I could make my own, but I choose not to. When I've crunched the numbers, the savings have been minimal, and both of those products work well for me. Plus, I'm supporting two companies whose values I appreciate, and I'm sending a message to the economic market that I want to see more companies and products like Charlie's Soap and Seventh Generation.
- I would like to learn some basic carpentry skills, but I have absolutely no interest in learning plumbing or electrical wiring. Even if it meant I would save money that I could then spend on locally made organic cotton jeans, those are just not skills that I want to acquire.
- The Mitchum anti-perspirant that my super-sweaty husband prefers does not rate too bad on Skin Deep. I would prefer that he use a cheap homemade version, or even a brand made by a company I like. But he sweats a lot, and Mitchum keeps him from stinking. Plus, I can get it at Kroger, so it's convenient.
When Clorox first came out with their GreenWorks line of cleaners, I was annoyed that people would choose to support Clorox rather than spend the two minutes it takes to mix up some baking soda, borax, and water. But since then, I've come to realize that I can't expect everyone to make the exact same choices I do. The average person is not going to do most things themselves.
The average person is not going to start shopping at Whole Foods or another health foods store. And the average person is not going to plop down more money for a Seventh Generation product when they can buy Clorox GreenWorks at their local Walmart.
This is not a race to see who can singlehandedly save the planet through their self-sufficiency. This is not even a race to see who can be the most green. We're all in this together, and unless we all make it to the other side, none of us win.
So my point is, be as green as you possibly can, but do it your way. Be conscious about your choices, but be green in a way that makes you happy. Do it yourself, but do what you enjoy.