This is another post asking readers for advice--I was thrilled to see so many people on Wednesday giving Erin (and me!) ideas for how to make some of those lingering areas of wanna-be-greener work out a bit better(even as it made me squirm at how not-so-green I am in a lot of areas)...so I'm going to throw in my deep-seated greeningprocess question.
We're working well as a family to improving our habits, reducing our trash, eating healthier food, putting on sweaters rather than cranking up the thermostat, and stuff like that. It's an ongoing process, but we're trying. The kids are pretty good at remembering to turn off their lights and shut off the water mid-toothbrushing, and they know the difference between garbage and recycling.
But...I have this husband.
Don't get me wrong--I don't want this to be a spouse-bashing post. This man is wonderful, a real partner--he and I work together on pretty much everything about our family's life including the kid-care stuff, with division of labor not establishing itself along stereotypical gender role lines, and plenty of it not divided at all but shared or alternated. We both work full time but often different hours, so when I'm working he's on for the kids and vice versa. He bathes them and feeds them and is the Get A Babysitter guy, he vacuums and does dishes and cleans up dog poop and does laundry. And doesn't ask for high praise and cookies when he does it--it's just part of life. And he thinks I'm gorgeous and sexy even though I'm carrying around a few pounds more than I should, he's my best friend, and I'm incredibly lucky.
But then there's the greening thing. If I were one of those women who basically Ran Her House, with a husband who just sort of assumes I'm going to take care of all the kid-home-food-cleaning stuff, the greenage would actually be a little easier. (Though everything else would be a lot harder!) And greening the kitchen (except for the paper towel thing) has actually been fairly easy, as that's the area that's pretty much my own domain. I make the grocery lists, mostly, and I make the homemade stuff, and he's happy that I do it but I don't think he's really committed to the why of my doing it, nor is he all that interested in inconveniencing his life to do it too. (I think he likes the idea of greening, but he also really likes Shiny And New, which two likes do not always mesh very well.) He has zero interest in bringing his own bags to the grocery store, or any other store, for that matter, which means if I want to keep the paper or plastic out of the house I have to do the shopping. If he's taking the kids somewhere around dinnertime, unless the threat of maternal ranting and raving is imminent, he's happy to take them to McDonalds or Wendys for Friednugget McPseudopoultry happy meals with cheezy plastic toys. (Though in the interest of disclosure, I don't think he's done that since seeing Food, Inc.) Our house telephones are about 7 years old and occasionally have little blurbs; he wants to throw them out and get something new and cooler. Stuff like that.
He grew up like most folks our age did (I was sort of an exception--we watched very little TV and almost never ate out)--watching commercials, exposed to incessant marketing and commercials, eating almost nothing but processed food, whether out of a can or freezer box at home or at a restaurant with his folks. He believes the ads when they tout something as the latest superfruit, or a great cleaner, or whatever, and he's incredibly susceptible to greenwashing. And he's still sort of prone to the whole "if it costs more it must be better" mentality, which is the exact opposite of mine. And then there's the "boys with toys" thing--compounded by his job as a professional techno-geek. He wants to get the Next Cool New Thing, and he always wants it to be the best and most complicated model of whatever it is. And while he's not anti green in the slightest, it's often really hard to get him on board with some of the less glamorous aspects. (I think he still thinks that ditching our aged minivan to buy a Hybrid Highlander was an environmentally responsible thing to do. Er...not so much, really. I mean, we needed a big-enough-to-schlep-kids-and-extra-grownups vehicle because the minivan was dying, but let's face it, a hybrid SUV still gets crummy mileage.)
That said, he's come about as long as way as I have so far, maybe farther. He's much better than I about remembering to turn off lights, in fact, he's better about not turning so many on to begin with. I can't get him to read articles about Green Stuff, but I can read headlines to him and sometimes he'll ask for more information on whatever it is. And over the months his inquiries have sounded more actually interested, and less humor-the-wife. And he watched Inconvenient Truth and Food Inc. and was I think about as appalled as I was about both of them. And he was open not only to composting, but to trying composting without buying a fancy expensive composter. But I came from this sort of semi-hippie background, he comes from Processed Urban Food Desert Family all the way. (No offense to any readers of Polish extraction, but the American Polish approach to a green vegetable seems to be to cook it into submission and/or cover it with a cream sauce of some kind.) He's got all this deep-seated stuff to get out of his system, and it's a much bigger jump for him than for me. Again, I'm not complaining at all. He's a fairly amazing guy. (And I still think he's gorgeous and sexy even though he's carrying around a few pounds more than he should. Hardly notice them, actually.) (His few pounds are considerably fewer than my few pounds, though.)
So this is my question: Would some of you be able to share your experiences with spouses, partners, significant others, etc and how the Green Thing has gone for you? I'd love to hear stories from men AND women, and I'd also welcome thoughts from anyone who wasn't the initial green impetus in your household/relationship.
What works? Anyone have any ongoing strategies for making the green journey a real partnered affair?