Every holiday season, my family takes an insane, 2000+ mile, totally not eco-friendly roadtrip to visit our family. The typical trip involves several days cramped in the car while watching movie after movie on our portable DVD player, munching on individually wrapped snacks, and loading up on fast food. Like I said: not eco-friendly.
Last year, I decided to address our wastefulness by coming up with a plan to make our roadtrips greener. And when we took our summer roadtrip (a shorter but still insane version of our Christmas trip), I put that plan into action: we checked the air in our tires, homemade a bunch of snacks, stopped at rest stops to make sandwiches instead of fast food restaurants for burgers, and brought our own water bottles instead of buying Cokes.
But for this latest trip, I just wanted a vacation. Not just a vacation from my house, but in all honesty, a vacation from my life. I wanted to have the kind of roadtrip that most people in this country get to have - the kind where I don't have to think hard or cook in advance or plan a lot or care so much. Just for two weeks, I wanted to live like everyone else.
Except that I can't.
I think there's a point of no return when you've gone green. A point where you know too much and the whole world looks different. I see trash, and my mind immediately flashes forward to where it will end up next. I walk into Target, and my mind flashes backward to where those products began their lives. I pick up a bottle of shampoo and subconsciously twist it around to check out the ingredients. For better or worse, my outlook on everything has been changed.
And so there came a point on our "vacation" when we swung by Sonic for lunch (my favorite fast food restaurant to eat at when roadtripping). And I'm sitting there eating a toaster sandwich and mozzarella sticks and sipping a Coke (my favorite Sonic meal), and all I can think is, "Look at how much trash we produced in this one meal."
And this thought makes me angry.
I just want to have a freakin' vacation! But I can't enjoy myself because freakin' Sonic uses so much freakin' trash in their meals.
It reminded me of a scene in No Impact Man during one of the early phases of his experiment where he decides he wants a slice of pizza. Except that he's decided not to produce any trash, and he can't order a slice of pizza without the paper plate that comes with it. And he's just about ready to give up the whole experiment, because he really, really, really wants a slice of pizza.
Eventually, like Fake Plastic Fish and Envirambo and many of my green heroes, he figures out how to order a slice of pizza without a paper plate (bring your own container), but why should he have to try so hard? Why should the responsibility fall completely on him and me and you?
Why can't restaurants design their to-go packaging so it's compostable, and why can't cities everywhere have compost collection along with their recycling and trash pick-up? Why can't companies design more products to have a cradle to cradle lifecycle? Why don't more grocery stores carry more products in bulk bins?
I believe that we are definitely, unequivocally going to have to make our lives more sustainable. But I can't help but ask, "When??? How long will it take?"
Thinking about this reminded me of a comment Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse left on my blog several months ago:
As someone who has been working on these issues for 30 years, I'm really heartened by the level of discussion going on. Even though it's late, and not enough, compared to the dust-ups we generated when we started in 1970 (yes, at the first Earth Day), I feel like we're in a hurricane. It's frustrating that progress isn't smarter and faster, but it is happening, and I'm thrilled we're all a part of it.So now my Word of the Year is PATIENCE...Change will come, even if it's eventually rather than right this second.
And until then, if I've reduced my waste and water and energy consumption, and if I'm involved in advocacy groups for transportation and community gardens, and if I'm even walking two hours several times a week to avoid driving my car three miles, I should be able to take a vacation every now and then. But maybe next time we'll go to Chipotle.
Do you have a word of the year?