The Climate Crusader is thinking about public displays of environmentalism.
"Did you just put that apple core in your reusable bag?"
it will create greenhouse gases.
On this day, though, someone else noticed what I was doing. I decided that it wasn't a big deal and said that yes, I was bringing my apple core home to compost. The questioner looked surprised and told me that I was very green. I brushed it off, saying that my house has green waste collection so it really isn't all that hard. So why did I feel the need to downplay my actions?
One of the things about making visible green choices is that sometimes, other people notice. And when they notice, they have their own reactions and feelings. This is totally fair. Sometimes they respond positively, and talk about the steps they're taking towards sustainability. Sometimes they respond curiously, asking how or why I'm doing what I do. And sometimes they respond defensively, giving me reasons for why they can't do it themselves.
In real life, I'm a fairly low-key person. I don't particularly like being noticed. And the handful of times that I've been noticed for doing something green and faced a negative reaction have been pretty uncomfortable. For example, I once blogged about my commitment to drinking tap water (rather than bottled water) whenever possible. A couple of weeks later when I was at someone's house and they offered me a range of beverage options including bottled water I replied, "Plain tap water would be great." This person had read my blog post and said, "Oh, you must think I'm terrible, drinking bottled water."
I've been on the other side of this equation, too, meeting people who I think of as super-green in person for the first time. I know that when I'm in their presence I suddenly start thinking about that bag of non-organic chips wrapped in plastic that I just finished, or the shirt I'm wearing that I bought on sale at Target that was presumably manufactured in deplorable conditions overseas. I worry that the person I'm meeting will think less of me because I'm not as green as they are. It's natural, as people, to want others to like us. We don't want to be found lacking. I get it. However, I don't think that worrying about how other people may view our environmentalism, or lack thereof, is all that helpful.
I can't speak for every single environmentalist, but speaking purely for myself I can say that when I do something like opt for tap water over bottled water or bring my apple cores home to compost I'm not looking down at people who do things differently. I am not the green police, and I don't want to be. In fact, I'm not sure I would qualify. I'm not perfect - far from it. I'm just doing the best I can, in a way that works for me. If you don't want to carry around your old apple cores, I'm not judging you. And I hope you won't judge me for my shortcomings, either.
We don't need to police each other's green living. And we don't need to be afraid to let our green sides show, either.