As Green As Green Can Be?

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There has been debate here lately about whether we, as “Greenies” should buy anything at all. This is a long-standing issue in the environmental community: Should we shun all consumer products and grow our own food, make our own clothes and educate our own kids (the time that takes tends to limit your ability to do much else, I’ve found)?

Or should we engage in society as “regular” folks and try to change the system by supporting environmentally-friendly companies, products and services? I would guess that most Greenies do both, to varying degrees (since I live in the Northeast, I can only garden for part of the year anyway, for example). 

I’ve always had trouble with the ‘back to the land’ approach as I see many (certainly not all!) communities that are set up that way as having traditional gender roles. I have little interest in cooking and even less in having babies, sewing my own clothes or spending all day canning food.  I love the fact that I get paid for using my brain all day, writing, thinking, researching, asking questions, and interacting with all the other nerds that like that kind of work. At the same time, I realize my existence is predicated on people much poorer than myself doing all that hard (boring!) labor I don’t want to do. OR that some fossil-fueled machine has to do the work. So I try to buy Fair Trade and organic, and I clean my house myself, and I go to farmer’s markets and I grow my own summer veggies and I compost and I adopt rescued animals, and I ride my folding ebike to work, and I recycle and reuse like crazy.  How are we supposed to come up with solutions if we are laboring all day? I need time to think, dammit! 

What about you? What do you do? What tradeoffs do you make, and why?


Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.