When you haven't lived your whole life as a treehugger, it can be hard to explain to friends and family members why you're so concerned about the environment all of a sudden. I spend countless hours justifying to people why I no longer use traditional personal care products (many contain potential carcinogens and other chemicals, including traces of formaldehyde) or why it really is a big deal to carry reusable shopping bags (too many discarded plastic bags are already clogging our landfills and waterways).
I guess I understand why this could sound strange coming from a woman who used to be a serial shopper, practically lived in clothing stores, and who had to have a new something cute for my baby at least once a week. Thankfully, my daughter was too young to remember that version of me.
What that means, mercifully, is that I never have to explain my newfound passion for all things eco-friendly to my toddler. My family has been on a gradual, but steady, journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle for nearly two years now -- half of my daughter's life. This means that recycling is a normal thing for her. At 4 years old, she no longer has to ask which plastics can be recycled, because she can read the numbers herself. She knows where her empty juice pouches go and why we don't throw away apple cores. She doesn't roll her eyes when I ask her to help me get the reusable bags from the trunk of the car. And when I remind her why we don't drink bottled water, she doesn't respond with, "Aren't you doing enough for the Earth already?"
Explaining my passion to my older loved ones, however, is a steep, uphill battle. Among my favorite conversations:
THEM: I grew up using product XYZ (or doing thing XYZ) and I turned out just fine.
ME: Doctors used to endorse cigarettes in the 1950s, but we now know cigarettes are directly linked to lung cancer. Would you let your kids smoke?
THEM: Recycled toilet paper is too hard and scratchy. How can you use that stuff?
ME: Can you really justify cutting down old growth trees for such an inglorious task?
THEM: Bottled water just tastes better.
ME: Most bottled water comes from the tap anyway. So why not pay a whole lot less for it and drink your own tap water?
THEM: Green products cost too much, and it’s all just a marketing gimmick anyway.
ME: You don't have to buy green products. Just don't buy anything at all. And while some sustainable products might cost a little more at the checkout counter than conventional products, there are much bigger, and much longer-term savings that show up in the health of your family and the health of the planet.
Perhaps I could be more understanding about their positions, given that I probably felt the same a few years ago. Mostly, I try not to preach, but to lead by example. This tends to be more effective with kids than adults. Still, the fact that I don't have to explain my motives to my daughter every time I want to try some new, greener product or activity is refreshing.
Even if no one else in my life "gets it," I know I'll always have her in my corner.
Do you wish you had someone in your life like that? If you already do, how has it helped you in your green journey? I'd love to hear your comments below!