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I have a confession: I worry that deep down I can be profoundly superficial.
Take green living. I can remember back in the early '90s when my husband and I settled in a hamlet so dense with tree huggers our friends dubbed it "Park Oats." Virtually everyone in our neighborhood wore Birkenstock sandals -- long before they became available in an array of fashionable colors and metallic finishes. Most folks also belonged to the local food coop and carted their kale and beet greens in tattered looking, re-usable bags.
One day I paid a visit to said coop. It was the allure of decent produce -- an endangered food group at the time in New York City -- not the Green Movement per se, that prompted my visit. Still, it could have been the start of something big. And they almost had me. I mean, I like farmers in the dell and sharing and all the other wonderful things the coop espoused. At the information desk, a cheerful woman with a ruddy complexion and quick smile was as charming as she was informative. I was ready to put down my John Hancock until I looked around and realized that I wasn't ready for a regular schedule of earthy bonhomie if it meant I would need to start wearing Birkenstocks. (That's where the shallow part comes in. I was putting fashion ahead of intellect, and green just wasn't my color.)
Then I became a mom and began reading labels. I started buying organic milk, and became a fixture at farmers' markets. I passed the coop often but it never occurred to me that my buying patterns had become "green." I was simply buying the food that tasted best and seemed most healthful.
I also approached laundry and house cleaning with a new attitude. I started using natural cleaning products to perform the jobs I once relied on chlorine bleach to do -- whiten our clothes, scrub the sinks. Earth friendly? I didn't really think much about it.
Only recently has it dawned on me that green living is simply smart living. In other words, it is common-sense. And it's also up to me. So as my toddler starts gaining some independence, I would no sooner watch him run the tap while he brushes his teeth than I would let him run out into the street. Showing him the way to put an empty milk container in the recycling bin is as simple as teaching him to put his blocks back in the toy chest.
Of course, not all aspects of greening the family are easy. For example, I simply cannot bring myself to use cloth diapers -- although my mother actually offered to pay for a diaper service. And although I want to create a garden in the backyard for our family of five, I'm completely freaked by the idea of having yet more living things to care for. We'd love to own a hybrid vehicle, but we can't imagine a large cash outlay any time in the foreseeable future.
But my hope, like that of all parents, is that by modeling and teaching, we can raise our kids to be better citizens of the world -- citizens who are mindful of the earth. And who park their shallowness outside the coop door.