For as long as I can remember I have fancied myself a champion for all things nature. Well, not spiders. I’m convinced spiders are not actually natural. (I actively cry for the extermination of any eight-legged hell beast that dares to enter my line of sight.) Spiders aside, I cannot remember a time in my life when I haven’t tried to protect every plant, animal, or insect I came across.
I used to cry when dad trimmed the lilac bushes outside my bedroom window as a child because I was convinced he was hurting them. I never allowed fireflies to be collected in glass jars, but instead created a bug house out of wood, cork, and wire mesh so they could get fresh air. This tradition has carried over into the latest generation of my family. Over the years no less than five homeless animals have convinced me to provide food and shelter while helping them find their forever home. Two more have convinced me that mine is their forever home.
My first campaign was against my father’s annual hunting trips after seeing the movie “Bambi” for the first time at the oh-so-wise age of 4. After seeing Bambi’s heartbreak at losing his mom, I started begging dad not to go hunting that year. Hunting season came, and dad decided to go anyways, despite my teary-eyed pleas. That night when it was time for bed-time prayer, I prayed that my daddy would not catch a deer that year, and it worked!
I continued this tradition for the next three years. Every year dad would leave to hunt, and every year I would pray he wouldn’t catch one. Then, when I was 8 years old, dad sat me down and talked about the dangers of overpopulation, and how that was actually really bad for the deer. I didn’t believe him, but I did hear him say that as much as he loved going up to the cabin, if he didn’t get a deer that year he’d never go back. That was the first time I compromised my convictions. I decided daddy trumped Bambi, and that year I prayed he would get a deer so he could keep going to the cabin he loved so much. Sure enough, he got one. I felt so guilty I burst into tears when he told me, and I never interfered with my dad’s hunting again.
The next year I saw “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” and became obsessed with reducing my family’s energy use. I followed people around, turning off lights as they left rooms. I made sure I used every possible inch of every piece of paper I touched. I used a timer to show them how long their showers were, and quoted facts about how much water they wasted for every minute their shower lasted. I threw fits when my mom tried to make me use the hair dryer. I had read somewhere that televisions and hair dryers were the two most energy-inefficient appliances in the house, and took that as gospel. Then I developed a case of walking pneumonia. My mother insisted that my health trumped saving the rain forests, and I abandoned most of these practices. (The paper usage and the extinguishing of unnecessary lights stuck with me.)
As I grew up, and now as an adult, there have been several of these adopted-then-abandoned practices. The discovery of boys, make up, fashion, and all things pink took priority. I traded my hemp tote for a Coach clutch, my reusable water bottle for a non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte. For a while I managed to assuage my sense of environmental responsibility by working at an international non-profit organization which fights daily for the conservation of natural resources, habitats, and endangered species. It was wonderful! I got to work somewhere that made so much difference that I didn’t feel the need to examine my life or the impact I made. (Please note that I am not diminishing the organization or their work in any way! I’m merely pointing out my own hypocrisy.) I was guilt-free and fashion-forward.
Then I moved to Smalltown USA. Not only does green still equal “hippie” here, but I’m fairly positive my neighborhood doesn’t require us to recycle. I live close to three different designer outlet malls, four Wal-Marts, two Targets, and seven thrift stores (which I have never been in.) Given my love of all things fashionable, I tend to shop. A lot. I buy everything new, replace rather than fix, pay little (if any) attention to the ingredients on my latest nail polish, and drive everywhere. I still preach being green, but I have not been living it.
I turn 29 in a few days, and I want to make some changes before I turn 30. I have issued myself a challenge: make my ideals match my lifestyle. I have to stop being the world’s worst environmentalist, and learn how to walk the talk.