Confession: I Suck At Taking Care Of The Earth

I wasn't always like this. I remember a time when I spazzed out if people used aerosol sprays. So what happened?
Publish date:
April 29, 2013
nature, recycling, Earth Day, composting, i'm an asshole

As I type this, another Earth Day has come and gone and, as usual, I did jack to recognize it. Unless you count letting the bartender use the same glass when I ordered my second refill of wine, which, actually, should totally count. God, I’m such a good person. Also, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to call it a “refill” when you’re talking about wine, but WHATEVER.

Sarcasm aside though, I wasn’t always like this. In fact, when Earth Day was introduced to the masses via a huge international campaign in 1990 (it was first celebrated in 1970, but 1990 is when it really blew up), I was all about it. I thought that tiny blue recycling box the city of San Francisco gave us to fill with our paper and glass was life changing. Until then, I’d hated taking out the garbage, but now that I had that blue box to place next to the can, it felt important.

My 7th grade Earth Day project was even picked out of everyone’s to teach to half of the 3rd grade class: learning how to recycle newspaper by soaking it with water, grinding it up to a pulp in a blender, and then shaping it however you wanted, and letting it dry. In 2010, paper recycling increased 89% since 1990 and I'd like to think that little project had something to do with it.

You can imagine, however, just how pissed those third graders were when they found out the other half of their class got to make “eco-friendly” gingerbread houses that were basically just gingerbread houses covered in candy and frosting with tin foil on the roof to represent solar panels. I still kind of feel bad for them, but you know? Life’s not fair. They got a 2-for-1 classroom lesson that day.

Anyway, I don’t know when I turned into such a shitty Earth-Taker-Carer-Of-Person. But I did. And here’s how I know it:

1. For five months of the year, I drive to and from Tahoe (400 miles round trip) every single week. I never carpool or offer to carpool because I like to sing really loudly at the top of my lungs and/or listen to Agatha Christie books on tapes and as much as people say that don’t mind hearing me sing the same Taylor Swift song over and over and over again, I know that’s not true because when I do it drunk on Saturday nights, everyone yells at me.

That’s something like 8,800 miles that TWO people are driving separately because of my need to karaoke really bad music.

2. I use Amazon Prime obsessively. Soooooooooo many boxes. So many! And I have no shame about it. Like, I’ll buy a battery one day, a tube of mascara the next, and 12 rolls of toilet paper the day after that. They all ship separately and they all require way too much packaging.

3. I suck at recycling. At some point between 1990 and now, I just kind of got over it. I mean, I try my very best, I really do, and I flip out when I go to cities that don’t offer recycling at all, but I consistently fail at getting recyclable materials into the proper blue bins. I'm not the only one. Over 75% of waste is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it.

I think the biggest reason I’m sucking at this so badly is that for the most part (Privilege Warning!), my housekeeper takes out my recycling. So even though I actually try to separate the two, I’m pretty sure they’re not actually going into the proper places because, um, FINE. I never showed her where the recycling bin is.

Also, even when I have good intentions, I just seem to do it wrong. Like a few weeks ago in Tahoe, my friend asked me why I kept putting my “trash” in the recycling. “You mean my paper towels?” I asked. “Those are totally recyclable!”

Oh. Yeah. Turns out: Not so much. I mean, it’s bad enough I was using paper towels for my food instead of plates, but then to find out you can’t even recycle them? I guess you can compost them, which brings me to the next thing I suck at:

4. Composting. And by “suck at,” I mean, “just don’t do.” It is actually the law in San Francisco that we have to compost, but I’m just not into it. First of all, there’s no room for the compost bin beneath my sink. Second, I like to put any food garbage directly down the chute so that I don’t have to smell it or think about it, and third: I am a horrible, no-good, lazy piece of shit? I truly don’t know what my fear of/block against composting is, but there’s just nothing about it that seems to work with the way I live. It seems smelly and gross. And what do you do with that bin after you empty it out and there are food particles stuck to it? Yucky!

5. I’m wasteful. I take long showers. I buy clothes even when I don’t need them. I drive around with the air conditioner on and the window down. I use non-organic cleaning products because I like my cleaning products to smell like fumes and chemicals.

I know none of this is good. For me. For you. For the Earth. I know I should try harder and make more of an effort. That our resources are valuable and finite. And yet -- I try, but my trying is half-assed.

Truthfully, I don’t know why this is. Can it be that I’m just that lazy? Perhaps. Is it that I don’t have children -- am never going to have children -- so I don’t really think about the future in a real and tangible way? A little. Is it that I have a hard time believing that one person’s actions can really make a difference? I think so. Are the pages and pages and pages of YA Dystopian novels I rabidly consume teaching me nothing? Apparently not.

It doesn’t make sense. I cut the six-pack rings so that they won’t kill marine life. I freak out when I see someone litter and if I’m out in nature and stumble across garbage, will often pick it up and carry it out with me. I love the ocean and the mountains and living in a city that has fog, not smog. And yet, I don’t do as good of a job as taking care of the place I love as I should.

I’m not offering excuses. Just a confession. And a promise that I’ll try to do better.

Except with composting. I'm still not gonna do that.

Follow @daisy on Twitter. She isn't all bad.