It's Earth Month, and like any good Portlander I'm doing my share to learn and try to put into practice the earth-friendly mantra of reducing, reusing and recycling. I got an Energy Trust home review and attended an Eco-Party in an effort to become more environmentally aware. I patted myself on the back smugly and thought, what a good steward of the earth I am.
And then I got the Home Eco-Party Checklist with about 50 questions covering habits ranging from waste reduction and recycling, toxics reduction, and energy/water conservation. As I filled out the checklist that smugness that I felt earlier lifted quickly and I wondered if I would leave the party wearing a scarlet letter. That letter would be a reminder that every time I use a disposable diaper I was knowingly destroying the earth; and that everyone would know that my family doesn't buy all organic produce. Who knew that those individual little boxes of raisins that my littlest one (see picture) loves so much would be now a guilt-inducing purchase?
While the checklist was eye-opening and cause for pause, the party itself was not a session on passing on judgment. Far from it, actually. It was a mix of discussing our habits as openly as we wanted, interspersed with talk about little changes we can all make in our own lives to reduce waste and conserve. I felt better when Sarah fessed up to using paper towels along with myself. It was also enlightening to see how while my family could do better in the waste reduction, we fare pretty well in the energy/water conservation. In the end, I didn't feel guilt-tripped for not reducing more, reusing more, or recycling more. I was inspired to try harder and do better, and re-evaluate how my own consumerism is a reflection of what's in my trash and recycling. My "aha" moment was that if I consumed less, I would create less waste. Wow, pretty obvious to some, but I never made that connection before.
Tonight, when my son spilled his bowl of stew all over my white sweater and the floor, instead of reaching for the paper towels, I grabbed a dish cloth. I guess I did learn something after all. My only regret is that my husband didn't attend alongside me so that we can make the changes in our habits as a coordinated family effort. Have you attended one? Do you recommend it? What was your "aha" moment?