Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Environmentally Irresponsible? Ecologically Clueless? Celebrate Green! Offers Earth-Friendly Tips


(Image from Amazon)

First off, Happy Earth Day! I like the idea of this holiday, even though I'm really a very irresponsible person, environmentally speaking. I mean, I don't buy organic (too expensive); I don't pack my groceries in reusable shopping bags (it would take about 50 to hold food for my family of 6); I drive a gas guzzler (I have 4 kids and a monster stroller to tote around, after all); and I used aerosol hairspray on my son just the other day (in my defense, I think this was my first aerosol use since drenching my hair with Aquanet in junior high). Last summer, I stayed at a lodge owned by a very environmentally-conscious family. The kitchen boasted at least 10 different trash receptacles with a dozen handwritten signs explaining where each piece of garbage needed to go. This stressed me out to the point that I literally froze for 10 minutes before throwing anything away, lest I should mar Mother Earth by placing a plastic bottle in the wrong receptacle. I care about the environment, make no mistake, but it's not my first priority. I simply don't have the time or the energy to stress out about every piece of garbage I toss away. Now, before the lynch mob arrives on my doorstep, I have to say that I do recycle (religiously); I sided with the animal rights people over the whole spotted owl debate (at least until I got spooked by a commercial about Washington hamlets becoming ghost towns without the logging industry); I turn off lights when I'm not using them (saves money); and I eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream (only because it's an environmentally-responsible company - otherwise, you know I wouldn't touch a pint of Cherry Garcia, being a Weight Watchers groupie and all).

Considering all this, it might surprise you that I agreed to review a book about how to "green up" the holidays. It surprised me. And while Celebrate Green! by Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell didn't transform me into a composting, tree hugging, all-out Eco Diva, it did make me think. It also gave me simple ideas that I just might implement. After all, as the authors say, "As long as you're taking some steps, however tiny, you're making a difference" (21).

Penned by a mother-daughter team, Celebrate Green! is a manual packed with ideas on how to make your celebrations greener. When I say packed, I mean it - it's a thick book, densely stuffed with ideas. In fact, there's so much information that it's overwhelming. Thankfully, this isn't the kind of book you have to read cover-to-cover. The authors recommend starting with whatever celebrations interest you and going from there. Conveniently divided into four sections (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter), the book gives suggestions for every type of celebration from holidays to weddings to backyard BBQs to family reunions. Each section offers helpful suggestions, recipes, gift ideas, and websites from which the reader can get more information. More environmentally responsible readers may find that they already know this stuff, but I was stunned to learn that Easter eggs can be dyed using vegetables, fruits and spices; some greeting cards can be planted after being enjoyed by the recipient; and using artificial Christmas trees can actually be more harmful for the Earth than real ones.

According to the authors, saving the Earth basically boils down to several key concepts. First, the 3 R's, which every elementary school student can probably recite: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Of these, Reduce is the "Big Man on Campus of the green movement" (94) - reducing means doing less (buying, consuming, wasting) and focusing more on what really matters (health, the people you love, family time, etc.). They also recommend following the 3G's when making decisions: Is it good for people? Is it good for the planet? Is it good for the community? The authors stress that you don't have to do all of them to make a difference. You can start with one and go from there.

For those of you who, like me, tend to shirk your environmental responsibilities, reading Celebrate Green! is going to leave you with some serious guilt. Don't worry - you won't feel guilty about everything, just drinking bottled water; buying gold and diamonds; eating chocolate; enjoying fireworks; hiding gifts inside wrapping paper; watching t.v.; overspending at Chistmas; and eating candy on Halloween (just to name a few). As I've mentioned, the authors emphasize starting small. I think I'll stick with a "moderation in all things" kind of diet, but I can't deny that Celebrate Green! has made me think about all the things I could be doing to care for the Earth. You're not going to see me toting 50 reusable shopping bags to the grocery store or dyeing Easter eggs with spinach, but you just might see me using paper Easter grass or sending more e-cards. After all, as long as I'm taking some steps, however tiny, I'm making a difference.

Grade: A

(For more information, visit Celebrate Green! online.)

2 comments:

  1. That sounds like a terrific book. I know it would make me feel guilty in many ways, but the one thing I refuse to feel bad about is bottled water. My husband won't let me get the refillable glass kind, so I'm stuck wasting loads of plastic. I'll continue, though, because our tap water is terrible.

    Just to let you know . . . Chicken Soup for the Empty Nester arrived. Thank you so much! I'm going to miss my youngest so much when he goes off to college.

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  2. Sounds like a great read! I used to fall under the categorization of "environmentally irresponsible", but I ended up heading a Green Committee at work and all of a sudden, bam, I've become much more aware of my impact on the environment. My husband now gets scolded for throwing away paper or forgetting to bring the reusable bags to the store. We actually made our own wrapping paper this past Christmas, which was pretty cool. We bought stamps and stamped designs on old paper bags. It was just a little more challenging to tape!

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