Question: Sometimes I want to go a little less green. I don’t want to kill puffins or anything, but won’t Al Gore just get out of my head for a few hours so I can get a good night’s sleep?
Answer: My troubled relationship with reducing, reusing and recycling began in the first grade at the Brearley School for girls when Ms. Akinola made me cry so hard that I had to be sent to the nurse (who was, if I remember correctly, out on a smoke break). I had become the object of Ms. Akinola’s wrath when I refused to draw on both sides of a piece of paper. Now I am an art major and can waste as much paper as I want, with Yale encouraging my bad habits by not providing recycling bins in the ironically-named art building: Green Hall.
In middle school, as an avid follower of Captain Planet’s shenanigans, I tried to clean up my act. I spent a full year and a half as a representative for BEAC, the Brearley Environmental Action Committee. Our only objective, admittedly, was to get people to use mugs instead of paper cups in the cafeteria — an utterly impossible mission because there was always schmutz in the mugs and because the paper cups were conveniently located next to the juice machine. After 20 or so BEAC meetings I still did not understand what was supposed to go in the green versus the brown versus the blue versus the black garbage bins and so abandoned my fellow activists to pursue more straightforward interests, like snacking and napping.
I like to think of my particular brand of haphazard environmentalism in terms of song lyrics. I belong to the Kermit the Frog camp, because it is, in fact, not easy being green. But don’t worry; I am not ready to microwave Styrofoam cups. I am on the same page as my amphibian friend when at the end of the tune (recognizing no doubt that climate change and pollution are really bad news for frogs) Kermit declares that “green can be cool and friendly-like.”
Kermit and my standpoint falls somewhere between Joni Mitchell’s and the Talking Heads’ in “Nothing but Flowers.” For if New Haven is indeed Paradise, I do not wish I had a lawnmower.
But sometimes I get fed up when I walk past Wishlist’s display window and see a $40 T-shirt proclaiming “Change the World” or “Enjoy Recycle or Else.” Is Wishlist actually threatening me? What are you going to do, Wishlist, hit me with a Juicy zipper charm made of the crystallized tears of polar bears?
I am not a bad person. I scold the various members of my family when they leave the refrigerator door open for the 20 minutes it takes to make a sandwich, because I in fact love polar bears. And I compulsively turn off lights, even when there are still people inside the room that I am vacating.
Sure, sometimes I leave my computer on for 12 (read: 200) days at a time. I’m not proud of it. I am flawed. I get nervous when I have to choose between the big flush and the little flush on the toilets in the new Art and Architecture building. How am I supposed to believe that the person in Sweden who designed this eco-friendly system knew just how much I was going to pee (or whatever)?
I was, however, as mad as the next person when Project Runway had a “green challenge.” When Heidi told the gang that their next project was to make an entirely green outfit, I was expecting, well, a green outfit. It turns out that green no longer means green. Instead it means turd-colored recycled felts and satins that are less than flattering even on sexy lady models. What hope is there for the rest of us?
Shouldn’t we get a transition color on the way to all green, all the time? Let me go teal for a while, Al Gore and Wishlist. I promise to be better. I’ll even let someone else have an article on the other side of this page. Just don’t make me drink from the schmutzy mug.
Conclusion: Wishlist leaves those fluorescent lights on after closing time, so even the best of us are still figuring out this whole green thing. Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Heart!