Why Being Green Isn’t Just About The Planet

“What’s health got to do with it?”

I’ve noticed that many people are unaware of the correlation between “green living” and personal health.

I always assumed it was obvious that being eco-conscious wasn’t just about polar bears or the somewhat intangible idea of a struggling planet. The problem with pollution, chemicals, plastics, landfills, and tainted water isn’t just in rising greenhouse gases – it’s about the possible (OK, probable) links to cancer, ADHD, autism, asthma, and countless other ailments.

More than one seemingly rational, compassionate person has turned to me and said, “Oh, I’m sooo not green.” What does that really mean? Are you just too lazy to recycle or do you genuinely think that the link between pesticides and ADD is just nonsense?

The interesting thing is that most of these people don’t quite grasp the link between living greener and their own personal health. For instance, one woman who told me she was “so not green” said that she uses cloth diapers because she is concerned about the chemicals in conventional diapers, not because she cares about the landfills. Sorry to break it to you – whatever your personal reasons are for opting out of chemical overload on your baby’s bottom, you’re doing something “green.”

Another person recently said to me in a debate about the green merits of a chemical sweetener, “It’s not bad for the planet, it’s just bad for your health.” Well, let’s first think about the fact that any chemicals that ravage our bodies are probably not so great for the waterstream or the fish or the wildlife or the trees or anything else in the ecosystem. So, no, Sweet + Low is not green. (Though I admit to occasionally drinking Crystal Light in a pinch. I’m not saying it’s green, I’m saying I’m not perfect).

It feels like maybe some people are so turned off by the prevalence of green awareness they almost want to say they are “so not green” to sound cool or even counter culture. As green becomes ubiquitous, do the people who want to be “alternative” just shun organic produce because it’s in vogue?

It’s like those people who say “I sooo don’t do Facebook.” It doesn’t make you cool to just go against the (whole) grain for no reason.

I would never judge someone who says something like, “I’m trying to be better about recycling” or “I’d like to be greener but I’m having some trouble sorting it out,” or even, “My district doesn’t have recycling and I really don’t want to schlep across town with a bucket of trash.” I totally get it and I respect any attempts to make small steps and being overwhelmed by some of the larger steps. That’s why I do what I do.

But saying, “I’m soooo not green” like it’s a badge of honor is really just lame.

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