One day at a time.

One day at a time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Dilemma: Paper or Plastic

So, it's Earth Day and I was oh so proud as I went to the store driving along in my Prius.  What is that they say about being boastful?

I walk into the grocery store ready to make purchases for my red cabbage kosher salad for the Seder.  I am the model of holy living.  Just look world, my basket practically begging to be noticed with organic local produce.  Look at the good choices I made on this Earth Day!  I glance outside to see my Prius and in the cup holder my reusable coffee mug.  I am a moral exemplar as I place the three carrots in my basket without the little plastic bag you can put produce in.  You know the ones with static cling?

I get into the checkout line and there are people behind me and some in front.  I am standing there not really paying attention.  Until I look over and see him.  He's wearing his earth shoes, has the keys to his Prius and in his hand...oh no! Reusable bags!

I forgot my reusable bags.  And then the panic sets in.  It's Earth Day and everyone is going to see me without my reusable bags.  Should I drive the 20 minutes home and the 20 minutes back?  Too much fossil fuel, even in the Prius.  Maybe I could carry it all.  I look at the four heads of red cabbage and imagine them rolling across the damp parking lot and explaining to my congregation why there is gravel in their once delicious kosher organic salad.

And then I'm next.  "Paper or plastic?" she asks innocently enough.  Paper kills trees but how long does plastic take to biodegrade?  Hmmm.  I could reuse plastic.

"Plastic," I say and wait nervously patient until all is added, paid for and bagged.  Then I run to the car in shame, praying no one sees.

It isn't until I am in the car that I realize the absurdity.  I look around.  Cars-everywhere.  People with plastic bottles.  In the far distant landscape I see more highways and beyond I know there is a world that is aching with inadequate solutions to energy crises and fair distribution of the resources we do have on this planet.  There is no perfect, no cause for boasting.   I am afraid I forgot being "green" should be far more than a decision to look good.

You see, I lost touch with why I make all those exhausting decisions every day.  Is it really going to solve the climate crisis if I drive a hybrid?  Probably not. Save the oceans if I cease using plastic bags?  Doubtful.  Modify climate change is I compost?  Unlikely.

So why do it, if not for popularity?

Once long ago, I made those choices out of the love for this earth and the soul desire for it be here far after I am gone.

Perhaps these choices are not about changing the world, but about changing me.  Remembering that we aren't "green" because it's now popular but because we make the spiritual commitment to living a less comfortable life in recognition that our previous ways of living are no longer sustainable.

And I happen to believe making that spiritual commitment in my own life, might change the way I  empower my leaders or talk to the neighbors.  And maybe that might mean a world where  leaders developing policy do not have to stand in the guilt-ridden grocery line but perhaps a place with a few more choices to protect this beautiful earth than paper or plastic.

Maybe the spiritual commitment will kindle consciousness and creativity.  We could use those in the face of this aching earth.

So, just in case, I'll keep using reusable bags but not because it's cool.

Happy Earth Day everyone! May you get in touch today--and everyday-- with your love for this earth and creative power to save it.