No guilty pleasures here
Take the Mr. Waste-oid challenge. No, really, do it. (I mean now!)
I know guilt. I write a weekly column about SN&R’s greenification of a building on Del Paso Boulevard. Each week, I’m forced to confront my own demons, and each week I discover that I’m not as green as I’d like to be. And I’m not alone; my co-workers also feel it.
Guilt. A highly affective sensation that keeps marriages healthy and gives hippie teenagers cause to rebel against their Land Park upbringing. Guilt’s almost as effective as denial—another valuable brain malfunction that makes wackos think the world is only 6,000 years old and posits global warming as some quaint debate.
Guilt? We want to better the world and we’re hinging the fight on guilt?
Confused, I went to Temple Fine Coffee and Tea to chat with Panama Bartholomy, adviser to the chairwoman of the California Energy Commission. “Technological advancements will only take us so far with the climate crisis,” he said. “What we need are major behavioral changes.” My head about snapped off as I nodded in agreement. However, I couldn’t shake the fact that I’m a disgrace to my Eco-Warrior Princess ancestors.
If asked what I actually do to be more eco-friendly, I’d tense up, embarrassed, silent, as people pleaded with me to, “Wipe that blank stare off your face, you’re scaring us!”
Yeah, I’m mad at myself for being a hypocrite, but I’m still mad at everyone else for being eco-violators. It’s very confusing.
For instance—and I won’t name names—but a writer here at work was sipping his English Breakfast Tea and used two cups to keep the heat from burning his precious porcelain hands. I was completely appalled. Here’s how the conversation went down, right before I threw down.
“Hey, you’re using two cups.”
“Why yes, I most certainly am. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Yeah I have a problem with that, you no-good artsy-fartsy little punk!”
What followed is not suitable for publication. But, hey, Gandhi told us to hate the sin and love the sinner, so I’ve forgiven this co-worker and we’re back to the obligatory hellos and hostile glares of office life. OK, I’m slightly exaggerating, yet I wonder: Was going aggro the best method?
Bruce Starkweather, a LEED-accredited principal architect for Lionakis Beaumont, a firm committed to sustainable design, says no. “You can’t just show them a consequence of their action. Show them an alternative,” he explained, which makes sense.
But then another co-worker wrote me a lengthy, private e-mail confession: “I hate people that don’t recycle! Don’t they know they’re destroying our world?! That’s what I tell myself every day while I’m at work.
“Sadly, the sentiment only lasts until 5:30 p.m. each day. From the point I walk out the door of my office until I step through the same door the next day, I’m a contradiction. It’s not that I’m cynical or blind to what’s going on in the world. When I’m working, I do care and do want to make a difference. But wanting to make the world a better place and actually doing something are two very different things. I’m sure you’re shaking your finger at me and all I can really say is, ‘Sorry?’ Being lazy is just far easier than taking the simplest steps to change behaviors.
“I’m a no-recycling, gas-loving carnivore. Call me Mr.Waste-oid.”
Then Mr. Waste-oid promised to do what he could to evolve from being Cro-Magnon consumer to more eco-friendly—and called me out to do the same.
And now, I’m passing that challenge on to you.
Because here’s the thing: Tase a bro all you want, but if he isn’t ready and willing to recycle aluminum cans or use both sides of a sheet of paper, he won’t.
This brings me back to our tea-sipping writer. After he tended to his battle wounds, he did something that made me wish I hadn’t abused him quite so thoroughly. He handed me the extra coffee cup, saying he’d saved it so that someday I might re-use it. Later, I asked what compelled him to do so. “Guilt,” he said, adding that he was afraid of me. Justified reasons, for sure. But also, he said, “Because it’s better.”
Back in 1971, the father of grassroots organizing, Saul Alinksy, wrote, “A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”
So lose the guilt. We have no need for it here. Let’s find joy and pride instead.