Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fixating on the Eco . . . Daily Trials and Tribulations

[Every day, everywhere I go, I think about my environmental footprint. I think about where things come from before they get to me (is this organic? locally-made? heavy with chemicals?) and where things go after I am done with them (does this café recycle? should I take this home and compost it? should I reuse this paper?) . One might even say that I am a little obsessed with mentally chronicling my eco-impact.]

Wednesday, February 27

I wake up with what seems like a hang over, although I know that I drank nothing alcoholic last night. As a matter of fact, I am avoiding alcohol nowadays (hard for an avid beer connoisseur), as I find that in my old age, too much yummy lager (even if its organic!) makes my face a bit saggy. I gaze in the mirror and imagine resembling some fictional, tee totaling aunt, with shapeless jowls screaming out for a nip and tuck way before it is time.

I linger too long in the VERY hot shower, feeling guilty for all the energy I am unnecessarily wasting (“I was perfectly clean 10 minutes ago,” I say to myself). But, the pulsating droplets are throbbing me awake and the water feels soothing against my skin (even though I know that the chlorine in DC’s water is drying out my skin more and more with every extra minute) . . . I can’t get out. The shower is where I dissect my dreams, plan my day, reminisce about a memory. I breathe in the scent of my Burt’s Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Body Wash and make a mental note to take a shorter shower tomorrow, but know deep down that it will probably not happen, so decide that this specific energy waste will go in the “necessary for sanity” column on my life’s list of eco-weaknesses.

I breakfast on one banana, one orange and one cup of organic black tea with turbinado sugar. I wonder whether it really makes that much difference whether they are organic, or not, for my body (although I know that it makes a big difference for the environment.)

I walk the dogs, picking up the poop with a biodegradable poopy bag. In reality, these bags will probably not biodegrade in a landfill at all (since the conditions need to be precise) and I contemplate not spending the extra money on them next time. But then I think, what if they do degrade? What if 50% of them end up degrading? Isn’t that better than nothing? or, am I being manipulated by marketing that is creatively seizing on my environmental sensitivities? I think about doing more research on the matter.

I bike over to the Big Bear cafe, a locally-owned coffee shop at 1st and R Streets, NW to meet good-natured Em from the Goodwill Fashion blog. I order a half-caf/half-decaf Americano. I notice the barista reaching for a paper cup and ask for a mug instead. She responds (not unkindly) that she will have to wash one for me. I thank her lavishly. Coffee is yummy. Fresh fruit tart is to die for. Em and I chat, plan, laugh. I bike home.

Since we don’t own a vehicle, I need to rent a car for tomorrow’s multiple vet appointments for the dogs. I try to take the bus and the metro as much as possible to the vet (usually squishing one of my dogs into a little dog carrier and making sure I bring the print out of the bus rules on dogs to show to the driver if he tries not letting me bring my dog on his bus.) But, sometimes, a car is a necessity. Esp. if your dog’s cardiologist is in Bowie, MD. Anyway, I usually rent from Enterprise on N St. because the company seems to hire people who have brains as opposed to all the other car rental companies who seem to hire . . . well, enough ranting. Enterprise employees are polite and prompt. As I am making my reservation on the Enterprise site, I notice a new item on the reservation menu. Carbon Offset” it says. A little round of “whoopees!” echoes in my head. Only $1.25, too! I click for more info: Enterprise Rent-A-Car is pleased to offer you the opportunity to benefit the environment by offsetting carbon dioxide emissions generated by a rental vehicle. For just $1.25 you can offset emissions produced by the average rental. The money will go to TerraPass to fund certified offset projects that work to remove carbon from the atmosphere. What's more, we will match these customer contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million dollars. I have read about TerraPass - their slogan is "restore the balance". They do actual clean energy projects, they don’t just plant trees (which is kind of controversial when it comes to offsets). I love Enterprise even more.

Since I have a car and its freakin’ cold out, I decide that I will drive over to Sephora in Georgetown instead of biking or taking the bus (hey, I did RUN over to the car rental place in 34 degree weather!). I do feel a little guilty about this, but I decide that I will combine it with a trip to Whole Foods on the way back to stock up on groceries (there is only so much you can lug home on your bike every day).

I love Sephora. Even though they have been futzing with their set-up and there are no convenient or well-lit mirrors on the second floor now, it is still so much fun to go there and play. It seems so wasteful to use a make-up applicator once and just throw it away, but I can’t come up with any better idea about how to keep the process sanitary . . . I try not to use too many. I have always been a make-up girl. In 4th grade, when one of my classmates told me that my gold and purple eyeshadow concoction was ugly, I just chalked it up to a lack of creativity on his part. But I am frustrated with my relationship with makeup right now. Most make-up is filled with all kinds of chemicals. And the natural brands that are out there, just don’t work very well. Or they are so brand new that they are constantly changing their formulas. I was in love with an organic Juice Beauty tinted moisturizer. It was fairly transparent and just evened out my skin. But it only came in one shade, which, luckily, matched my tone. But, you can’t really penetrate the market with one shade. So they expanded. And instead of ADDING more shades, they got rid of my one shade and replaced it with two others. One of which was now too pale for me and the other too dark. I was so desperate, I bought the one that was too dark and thought that I could blend it really, really well and that no one would notice. Thankfully (sort of), it made my face break out – which, saved me from the worst make-up sin of all: wearing foundation or concealer that is the wrong color. After an hour of testing various options (and trying not to seem mortified when the saleswoman described one of the sections we were in as the “Chemical Section”), I reverted to my roots and went for a tinted moisturizer and AMAZING undereye concealer from Clinique, the “must-have” brand for all the cool girls at North Penn High School. (Thanks to Daddy Likey for the suggestion.)

With a quick stop at Sports Zone to look for a pair of sneakers (seriously, how does that store stay open? The employees all look – and act – like they are in a hip-hop video and there is no merchandise), I trot over to H&M and decide that I needed to find something to match my new-to-me vintage Paco Rabanne dress-coat that I just bought in Seattle. I have done research on H&M’s corporate social responsibility record and they do a pretty comprehensive job of being on top of their game. Of course, it is impossible to keep track of everything that happens in your supply chain, but they do significantly more than many other brands - like Urban Outfitters (which does almost nothing). I try not to buy anything made in China, but all the things I like are made there . . . (frown). Plus, I am disappointed with myself for not bringing extra bags for shopping. Although I have my super-compact Chico bag, I would rather use it for groceries. I guess I could use it at H&M and then leave the clothes in the car when I go into Whole Foods, but the salesgirl offers me the new “Fashion Against AIDS” paper bag and I think it would be a good keepsake to make into a book cover or something.

As always, Whole Foods is a frustrating experience. Not the actual shopping or anything - just the people. You know who I mean. The people who spend hundreds of dollars on eco-friendly products and organic produce only to stuff it all in a gazillion plastic bags (which they will, most likely, just throw away). I temper my annoyance by thinking that some people would say that even people who wear ugly REAL fur and use plastic bags deserve to eat healthy food, too . . . And at least they are promoting a transition to better practices. My mood is lightened by a young, very stylish, woman, who is carrying her groceries in a fantastic bag. She has everything: the coat, the hair, the “It” bag AND she brought her own bag for groceries! I wish so much that I had my camera. Next time.


Anonymous said...

I've started thinking eco all the time now, too. It's kind of fun if you don't let it make you too anxious. I think of it kind of like a little puzzle: how could I be doing this better? And then it makes things (like longer showers!) feel so much more indulgent. Keep up the tips and suggestions of great companies like Enterprise!

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