Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Save the World Decisions

A few years ago, when the economy was booming and gas cost less than Pepsi, a colleague of mine commented on reports of a hybrid Hummer:

That's not a save-the-world decision.

He was right, of course.  And it turned out that the Hummer Hybrid was just a rumor.  (Never fear - the 2009 Cadillac Escalade is available with the, ahem, green technology.)

But at the time, I remember thinking to myself:  What is our responsibility to make save-the-world decisions?

We've reduced our footprint dramatically, and on the occasions where I do opt for the less green, sometimes even wasteful choice, should I feel guilty?

Or should making a certain number of save-the-world decisions - sacrifices, really - allow us to choose places to be wasteful?

Here's my dilemma:  I've decided to boycott conventional chocolate candy.  Diane's Big Green Purse had me fairly alarmed about the ills of conventional chocolate - mostly that child labor is involved in cocoa production, but also a host of environmental considerations.  I couldn't imagine handing out Hershey bars at trick'or'treat, knowing that kids the same age as our revelers had slaved to make it possible.

Instead, I decided we'd hand out little toys - Matchbox cars - and something other than chocolate.  Our neighborhood is small; we know most of the toddlers who will trick'or'treat on our street before retiring to the community center.  If we do get a bunch of older kids, we've got a few dozen Hershey bars left over from Freddie's last school fundraiser that will almost certainly suffice.  (Yes, I know - I just said I couldn't imagine.  But they're in our pantry, and really, it's even less reasonable to toss them in the trash.)

Instead, I bought animal cracker packs, stickers and Chinese paper yo-yos, plus little cellophane bags to put them in.  I spent about $18.  And I argued with myself the whole time.

Is this really any better than $10 worth of candy?  Well ... the kids will have the Matchboxes forever; I'm planning to raid Freddie's excess of Play-Doh minis for the few girls in our 'hood.  So it's not disposable.  And the Chinese yo-yos can be recycled.

Speaking of the yo-yos, Fern - Chinese!  It's all made in China.  True.  I'm part of the problem.  But if I can't splurge now and then, I'll go crazy!  We rarely drive, we recycle like mad, I'm super careful about our energy use and do my best to make green choices in our regular consumer habits.  Can't we have a holiday?

At what cost, Fern?  What if those yo-yos were put together by prison labor in China?  $3.99 for 30 yo-yos?  No economy of scale makes consumer goods that cheap without adverse impact.  Yes.  You're right, inner voice.  They're wasteful and possibly dangerous.  But I want them, I want them, I want them!  I want to be the cool mom this Halloween, not the one handing out one tiny pack of spelt pretzels.  I'm already the mom who wraps presents in the comics and sends whole wheat everything in Freddie's lunchbox.

And anyhow, Inner Voice, THERE WAS NO GREEN ALTERNATIVE!  I suppose I could've bought Annie's Cheddar Bunnies in individual packages, but they're not enough of a treat to meet my criteria - 'round here, most kids eat those on a daily basis.  Animal crackers work because our under five crowd is easy to please.

I suppose I might have Franklin scoop up a handful of Dum Dum pops from the corner store.  They're manufactured about eight hours away - not local, but not Cote d'Ivoire, either.  And the Spangler Candy Company is family-owned, which makes me feel a smidge better about this overindulgence.

It's not a save-the-world decision.  It's the opposite, and I made it knowingly.

File this under "Green Guilt," while I renew my commitment to cloth diapering, second-hand finery and trying to source more of our food locally.

I have a lot of packaging to make up for.

No comments: