ecologically challenged

Yes, the 93-year-old cat sleeps face down.

Yes, the 93-year-old cat sleeps face down.

Take the quiz at the end!

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I read an internet article about a family who most weeks has no trash to put out on the curb. First, I thought they were cheating. Then I felt inspired. Finally, I realized I how much I suck in comparison to them.

I can find some consolation in the fact that the family does, in fact, cheat. When the mom mails Netflix DVDs, she tucks the little plastic strip from the adhesive into the envelope before she seals it. She also appears to have an eco-mental illness, most likely a subcategory of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her house is almost empty: the woman only owns six pairs of shoes, seven pairs of pants, and two skirts. Something must be wrong with her.

I was inspired to take an inventory of the items in my trash this week. Here’s what I found:

– An economy-sized ibuprofen bottle, which we emptied astonishingly fast. (We’re girls; we consume that stuff like chocolate.)

– Used dental floss.

– Ink related: two pens sans ink, and a Hewlett Packard cartridge wrapper.

– My old travel mug, which my partner Leah found outside under a pile of wood. I have no idea how it got there, but the mug permanently adopted the smell of a decaying forest floor.

– Gross cat stuff, including paper towels from cleaning up daily hairballs and upchucked meals. Anyone who claims they can live without paper towels obviously does not own a 93-year-old cat, and hey, I can take eco-solace in the fact that the cat will not be replaced when she kicks the bucket.

– Dog poop. We tried a container thing with drainage holes that you partially bury in the ground, affectionately known to us as The Compoopster, but it has unfortunately proved ineffective at turning poop into vanishing poop soup.

– Underwear with dead elastic.

– Wire baskets that hold the corks in champagne bottles. Leah likes to make these into cute little chairs, but one only needs so many miniature chairs. And I drink a lot of champagne.

My Personal Trash Analysis showed a disproportionate amount of pet- and hygiene-related items. While being eco-conscious with food purchases is pretty easy if you shop bulk, I can’t put dog poop in my garden compost, and I love Kleenex. And if you think I should use one of those salty crystal rocks under my arms in place of Sure deodorant, then you have never shared a small office with me on a hot summer day.

How about you? Are you eco-inspired? Eco-hypocritical? An eco-cheater?

Time for a quiz! Answer honestly, and find out how you rate at the end:

1. When I empty a tube of toothpaste:

a. I throw it away.
b. I make a piece of artwork, which also includes my used dental floss, and I sell my masterpiece on Etsy.
c. I don’t use toothpaste, I use baking soda.
d. I don’t brush my teeth.

2. I usually conserve water by:

a. drinking only vodka.
b. showering with my girlfriend/boyfriend.
c. turning off the shower while I soap.
d. drinking my own urine.

3. Do you drive a car?

a. Yes.
b. No, I ride a horse.
c. Yes, but I buy carbon footprint points to offset my gasoline use.
d. I walked to my parents’ house last June and it only took me three weeks.

4. Do you drink organic alcohol?

a. No, I drink nonorganic alcohol to protest the poor, sober people around the world who don’t have access to quality cocktails.
b. No, I drink PBR and save my money to buy carbon footprints.
c. Yes.
d. No, I’m scared of all alcohol. And my mother. And clowns.

5. Do you reuse plastic bags?

a. No. Except maybe for dog poop.
b. Yes, I wash them diligently and bought one of those wooden racks to dry them on.
c. I don’t even know what a plastic bag is. I never use them for anything, ever. Or buy anything that comes in plastic.
d. Never! Germs in all the little corners! I know bacteria are there, threatening me even though I can’t see them.

6. Do you own solar panels?

a. No, but I will when I win the lottery.
b. No, I live in a shack without running water or electricity.
c. Yes.
d. No, I’m scared they will let aliens read my thoughts.

7. Do you use paper towels and Kleenex?

a. Yes, I love them both. I won’t ever give them up. Ever. You can’t make me.
b. No, and I don’t use toilet paper either.
c. Rarely.
d. Do you know how many germs cloth towels and handkerchiefs hold?? Disposable products are safer and much less likely to end in death.

Answer rating scale:

Give yourself one point for every time you answered a, two points for every b, three points for each c, and four points for a d.

0-9 points: Eco-Loser. You aren’t so good at the eco thing. Embrace your failure. Chop down all your trees, join the Republican Party, and/or go into the oil business.

10-17 points: Eco-Creative. You’re trying. You want to be eco-conscious, but it’s so damn inconvenient. You make an occasional effort, but you need to try harder if you want to be able to sleep at night without tossing and turning, worrying about the environment. It’s your fault if the earth dies. All your fault.

18-24 points: Eco-GoodyGoody. Bet you think you’re perfect, don’t you? The rest of us find comfort in the fact that your showers are cold, your breath smells like baking soda and wheat grass, and boogers are permanently stuck to your handmade cloth hankies.

25–28 points: Eco-Wacko. Even if your lifestyle is technically eco-friendly, you are a total weirdo. You are slightly paranoid, you might be a psychologically-limited germaphobe, and you definitely need to brush your teeth.

-Amelia Sauter


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