Pretty much everywhere I go I run into people who have something to say about eco-issues. Sometimes it’s because someone asks me what I do for a living (write about green issues) sometimes it’s based on something people can see, like my reusable bags and sometimes it just appears to be a coincidence.
More often than not, it’s not nice comments I hear, but skeptical or oppositional comments. For example…
At the grocery store:
The other day in the produce section I reached for some organic grapes and an elderly fella says, “Hmm, what’s the difference between those and these,” pointing at the conventional. I tell him that the grapes are organic, to which he replies, “ANYTHING that grows on a tree is organic miss! I guess I’ll stick with these,” and he picks up the conventional. Then he says, “Let’s see where these were grown,” reading the conventional bag, “The USA! See these are USA grown – so they’re a-okay!”
Getting my oil changed:
The guy there goes off on some long-winded speech about how recycling is the worst thing ever because it’s such a waste of resources and energy. I’m not totally opposed to this train of thought. I’ve written about the resource and energy costs of recycling before. However, this guy tells me that the world would be better if we did away with recycling altogether because landfills are a great way to get stuff to decompose but the government is trying to hide this from us.
At the home improvement store:
- Me: Do you have a low-voc paint section, or is it all mixed in with the other paint?
- Clerk: Let me tell you a little secret.
- Me: Ok.
- Clerk: That low-voc stuff just costs more. It’s actually not safer. That’s just manufacturing propaganda.
- Me: Well, chemicals are…
- Clerk: (cuts me off) don’t tell me you believe in all that chemical nonsense. You look pretty smart to me. The government has everybody so scared of chemicals but there’s no truth behind it.
I left – I know a losing battle when I see one.
At many a checkout counter:
First the clerk gives me a sad puppy dog look when I pull out my reusable bags. Then I hear, “Oh, you have those,” in a tone that suggests I’m carrying a loaded gun. Then the whining starts…. “Our counter isn’t made for reusable bags” or, “Look how nothing fits right in these bags!”
Or the clerk will simply put all my groceries behind him or her, not bag at all and not say anything. So, if I’ve brought reusable bags, I guess it’s my fault and I can bag my own stuff, even though I just watched the clerk bag everyone in line before me in plastic bags. The braver anti-reusable-bagging folks will say stuff like, “Your bags are more wasteful than plastic,” to which I say, “Well, once they’re not working as bags, I’ll cut them up and use them to clean with until they basically disintegrate away.” To which the clerk sighs.
What’s interesting is how many people think that green issues are some weird government conspiracy. Not just global warming either, which I’d expect. However, people have told me that the government is telling us lies about water efficiency, organic agriculture, green toys, chemicals and so much more. I’m not sure where this mindset is coming from. Especially when, in my opinion, government agencies seem way more on board with being wasteful and supporting things like pesticides than being green.
Do I say anything?
If someone comments on my reusable bags, I almost always say something. It’s really hard for me to keep my mouth shut about reusable bags. If someone comments about something related to kids safety, like toxic cleaners around kids or greener toys, I do usually say something. If someone comments on organics I’ll usually say something, but not always. For example, I said nothing to the grape guy above. Once he started spouting USA stuff, I knew he wasn’t someone I could easily win over with a charming organics speech.
When people say insane stuff like landfills decompose or chemicals are perfectly safe I may point out a fact or two, but normally these people aren’t receptive, I can tell they don’t care about what I say and I give up. I’m just not up for arguing my life away, especially when all I want is my oil changed.
There are times to argue and times not to argue and debate. Some topics take more time to sink in. If I’ve only got five minutes in passing, I’m more likely to come off as a “Tree hugging liberal” than anything else to someone who believes that global warming is false.
Lastly, I get a little weary of all the arguing. Sometimes I simply keep my mouth shut because if I debated everyone who brought it up, I’d be 100% exhausted.
Someone once told me that if you have the facts you should share them, or you’re not being a very good green advocate. Maybe that’s true, but it also seems insane (and not much fun) to argue with everyone all the time.
How much do you argue green points with other people? All the time, sometimes, or only when you think you might be able to make a difference?