Raising Mary: How Green Is Green?


I went to an Earth Day rally as a teen in the early 1990s.

Looking back, I have to be honest. I was more into the wannabe 60s vibe of the event than really connecting
with the fact that we humans have been rotten stewards of the environment.

Fifteen years later, I had evolved, using bins at the grocery store, printing documents on both sides of the
paper, and getting self-righteous about large SUVs. (Tax them! Ban them! Throw eggs at them!)

But it was becoming a parent that made it, well, apparent. Tom and I were watching An Inconvenient Truth
when Mary was sleeping nearby, and I suddenly thought, ‘these kids are going to be screwed’.

Now, everyone’s looking at the world through leaf-coloured glasses. Companies, clamouring to be seen as ‘green’, are packaging products in shades of lime and verdigris. Citizens are turning down thermostats, planting vegetable gardens and buying fuel-efficient cars (at least when the price of gas was way up).

We had diapers picked up for recycling. We bought a front-loading washer and dryer and a little car that’s great on gas for Tom to drive to work. In the summer, Tom has learned to live in a house that’s room temperature instead of an icebox. I decline disposable bags in retail stores. And now that we use ecofriendly household cleaners, I realize I previously associated ‘clean’ with the smell of toxic chemicals!

It’s too expensive for us to buy all organic food, but we eat less red meat and buy meats and poultry more often from a local butcher rather than factory meat from the supermarket. Still, we aren’t exactly living off the grid. We didn’t switch to cloth diapers when the diaper recycling company went out of business. I don’t hang our clothes out on the line to dry. And the worst infraction? We bought a new house in the suburbs.

Since consumerism is a big part of the problem – it takes natural resources and burning fossil fuels to make all that new stuff – I’ve been thinking about the reduce and reuse parts of the conservation ethic, not just recycle. This is big, for ‘waste not, want not’ and ‘make do with what you have’ are not exactly slogans from my generation. If we didn’t have what we wanted, we just bought it on credit!

Now, before I buy, I ask myself whether we need this product or that service and examine whether the packaging is excessive. I reuse gift bags and wrap presents in craft paper, not shiny, ink-fi lled wrap. I’m jotting notes on scraps of paper, not buying new note pads. I’m cooking more from scratch. Maybe this way, we can bring back some of their great-grandparents’ values to our children.

And where are the kids in all this? Surely they will absorb the habits we’re demonstrating and the attitudes we’re slowly changing. If I can teach Mary how to bake a cake or make her bed, why can’t I show her how to care for the environment? I’m feeling a nature walk coming on!



ParentsCanada Survey: It ain’t easy being green, is it?

Take a bow by taking action:

  • 82% install eco-friendly light bulbs
  • 76% use reusable water bottles
  • 89% go grocery shopping with cloth bags
  • 80% do their laundry in cold water

We’re still married to our cars: only 19% use public transit.

92% of families say they talk to their kids about being environmentally friendly.


97% are recycling but only 22% drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

68% of readers start teaching their children about the environment before age 3.

KIDS GET IT! 56% of parents say their kids remind them to be eco-friendly.

PRICE TRUMPS GREEN: 63% don’t buy green if it costs more.

Green guilt! 56% say there’s the beginning of a social stigma if you don’t think green.

More guilt: 18% say they sometimes feel guilty because they should be a role model for their kids.

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