My neurosis quickly switched from hypochondria to eco-anxiety, and my long-suffering husband began to tire of the latest update. I'd begin with "They say …" and he would suddenly become very busy and have to take off. He was not amused by my half-baked attempt at wrapping our water heater with an old comforter to curb energy consumption; when I bought him a personal air ionizer to wear around his neck for a plane trip, he said, "I wouldn't be seen dead in it."
I turned to my friends in desperation, but this was way before green was cool, so I got a lot of glazed looks. I'm sure I bored all of my girlfriends silly in an attempt to get them on the same page. I even dragged a new acquaintance along to a Sustainable Living Conference in a ghastly hotel ballroom with orange carpets. I never saw her again. I felt powerless.
In an attempt to focus on something else, I took a psychology class at my local college and was surprised to find out that my professor David Phillips was a hard-nut environmentalist who promised a higher grade to any student who completed an extracurricular class about sustainable living. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the scrubby backyard of a rather depressing eco-house on the college campus, where the fierce-looking crew leader, Hilary, opened up a whole new world. I was fascinated despite the fact that I was seriously distracted by her unshaven legs and long, unpainted toenails. We explored everything from the storm drains spewing out sludge into our lovely bay to organic farming. We became committed to turning our thermostats down, installing CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs), growing our own veggies, and buying green power. We even baked brownies in a solar oven, which were totally inedible and closely resembled something the dog left behind.
As I got more and more involved with a plethora of green activists and organizations, I discovered a whole new universe of inspiring individuals who were passionate about preserving this planet. I realized that there was work to do and not a lot of time to be wasted. I rolled up my sleeves and educated myself about every environmental issue that affects women, because we are often the decision makers in the home; we are mothers, lovers, movers, fixers, and caretakers. We can create change very quickly when we want it to happen.
Yet I wondered how on earth I could make all of these changes at home. I didn't really fancy the idea of trekking to the end of my yard with soggy lettuce leaves to a smelly compost bin, and there was no way I was going to ruin my French manicure by gardening, and how on earth could I throw away my "Scarlet Vixen" nail polish? It may have been full of scary chemicals, but at twelve bucks a bottle, I broke out in a sweat.
Having committed to air-drying my laundry, my entire yard was strewn with towels, socks, and even underpants hanging from branches. That was when my husband put his foot down. The nail in the coffin, however, was when I arrived at a dinner date in a brown hemp yoga suit. I had convinced myself in the store that it was cute in a funky sort of distressed way. Imagining Kate Moss in it, I persuaded myself that the whole look was actually very chic until I saw my husband's expression. I hope somebody at Goodwill appreciated it.
I realized there had to be a better way of doing this whole eco-thing.