Why is it that green living is often defined in terms of what we should do without-big cars, excessive shopping, air conditioning, bleached paper, water bottles etc. What if, instead, it was defined by what we choose to add to our lives-more time with family, better tasting food, creativity, cool technology, learning new skills etc. Very often our choices are not an either-or option, but we tend to emphasize one side of things. I-tunes and MP3 players have certainly decreased the wasteful packaging and plastic in music CD's, but most people don't think about downloading music for that reason, instead we emphasize the fun and convenient new technology. Why can't other choices we make also be about more fun and new ideas? A resuable bag can be MORE stylish instead of less convenient. Coffee in a resuable mug can be about BETTER taste rather than less waste. Refinishing a second-hand table can be MORE satisfying instead of less fashionable.
How we perceive and talk about the choices we make in our lives matters. Our children are watching and listening. Do they hear us making choices that emphasize the downside of our choices or the upside? Do they hear a righteous self-sacrifice or a sense of adventure or fun? I hope that when my children and I bike to the park, they are just having fun and not feeling that we are "doing without" our car to save gas or that we are better than the people who drove their SUV's there. I hope they don't give it much thought at all so that by the time they are adults, it simply becomes an obvious way to travel short distances when the weather is nice. Choices based on fun will last much longer than those based on guilt or superiority, for children and adults alike.
A few years back I heard a woman being interviewed on WI Public Radio (sorry, don't remember who or what the actual topic was). She was admitting that she was a prior book addict. She bought and kept hundreds of books until she hit a personal financial crisis and was no longer able to support her habit. It was then that she discovered the library. Her discovery was not that she could check out books for free, for she already knew this. What she learned was a new perspective on the books in the library. She realized that the books were bought with her tax dollars, so they were actually "her" books (well, at least in part). She pretended that she owned all the books in the library system and that she was simply being nice and sharing them with everyone else. Suddenly her feelings of self-pity in her financial crisis changed to abundance. She said that even though she has recovered financially and can afford to buy all the books she wants, her sense of abundance about life in general has stayed with her. What if we took this perspective about all the land that we "own" in all the area parks and nature preserves? I am reminded of the stories where families of modest means always set an extra plate at the dinner table in case a visitor arrives in need of nourishment. Unless we truly are struggling to make ends meet (and there are those that are, even in wealthy Waukesha County), how can we not feel a sense of abundance in this land of plenty?
My personal challenge for the rest of this month is to listen to myself and the messages I send to my children about abundance and depriviation and to find opportunities to see the MORE in the green living choices our family tries to make.