It's not easy being environmentally correct


The weekend we moved to our new house we ran out of the clean cloth diapers our diaper service delivers every Monday. No problem, said I, paragon of environmental rectitude. I'll just wash some.

Slapping a paper diaper from our emergency stash on young Maxwell, I washed a load of diapers and hung them (we're soooo environmentally correct) out on the line to dry.

And there they stayed, flapping conspicuously, for about a week. Max wore paper, and I figured we were doing pretty well to get a dry diaper on him at all.

It's not easy being green. And we're not all that green, either, as this anecdote illustrates. We have a veneer of green, a sort of green patina.

We set out our recycling every week. We squash this and strip that, just the way our trash utility likes it. We use cloth napkins. We cover our leftovers with these hilarious little plastic shower caps so that we never have to buy plastic wrap. We even have compact fluorescent bulbs in most of our light fixtures, and despite what we hypocritical environmental writers tell you, you practically have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Last year at this time, I wrote about resolutions for the 12 months ahead. I proposed that we each try to do three simple things to reduce our energy use in the coming year:

* Wear a sweater and keep the heat no higher than 68 degrees.

* Install a night set-back thermostat and program it to turn the heat down at night and again during the day if no one is home.

* Find a colleague to car pool with just one day a week.

So here's my report card:

* I am wearing a sweater (a rather handsome forest green, thank you) and have the heat turned down so low I want to stay in bed and eat all day.

* Our dandy new night set-back thermostat is installed and programmed and, after a few false starts, working nicely.

* I work at home. I do have to take my daughter to nursery school three days a week, though, and I'm experimenting with alternatives to driving, much to her disgust.

Yes, the odor of sanctity is fairly strong around here, and I'm expecting a call from the Vatican any day to notify us that we're about to be sainted. What's that you say? Does the Pope know we only have half our storm windows up? Does the Pope know we haven't exactly finished weatherstripping the house yet? Did the Pope see us haul a scandalous amount of trash to the dump.

OK, so we're not perfect. Here are our resolutions for 1992, then:

* Get the storm windows up before it's time to take them down.

* Weatherstrip the house.

* Buy less stuff.

* Drive much, much less.

What are your green goals for 1992?

(Feeling environmentally incorrect? Write a letter to the Household Environmentalist -- on recycled paper, of course, using soy-based ink -- and send it to Susan McGrath at P.O. Box 121, 1463 E. Republican St., Seattle, Wash. 98112.)

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