Do It Yourself, But Do What You Enjoy

>> Friday, February 20, 2009

There's the implication on many eco-blogs that "do it yourself" and "homemade" is the answer to all environmental conundrums. They talk about do it yourself projects with a sense of deep satisfaction, as if learning to make your own cheese will lead to life contentment.

I enjoy do it yourself projects. I really, really do. I like the feeling of independence and pride I get from making my own, and I like the savings. But there are actually very few things I do myself. And there are many things that I could do myself, but I choose not to.

For example:

  • The other day I made my own tortillas. I enjoyed it, like I always enjoy cooking from scratch. But will I do it on a regular basis? Uh, uh. Not a chance. Even though buying tortillas means excess plastic waste. Even though there are probably some suspect ingredients in my preferred brand of tortillas. The thing is, we eat a lot of burritos around here because they are so exceptionally convenient. I can get burritos on the table in ten minutes if I use store bought tortillas. I'm already making my own bread, muffins, pitas, and granola. Homemade tortillas just don't fit into my schedule.
  • I buy Charlie's Soap laundry detergent powder and Seventh Generation dishwasher powder. In theory, I could make my own, but I choose not to. When I've crunched the numbers, the savings have been minimal, and both of those products work well for me. Plus, I'm supporting two companies whose values I appreciate, and I'm sending a message to the economic market that I want to see more companies and products like Charlie's Soap and Seventh Generation.
  • I would like to learn some basic carpentry skills, but I have absolutely no interest in learning plumbing or electrical wiring. Even if it meant I would save money that I could then spend on locally made organic cotton jeans, those are just not skills that I want to acquire.
  • The Mitchum anti-perspirant that my super-sweaty husband prefers does not rate too bad on Skin Deep. I would prefer that he use a cheap homemade version, or even a brand made by a company I like. But he sweats a lot, and Mitchum keeps him from stinking. Plus, I can get it at Kroger, so it's convenient.
When Clorox first came out with their GreenWorks line of cleaners, I was annoyed that people would choose to support Clorox rather than spend the two minutes it takes to mix up some baking soda, borax, and water. But since then, I've come to realize that I can't expect everyone to make the exact same choices I do.

The average person is not going to do most things themselves. The average person is not going to start shopping at Whole Foods or another health foods store. And the average person is not going to plop down more money for a Seventh Generation product when they can buy Clorox GreenWorks at their local Walmart.

This is not a race to see who can singlehandedly save the planet through their self-sufficiency. This is not even a race to see who can be the most green. We're all in this together, and unless we all make it to the other side, none of us win.

So my point is, be as green as you possibly can, but do it your way. Be conscious about your choices, but be green in a way that makes you happy. Do it yourself, but do what you enjoy.


Allie February 20, 2009 at 10:33 AM  

You rock! This is something I've been mulling over a lot lately.

Maren Hansen February 20, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

I worship at your feet... :)

Green Resolutions February 20, 2009 at 5:55 PM  

Excellent post. This whole avoid plastic thing at the Going Green! Yahoo group has been eye-opening but frustrating for me. I can't even imagine making homemade tortillas! But I hadn't thought of the "supporting green companies" perspective for the cleaners. I appreciate that.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper February 22, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

Allie - Thanks! It's funny, this post was partially inspired by your post about Streamlining Green. If we try to do too much, we'll get burned out, and being green will lose all its charm. Congrats on your book!

Maren - If you keep giving me so much praise, it's going to go to my head. :)

Green Resolutions - Yeah, avoiding plastic has been frustrating for me too. I'd love to be as great as Fake Plastic Fish, but I also have to set priorities for my life personally. And I think if I started restricting myself too much in the name of going green, I'd end up feeling unhappy and lose my commitment to the things I believe in.

Stephanie - Thanks!

zee February 22, 2010 at 8:07 AM  

Way to go! I soo agree with you. As modern women, we want to live comfortable, convenient lives and we don't always want to sacrifice comfort for going green. (must change attitude to contribute more to preserving the planet!) Taking baby steps is the way to go, and the key is indeed choosing what you like and love doing! Here's what I like: carrying my own reusable bag (and giving friends some too!) and trying out homemade recipes for the face and hair!

Three Men and a Little Lady June 4, 2010 at 3:03 PM  

Ever thought about taking up sewing and buying cheaper that way...I mean at the fabric stores. We do a lot of that here.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper June 4, 2010 at 4:33 PM  

@Aubrey - I would love to learn to sew and even have a broken sewing machine that a friend gave me that I need to get fixed. But I haven't done much yet. It's on my list of things to get around to when I stop spending so much time blogging. :)

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