Recently, while turning some old bed sheets into new curtains, I got a call from my friend Janet. We used to live near each other a long time ago, and have stayed in touch through multiple moves over the years.
She now lives in Seattle, Washington. I now live in Podunk, Idaho. I think she’s nuts to live in the city, she thinks I’m nuts to live in the country. We get along great because we never discuss how nutty the other is.
One of the reasons Janet thinks I’m nuts is because it’s harder to be socially conscious and environmentally responsible while living amongst the rednecks as we do. She is forever chiding me on my lack of interest in Saving the Earth, exacerbated by my decision to leave the city and move to the backwoods. Live in a place where there is no public transportation or organic coffee sold by Birkenstock-clad baristas in favor of social justice? No thanks. Janet has spent a large part of her adult life trying to minimize her carbon footprint, and she called to tell me the results of her latest online carbon calculator.
“I managed to reduce my meat consumption to once a month!” she enthused. She paused. “Do you still eat meat?”
“Heck yeah!” I replied. “In fact, we had a pot roast for dinner last night.”
She clucked in disapproval. “Just think of all those South American rainforests they’re clearing in order to graze the cattle you’re eating,” she chided me.
“It’s easier to graze our own,” I answered, since the pot roast came from the steer we butchered last month. I’ve told Janet we raise cattle but she simply can’t believe we could bring ourselves to actually EAT one of them.
“And with the recent egg recall,” she continued, “I’ve cut out eggs entirely. That way I won’t get salmonella. You shouldn’t buy eggs either. You can never be too safe.”
“You’re right.” I paused as I listened to the rooster crow. “I don’t think I’ll be buying many eggs.” I cut the sheet in two to make the curtains.
“And I just found the most divine website which sells gifts made of recycled material,” said Janet. “I’ve decided I’m going to buy all recycled items for my Christmas shopping list. Imagine, they have a towel rack made from a bicycle chain for only $34.95! It’s amazing how much they are saving stuff from going into the landfill.”
I started pinning one edge of the old sheet to hem it. “Recycling is certain admirable,” I commented.
“Oh, and I have to tell you about this cool retro shop I just discovered,” she said. “It sells vintage clothing from the eighties and nineties. I found this adorable pair of distressed jeans for only $15!”
I glanced down at my Goodwill jeans which I had distressed all by myself on a barbed wire fence last week. “I’m sure they’re lovely.”
“And did I tell you I found a place where I can buy organic cheese? They sell an excellent Colby that’s made from free-range cows.”
I looked into the pantry where a forty-pound counterweight was slowly pressing a batch of cheddar from Matilda, my Jersey cow. “It sounds fabulous. I wish I could try some.”
“I found the artisan cheese through the Saturday farmer’s market,” she continued, and added, “I like being able to get closer to my food sources, you know? That way I know exactly what I’m eating.”
I heard a squawk from the yard, where the chickens were pecking at a rind from an overripe watermelon I’d picked in the garden yesterday. “You’re wise.”
“And did you know the food coop I belong to now carries recycled paper towels and napkins? I think it’s so cool that they’re committed to saving trees.”
I shoved aside some folded laundry on the work table, including a stack of cloth rags and a pile of thrift store cloth napkins, so I could pin the last of the sheet. “What a great idea!” I agreed.
“And I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I got an energy-star washer and dryer. They were on sale, only $750 for the pair. Think of the money I’ll save!”
“Good for you!” I draped the two parts of the pinned sheet over a wooden clothes drying rack (since we haven’t used our dryer in four years) and started threading the sewing machine. “You’ll save a lot of energy that way.”
“Yes, my next goal is to reduce my electricity consumption. The energy-star rating on the washer and dryer should shave about forty bucks a month from my bill.”
I didn’t mention that our power bill is about $45 a month total. “That’s great! What about that energy-star dishwasher – did you ever get one?”
“Not yet. It’s next on my list. Did you know an energy-star dishwasher is more efficient than hand-washing dishes? You should think about getting one yourself.”
The idea of a dishwasher fitting into our kitchen was laughable. Besides, I could wash messy dinner dishes using about two gallons of water. “I don’t think we can afford a dishwasher,” I said.
“There are a lot of things you can’t do since you live way out in the country,” Janet said in a scolding tone. “You don’t even have public transportation, do you?”
To get to work, we cross the driveway to our shop. Fifteen seconds in summer, thirty seconds in winter. “You’re right, public transportation is pretty much nonexistent around here.” I walked over to the pantry to see what I could make for dinner.
She tsk-tsked me. “You’ll never manage to lower your carbon footprint at this rate,” she said. “I’ll bet you can’t even find organic food at your grocery store.”
“Some, but we don’t buy it because it’s too expensive.” I took down a jar of garden corn I’d canned last summer. “But we manage to stay healthy despite it.”
“Oh, speaking of healthy – I joined a health club. They have this fabulous indoor track for power walking. I’ve been walking three miles a day.”
“Good for you! About the only exercise I get is walking to the mailbox.” Our mailbox is a mile and a half away.
“Goodness, you’re clueless about how to reduce your carbon footprint, aren’t you? When are you going to come to Seattle where I can teach you how to live green?”