Saints of Ecology: F*** YOU!
Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.
I have a Swiffer. It's a handy device for cleaning floors that runs on 4 AA batteries which power a squirt from a bottle of cleaning stuff. You put in the bottle, attach a disposable paper pad with velcro, and clean the floor with it. It's hopelessly wasteful but gets the floor clean without much effort.
It's unecological but I need all the help I can get. Somehow I don't have the talent for housework much as I wish and much as I try. I've bitten the bullet and hired cleaners to come in every two weeks but it's still beyond what most people can handle. I don't have any fetishes about germs--I just want to place to look ok and not shock people, but it's losing battle.
I don't have a big ecological footprint compared to most Americans. I drive a sub-compact, I don't use a dishwasher and, frankly, I only shower about once a week. I don't buy lots of stuff: my working wardrobe consists of 3 pairs of jeans I got about 4 years ago, tee shirts and assorted sweaters I got at yard sales. I turn off lights, including the lights in the ladies room in my hall. I don't mind sacrificing stuff but I will not sacrifice time or convenience.
An inveterate consumer of women's magazines, I have read innumerable articles about saving money and the environment. One of the themes is the Joy of Couponing: there are, apparently, women who make a hobby of collecting coupons, filing and organizing them, and swapping them with other hobbiests. Once a year or so they take all their coupons to the supermarket and buy two shopping carts full of brand name merchandise for 97¢. Another theme is Ecological Families. They spend all their spare time composting and sorting trash which they take to recycling centers so that on garbage day they don't have more than a grocery bag full of recalcitrant rubbish to be picked up.
I am just not going to do this stuff. I need to do my work and I also want to do things that matter to me in my spare time: improving my French, knitting, keeping up with the piano, and learning math. I am not going to spend my time clipping coupons or sorting trash. There are three kinds of people that get into this: housewives desperate to avoid getting pushed into the labor force, the idle rich and the idle stupid, which overlap. These are people who don't have the wit to use leisure productively or have to pretend that they're doing real work. Please, Massa Hubby, don't make me get a job at Walmart--I'm saving us all this money by couponing. Please don't kick me out; please, Massa, don't make me get a job.
I'm less sympathetic to the rich and the stupid, who take on shit work because they don't have the wit to do any better. If they aren't stuck with drudgery they haven't a clue what to do besides watching TV or staring at the walls because they're stupid so they look for boring shit work--collecting coupons or sorting trash. What a pity. The world is full of people like me and many, many others who've spent our lives fighting for all we're worth to avoid doing this drudge work. If we had their money and leisure, we'd know what to do with it.