Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Green as Grass

Hat tip to our modern huswyfe, Jody, whose GREEN post inspired this minor rant!
At some point in the recent past, the nation's favourite hobby changed from gardening to shopping. Now I could go on, in my own indefatigable way, that this perhaps shows a crisis in British society: that we abandoned the healthful, convivial, creative hobby of gardening for regular consumer blowouts, which leave us feeling anxious, guilty and let down after the few brief moments of pleasure, but I won't. What I will say it that it is no surprise to me that "green" lifestyles (oh, how I hate that word) are being sold to us: that most government initiatives on environmental issues revolve around the third of the three "Rs", I imagine Gordon Brown doesn't approve of reducing what we buy and re-using what we have, for economic reasons; that McDonald's Happy Meal advertisements now look like an episode of River Cottage; that popular newspaper and magazine coverage of green issues is often celebrity led...Gwyneth Paltrow's use of organic cosmetics, Hally Berry has a hybrid car! It's becoming increasingly obvious that the green movement is becoming, for want of a better word, commercialised. It's just another lifestyle to buy into, endorsed by your favourite celebrity, with it's own special labels and brands to identify your allegiance with a certain group.
However, my main concern about the commercialisation of the environmental movement is that it makes green a very exclusive colour; the average person feels that they have to be rather wealthy to be properly green. From organic shampoo, to a raised veg bed made from ethically source withy branches, it's all very nice, but it's all very new Tory. And, we look at the lifestyle programmes, and the Sunday supplements, and we dream, and we think if only, and we conclude that green is as achievable for us as buying the country cottage that goes with the lifestyle. When green is well marketed, green becomes aspirational, and is just another consumer product which becomes fodder for a consumer induced sense of ill-being, just another thing we want but can't afford, let's just settle for a Happy Meal with carrot sticks instead of chips.
It's always been my contention that the most environmentally positive people in the UK right now are pensioners. Look at how responsibly our grandparents live. They can fix things, they don't throw stuff out until it's really broken, they can cook (after a fashion!), they've been wearing the same clothes since Moses was a boy, they prefer ballroom dancing and Saturday morning at the football to a recreational trawl around the mall, they garden, take care of their cars, they save their pennies, it's they who use public transport, many of them are involved in community project work, their friendships and family matter more to them than their possessions. Incidentally, the over 65s are the poorest demographic in the UK. When it comes to carbon footprints having loads of lovely lolly is a detriment, David Cameron's carbon footprint must be massive, despite all of his greenwash, my 86 year old father-in-law is a green angel compared to Gwyneth and Hally.
What we must begin to learn is that when it comes to putting environmental abstraction into domestic practice, it is what we do and not what we buy that counts. Not simply because we mere mortals cannot afford the Sunday supplement lifestyle but, moreover, that green is not a lifestyle. Having a green way of life is easy, it is also a joy, it is not something which you can optionally buy into, but something you simply do on a day to day basis. So, green is not a lifestyle, but it is, or soon will be, life being lived. We have to look at our planet (and look at our purses) and look at our family and look at our neighbours, and say how does what I do impact your well-being? Am I better off line-drying my washing, home baking my bread, walking to school/work, eating locally, feeding the kids proper grub, buying Fair Trade, fixing the car so it runs properly, saving up for good experiences rather than bad shopping sprees, going to glorious Cornwall rather than some dreadful Costa? Being green is being responsible, frugal, self-controlled and respectful. Being green is having fun with what you have with the people you love most. Being green and being wealthy are in no way synonymous. Being green is being old fashioned.

15 comments:

Niki RuralWritings said...

Well said!!! I wholeheartedly agree. I abhor the packaged green expensive bill of goods we are being sold, which is so superficial it is usually of no real benefit anyway. Carbon tax credits and in Canada, a proposed "green" tax!!! Bah!
I like looking back to the 1930's and before for a true picture of stewardship of the planet, our material goods, our money and ourselves. Thank you Natalie for waking up my brain this morning.
have a lovely day :)
Niki

Oh and I am going to give Jody's cream a try, sounds lovely, I make a lip balm using beeswax and it can't be beat.

Laura A said...

Hear, hear! I liked your whole post, but most especially this line:

"Being green is having fun with what you have with the people you love most."

Oh, and I was just having fun with Jody about that Peggy Noonan article. It cracks me up that the New York media is suddenly packaging common sense frugality as chic. Next thing you know, Bugabo will redesign my granny cart and market it for $1000.

Laura A said...

Sorry, that's Bugaboo, the stroller company.

Sarah said...

I was going to say that everyone should go to cornwall for their holidays...lol, but then it would be terribly busy! I love, love, love cornwall. Ahhh to be a beach bum in my VW campervan and flip-flops...truly, if I wasn't a responsible parent, etc, that would be my dream!

'Organic' shampoo?? Can shampoo truly be organic? Lol, laureth sulphate (or whatever it's called) could never be organic...could it? And as for organic cosmetics, yikes, but then Gwyneth Paltrow always did wind me up for some reason - so as soon as I know she's doing it it makes me want to do the opposite and smear chemicals on my face and drive a 'chelsea tractor'...hahaha only kidding! ;)

Enjoyed your post chuck, you were on top form! You go girl!

Love n' hugs.

xx

monix said...

What a lovely rant! I agree wholeheartedly with all you say.

Sara said...

Bravo! Love your rant. These things are very applicable on THIS side of the pond too.

Gumbo Lily said...

"...commercialisation....it makes green a very exclusive colour"

The commercializing and politicizing is what frustrates me. Living practically and frugally should be about walking your walk the best way you can, teaching it to your children, and being content,joyful, and responsible in the space where God put you.

I love everything you said, Prudence. I especially appreciated "settling for a Happy Meal with carrot sticks."

Huzzahs!
Jody

Left-Handed Housewife said...

You go, girl! Rant on! I was actually going to write about Jody's post today, too, but then I got distracted by my own distractions.

What circle of hell do you think those advertising/marketing folk (all those fine people whose job it is to make us feel anxious enough to spend all our money to stop feeling anxious) will burn in? Closer to the center than the insurance industry folks, or further out? Oh, where is Dante when you need him?

Well, as my old friend Billy Bragg would say, let's start our own revolution and cut out the middleman.

Onward,

frances

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Niki
There have been mutterings about carbon tax credits over here too. I'm deeply suspicious about them. I used to make my own lip balm too, I was once a keen soaper, Jody's recipe looks great.

Hi Laura
This may be just my fevered imagination but I think Cath Kidston do a cool, granny chic, granny trolley...I *think* it costs in the region of £80. As always, grannies could never afford granny chic! My own pet theory is the metro/Chelsea/London NY types are catching on to the *new* simplicity because all of the common folks quite like bling culture, it's a reaction to working class culture. Pah!

Hi Sarah
My lot sang at a wedding the other day where the bridal car was a vintage VW van. How cool is that? I want one so desperately. Can you imagine me and thee sipping coffee in the back of the van watching the waves hit the rocks? OK, I'm off to Cornwall, are you coming? Of course, if we had a van we could solve mystereis too, you need some kind of vintage transport to do that.

Hi Monix
I'm glad you enjoyed my rantings!

Hi Sara
Ah, it doesn't surprise me. The English speaking world does seem to be rather enthralled with our heavily marketed culture.

Hi Jody
Hat tip to you Mrs Goodewyfe, you inspired me rantings and me ravings. There's a strong faith element to all of this, isn't there? We can't go around wasting precious gifts. I think John Stott once said that the only practical way a Christian can react to poverty in the developing world was to live simply and give generously, I think we have to live thoughtfully too. I could go on, but I shan't!

Hi Frances
You and I really are kindreds. I do like a person who references both Dante and Billy Bragg in their comments. Did I tell you that I've loved Billy Bragg since I was a wee slip of a girl? I feel quite nostalgic now..."if you've got a blacklist I wanna be on it..."

Left-Handed Housewife said...

DD: I just knew you'd love Billy! I just had that feeling. Isn't "Great Leap Forward" the most quotable song? "The revolution is just a tee shirt away"--I've always wanted to put that on a tee shirt.

Rock on, sister!

frances

Sarah said...

Oh yes, mysteries, camper van, coffee, Cornwall...I'm there!!

Child of the New Forest said...

Hi there, I just discovered your blog. I really liked this post, you are spot on. I often think the greenest purchasing decision you can make is the decison NOT to purchase.
all the best.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Frances
I still think he's great, and you're right it's such a quotable song!

Hi Sarah
We could do it when we retire, we'd be like Rosemary and Thyme. Two aged ladies solving middle class mysteries in quaint villages...only we'd have a really cool van. See you in 25 years time.

Hi Child of the New Forest (what a great name)
Welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm a tightwad for the greater good!

Nan said...

Excellent writing, Dulce, and I agree with every word.

I recently read a book review I think you'd be interested in:
http://weeklybookpixie.blogspot.com/2009/04/apples-to-oysters-by-margaret-webb.html

Though it is 'about' Canada, I think it applies to all of us.

It just breaks my heart to think of the British replacing gardening with shopping.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Nan
That book sounds very good. We do still garden, but not like we used to, it's a shame really.