How ironic that nowadays one has to be rich to be able to afford not to despoil the environment. All that is required are a few solar panels here, a small windmill there; a few appliances exchanged for energy-saving ones here, the old heating system scrapped for modern heat-exchangers there; a few composters here and a few rain collectors sprinkled throughout the yard.
Naturally, we should replace the family car with a hybrid and hire domestic help whom we can force to forgo the conveniences of pre-packaged, throw-away materials. A personal chef would also be expedient. Who else has the time to drive all over town (in the new super-efficient hybrid car) to procure only local produce, organically-grown, and family-harvested? More to the point, who has the skill to turn whatever might be in season into delicious cuisine?
In our family, we are fresh out of domestic help – and discretionary income for that matter. As a result, we are frequently met with life’s perverse sense of humor, commonly known as Murphy’s Law in our valiant effort to live “green”.
No longer spring chickens in anybody’s book, my fishing-nut-husband and I have encountered many challenges. The truly important ones, we eventually find a way to meet. The simple fact that we’ve been married for over 14 years should suffice as evidence. But even after decades of dedicated effort, we have yet to find a way to live in a truly environmentally-sound fashion on a normal family’s budget.
Take the case of the homemade cat litter for instance. One day, it occurred to us that we absolutely had to switch to more eco-friendly cat litter. The clay-based, scoopable litter was not only gleaned from the earth through invasive mining processes, but also weighed a ton, wasting unspeakable amounts of fossil fuels just so our little furballs could use the potty.
Fierce eco-warrior that he occasionally aims to be, my fishing nut disappeared behind his computer screen, emerging sometime later with a recipe for homemade cat litter consisting primarily of chicken-scratch and wood- shavings. Locating such materials required perseverance. At long last, hubby proudly returned home to mix up his own special blend. The stuff was marvelous: It was lightweight, entirely biodegradable, and, best of all, absorbed odor 100% better than any of the store-bought stuff.
The husband and I were ecstatic. Unfortunately, one of our darling little furballs did not share our euphoria (see picture above). She promptly communicated her displeasure by peeing on the couch. Her human eco-warriors were undismayed. After some more concocting (and banning the cats from the room with the couch), we managed to arrive at a blend that was actually used by our cats, cost less, smelled better, and was eco-friendly.
Murphy wasn’t done with us yet.
The first batch of our miracle mix soon waned. When we tried to replenish our stores, we were informed that the state of Alabama in all its wisdom had banned the import of the critical ingredient. We tried to make do without it, but were forced to include either fine silica sand or regular cat litter in its stead. After two more trial batches, we accepted defeat, never truly understanding why we couldn’t buy small cedar pellets soaked in natural insect-repellent. One is left to assume that it is for the same reason non-toxic, pet-safe, cheap and effective flea-treatments for carpets used in all other states are banned in ours as well.
Murphy may have won Round 1, but we kept on fighting. The husband next decided to cut down on the number of pet food cans we throw away every week. That amount of garbage, combined with the knowledge of how commercial pet food is made, was enough to make my man willing to spend one day each week cooking up a giant pot of dog food.
One of our dogs went wild over this stuff. Our black lab did not. She ate it, but reluctantly. She much preferred foraging in the backyard for items she deemed appropriate to complete her diet. The end result was that the poor thing threw up a lot – and didn’t get much wet food because our other dog ate hers as soon as she turned her back. Suffice it to say, we are back to store-bought dog food.
Our pets’ and our government’s oddities are not the only things foiling our attempts to be environmentally responsible. The fact that my fishing nut and I are diametrically opposed in virtually everything contributes heavily. It never fails: whenever I decide to be good to our planet and accept a modicum of discomfort for the greater good, the husband undoes the effect (he makes similar claims, but I deny these allegations). Anyone living with another human being will instantly recognize the first line of scrimmage: the thermostat. I think it is ingrained in the male psyche to reproduce arctic conditions in mid-summer. My fishing nut’s defense is that I can always put on more clothes while it isn’t really socially acceptable for him to run around naked. Sucking it up and adapting, does not seem to be an option. One rather wonders how our species ever made it this far with such gaping adaptational flaw – but I digress.
Mind you, his mantra for winter is equally impressive. It turns out that it is absolutely necessarily for our entire house to be maintained at warm and cozy temperatures for the duration of the cold season, regardless of whether we are at home or not. Otherwise our critters might be cold, you see. Evidently, we have the only mammals on the planet not imbued with the innate ability to move from colder areas to warmer ones or huddle together for warmth – amazing circumstance, that.
Besides disagreements over in-house temperature control, we have many stories of when the fishing nut and I undo each other’s best effort (well, mainly he mine, but let’s be “generous”). I will limit myself here to the description of only one – the bane of all good intentions, the one-time-use, disposable cleaning product.
I don’t smoke or gamble. I do have a shameful weakness for paper towels and wet-wipes. We have plenty of cleaning rags in the house. Sadly, these things require the user to come in contact with dirty water – shudder! Wearing gloves is not much more fun either because hands end up clammy and wrinkled – not to mention smelly. Frequent trips to the sink or dragging around heavy buckets also aren’t exactly cherished highlights of the cleaning process – exactly the reason everybody loves the throw-away. Those things are hard to resist. It takes a solemn pact with myself not to use them.
One auspicious weekend morning, I’m tackling the cleaning of one half of our house while the husband tackles the other. Through utmost sacrifice, I stick to my guns and use rags and towels. Not a single piece of paper was harmed in the process. I could not have been prouder. Tired and filthy, I return to the halfway point of our abode only to behold my charming betrothed shoveling an impressive heap of paper towels into our trashcan – we are talking mountain. Feeling my accomplishment rather diminished, I vaguely recall some previous night’s discussion concerning the curtailed usage of paper towels in our household.
Now, the unmarried reader may posit that there is a simple solution to this kind of problem. After all, human beings are supposedly blessed with the gift of verbal communication. Long-term couples, on the other hand, are aware that successful relationships require “picking one’s battles.” It turns out that each human being has his or her own system for tackling unpleasant tasks and that nobody is in the least interested in the other person’s system, no matter how far superior it may be. Some of the fiercest family battles break out over some novice trying to impose his or her system on others. As veterans, we know not to make that mistake.
The bottom line to all this musing is that, yes, we would love to leave our planet in better shape, but have not yet struck on effective and consistent means for doing so. One thing we are proud of is that The Contemporary Sportsman does not require paper, printing, or shipping and that, unlike traditional magazines, it does not add to the problem of ever-expanding landfills. As mere mortals, that is perhaps the best thing we can do: try not to add to the problem. On the other hand, I suspect we will keep trying to come up with other ways to make our own environmental footprint just a little bit smaller. Most likely will continue to provide entertainment to Murphy in the process.
Originally published in The Contemporary Sportsman Volume: 2, Issue: 1
Postscript: If you enjoy my creative nonfiction, please consider taking a commitment-free sneak-peak at my fiction, also available on this blog under From Panda . It is written with the same humor but with the added bonus of a bit more adventure, suspense and romance. Winds of Change, the first novel in a series named Panda, can be accessed for free here on this blog. Donations in the form of social media shares, comments, and spreading the word are ever so welcome. Early chapters are already posted; more appear at regular intervals. Should the pace become tedious at some point, just nag. We will listen.