Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Steamboat Springs The worms are working on it.
Dozens of worms are busy turning my newly created compost pile into fertile soil for my garden. They are hard at work converting eggshells, coffee grounds and bits of bread into rich, dark, earth-smelling soil conditioner. The worms are also absolving me of a tiny bit of Green Guilt.
Bless me, worms, for I have sinned.
Last week, I made a terrible mistake. I had a tiny piece of plastic foam in my hand - about the size of a matchbook - and before you could say "Reduce, Reuse Recycle," I pitched it into a garbage can.
Threw. It. Away.
Aaargh! I think I experienced a brain freeze, a senior moment, brain bugaboo or all three. Instead of dutifully carrying the plastic foam home to recycle, I absentmindedly tossed it in a garbage can. Now that piece of plastic foam is in the bottom of a large metal trash container, making its sad way to a landfill somewhere, where it will slowly biodegrade in a few months, years or eons.
The Green Guilt is overwhelming. Crippling. Devastating. Going green is so important that the guilt is intensified and haunts me every minute of every day.
I feel green guilty when I drive instead of riding my bike. I feel green guilty when I forget my grocery bag in my car and am too lazy to go out and get it. I feel green guilty when I put clothes in the dryer instead of hanging them up to dry. If I dry them, I feel guilty that my washer and dryer aren't more energy efficient.
I feel green guilty if I buy an apple from Fiji. I feel green guilty if I buy a new shirt instead of rescuing one from a consignment store, garage sale or thrift shop. I feel green guilty about my gas-powered lawn mower. Shouldn't I dig up the lawn and plant a big garden instead?
I feel green guilty if I don't reuse an envelope or both sides of printer paper before recycling it. I feel green guilty about my childhood, when we routinely punched holes in the bottom of soda cans, tossed them into Lake Michigan and watched them sink to the bottom.
I do not need more guilt. I already am afflicted with an overabundance of Food Guilt, Exercise Guilt and Don't-Walk-The-Dog-Enough Guilt.
Our garbage is under constant scrutiny. If I slip up and hold one thing in my hand mistakenly headed for the garbage, my son will shriek, "Recycle that!" And so I do. And then I haul the heavy green containers to the Big Green Recycling Machines parked around town and congratulate myself on completing a vigorous upper body workout.
It's a full-time job being green. I need to replace incandescent bulbs with florescent, switch from paper towels to rags, give up plastic storage containers for glass, wash my clothes in cold water, take shorter showers, buy in bulk, avoid aerosol containers, convert to rechargeable batteries, carry a reusable coffee mug, use cloth napkins instead of paper, pay bills online and, gasp :read online instead of reading "real" newspapers and magazines. Please, anything but that. I can do about anything except give up reading in the bathtub.
Recycling experts advise people to get in the habit of asking themselves, "How can I make this moment a trash-free one?"
Honestly, I don't think I can do that quite yet. And so I will continue to live with Green Guilt - a problem for which there is no cure, no 12-step program or rehab facility.
The only solution could be more worms.