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Super Fox Sauce: “Paper or plastic?” Kermit isn’t the only one having trouble

“Paper or plastic?” said the cashier in a rushed tone. Obviously, it’s a simple question. I looked under the cart and notice [once again] I’d forgotten my reusable bags. Damn it! Sweat beads on my forehead. “Paper,” I said. Although, witnessing the mindless teenager over-stuffing paper bags with heavy, milk jugs triggers me to change my decision. Scanning the aisle for any type of familiar face who might judge my bag choice, I quietly say, “Actually, can you use plastic?” What was that, miss? “Plastic!” I bark– annoyed I have to say it again.

For an instant, I contemplate buying reusable bags or driving home. Of course, these choices are ridiculous, because I would use gas to get home or support more bag use. However, my girlfriend’s voice echoes, “additional materials being added to the landfill.” Dirty looks from dairy-free patrons burns into the back of my head. I can hear the other shoppers in aisles repeat, “Neither, I brought bags to use.” I hold my chin high to mask my “D” effort in reducing my carbon footprint. The rhythmic chirps of scanned yogurts morph into a terrible, ’80s, revised version of “We are the World.” Except my version doesn’t have Stevie Wonder on stand-by.

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As a single mom living in a high-income area, I spend numerous hours struggling to be mindful of green practices.  After all, rushing my daughter to catch the bus and reminding my kids wax-coated cardboard cannot be recycled can be stressful. I’m not saying it’s impossible to be green and have a family; however, many of my “greenies” (eco-conscious friends) claim it’s easy, simple and fast once you embrace it.

Even though greenies claim this mindful lifestyle is simple, the stress and shame it sometimes creates sucks. Forgetting to wrap a birthday present in newspaper or penny-pinching to purchase local, grass-fed beef are things I strive to accomplish. However, unexpected expenses like fixing a root canal or repairing a gas-leak take precedent over forgetting my reusable mug at Macy’s Coffee House. These thoughts lead me to wonder if other mothers stress over what I refer to as “green anxiety.”

A friend of mine (Jane), who lives in The Grand Canyon, just added a new baby to her family of four.  Even though she’s not a rookie in the nursery, the baby still demands hourly feedings, which contributes to exhaustion. Recently Jane declined a party invitation that asked guests to “bring their own dishes and napkins.” The invitation added an additional comment about their mission to promote mindful living and “reduce your contribution to waste.” Jane wanted to attend the picnic but then found herself obsessing over what kind of plates she should bring? Plastic? Although that is chemical based. Glass? Although little fingers would be carrying slippery plates. After all the ruminating, Jane decided to stay home and eliminate the pressure of others’ green expectations.

Green pressure to buy a Hybrid vehicle or grass-fed beef is not only stressful, but also expensive and marketed toward a wealthier demographic. Regardless of what some greenies say—these practices do take research, education and a larger disposable income. I know there are some Flagstaff parents out there who will argue with me that it’s inexpensive and will keep my family healthier. Do I agree with them? Absolutely! What annoys me is judging someone for driving their car to work or using processed cookie batter.

 

After all, if my child gets a fever at school, I’m not going to strap them on my commuter bike, or stay up until 11 p.m. baking cookies from scratch (especially after 7 hours of standing and round-brushing clients.) I am not afraid of working hard—physically or mentally, but I still struggle with comparing myself to others. Those “others” typically include well-off, stay-at-home moms who yoga for 2 hours, grind pine nuts for vegan spreads and pick up their toddler from expensive museum camps. Don’t get me wrong—no one’s life is perfect.  I am sure she spills her organic coffee on her Prana pants too.  But, I would like to encourage others to embrace some altruism and chill out on their self-righteous views towards families making the best effort they can towards changing habits.Man with bag full of food

If a family recycles cans, uses spaghetti jars for glasses, buys garage-sale furniture or recycles rusty parts from their parent’s El Camino—give them props! Reusing/recycling comes in all forms. Instead of judging—why not encourage and educate community members who fit into lower-income, blue-collar brackets? Can you imagine how much waste would be reduced if just 20 percent of these families started using better practices?

As far as reducing our carbon footprint– maybe we should ask NAU what plan they’ve planned to reduce the carbon footprint of their growing 30,000 student population? What about congested student/tourism traffic or wasted building materials used to build massive hotels? Or the gas used to transport Phoenix labor instead of hiring local contractors. After all, if they want to increase their revenue, maybe we should demand larger-profit organizations to honor and contribute to our mountain-town culture.

After graduating from Sinagua High School and eventually rocking my blue NAU gown with a degree in hand, I’ve seen this dynamic town and culture transform. Southside previously modeled a concrete, whiskey den of drunks. Although now is a bougie buffet of cafes and boutiques. Flagstaff has left behind its scruffiness and embraced a landscape similar to Boulder, CO. Regardless of whether you agree with the growth or not, the change is here to stay (at least for now.)

Even though growth may fuel our economy, I still crave the fresh air, climbing crags, remote trails and progressive culture. As for now, I will continue to perfect shiny blowouts (did I mention I’m a “hairapist?,” improve my green practices and honor my mountain town. Now, if I could just remember those damn grocery bags.

 

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