America: No Guilt about Green

When I was a little girl my favorite color was green, including all its variations, forest green, green yellow, and yellow green, that might be found in the Crayola crayons 64-count box.  I loved nature, playing regularly outside in the sandbox or in my tree house.  I loved animals, not just home pets, but those animals whose natural habitat needed protecting.  My first letter-to-the editor in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper was at the age of 10 and I still remember the subject: my support for Earth Day.

My dream at about the age of 12 was to be an environmental rights lawyer or veterinarian.  My plans changed over time but I’ve always associated the color green with the natural environment.  Today going green, living green, or being green-conscious is automatically associated with having an environmentally sensitive outlook and attitude, but also acting in a manner that tries to minimize harm and reduces waste.

It disturbs me how much I waste on a regular basis, how much my modern, American consumerist lifestyle disproportionately impacts the global footprint.  Put simply, I feel guilty about the choices I make on a daily basis.  I’m not the perfect, eco-conscious consumer.  I don’t eat all organic. I don’t buy exclusively cruelty-free products. I eat meat occasionally.  I do recycle, especially here in Japan where recycling is more commonplace than in America.  When I’m in the U.S., I drive a compact vehicle, one I’ve had since 1998 (Honda Civic), that gets good gas mileage and is relatively less polluting than other cars.  So I guess I’m like the average American–not a superhero on the environment–but also not a superficially indifferent jerk.  This National Geographic report on American attitudes toward the environment reaches a shocking conclusion.  Americans don’t feel particularly guilty about the consumerist choices they make related to the environment.  My country ’tis of me, the United States of America, which consumes more material and creates more waste per capita than any other country in the world, has a population that is slow to change its behavior toward the environment.  Perhaps this is one reason why many global citizens are not looking to the U.S. as the ideal model for modern living.  We are not setting the best example to our global peers about how to live smarter with less.  Organic food for thought, you might say.

So do you feel guilty about not being as green as you could be?  If so, then what are you doing to make positive changes?