With a new book as her inspiration, former queen of convenience sacrifices her budget and (temporarily) her hygiene in the name of the planet.
Like most people, I’m a fan of the earth. And when I think about it, I want to help our environment. The problem is, I only think about it when it’s convenient. I recycle if there’s a bin close by, but I don’t when there isn’t. I buy energy-saving light bulbs, but mainly because they last longer. So with the help of Boston contributor Christie Matheson’s new book Green Chic (Sourcebooks, $12.95), I challenge myself to go 100 percent eco-friendly for two weeks.
The Experience I like things a certain way, and I’m not afraid to speak up, whether it’s having a restaurant hold the cucumbers, or requesting a bridesmaid’s dress that shows off my clavicles. But being eco-conscious takes me from being reasonably particular to downright demanding. "Do you sell water in glass bottles?" "Do you know if this salmon is farm raised?" "Do you have organic wine?" That last one is, perhaps tellingly, the question I ask more than any other. Most bartenders don’t seem to know the answer, so they take what appears to be a wild guess—and invariably select the priciest option. Which brings me to the most striking part about going green: It’s insanely expensive. Juice, peanut butter, toilet paper, whatever—green products cost almost double their earth-destroying counterparts.
Happily, I do save dough on transportation. Before my dalliance with green living, I rarely took the T or the bus. My reluctance was not due solely to snobbery: Whenever I calculated the time versus the money involved, a taxi seemed more efficient. But having dutifully put my SUV on sabbatical, I hop the Number 1 bus to MIT for a lecture on teleportation (might as well be geek chic, too!). After enduring the crowds and the constant jolting stops, I choose to walk home—at 11 p.m., in the freezing cold, to the South End, clutching pepper spray.
I find myself doing this sort of thing often, abstaining from activities rather than doing them the green way. Because carrying my own water bottle is a hassle, I get dehydrated. Rather than doing laundry myself (I’m typically a drop-off kind of gal) according to the green standard—which would involve organic detergents not sold at my corner Walgreens—I buy new organic cotton undies, at 30 bucks a pop. Instead of taking quick showers, I occasionally skip them entirely (though I do put on extra Dry by Nature deodorant).
The Verdict Two weeks later, I’m poorer, but the green-chic philosophy has begun to seep in. Recycling makes me feel virtuous. I’ve perfected the art of the nine-minute shower (without shaving). I’m more inclined to walk or carpool, and I’m inseparable from my Nalgene. As for laundry, I have two options (and no, I’m not going to start washing my own): drive my two baskets’ worth to one of the rare eco-friendly cleaners, like Zoots on Charles Street, or walk it over to my regular laundry. I know neither’s perfect, but when it comes to being (green) chic, attitude counts for something.