Monday, June 21, 2010

The Religion of Environmentalism

So, the husband and I are about to start a lovely Shabbat lunch at a friend's house, along with about six other guests. Our hostess apologizes for setting the table with paperware, and explains that her dishwasher is on the fritz.  We all sort of joke about that (she always puts out a beautiful Shabbos table, finest china, linens, flowers etc.).  One of the younger guests, Lainey, very publicy and seriously gathers up her place setting in hand, stands up, and asks for a regular plate, a glass and silverware. 

"Um, sure, but why?"  responds our hostess.

"For environmental reasons."

Naturally I let out a little giggle, thinking Lainey must be making a joke.  She said "for environmental reasons" the same way I would decline eating a cheeseburger, "for religious reasons" or "for kashrut reasons."  But after a nasty little condescending look from Lainey, I realized she was serious.  "I'll be happy to wash the dishes before I go," Lainey continued.  "It's just my thing.  I don't ever use paper or plastic.  I don't own it and I won't eat off of it.  I won't be part of the problem.  I won't contribute to killing the Earth."


I have someone clean my house every other week, but recently, I hired a special cleaning service to give it a really good, "deep cleaning." This is a service that specializes in homes with pets.  I wanted every bit of dog hair and general yuckiness out of my house.  I wanted windows that sparkled, woodwork that glowed.  I wanted all the dead bugs out of my lighting fixtures.  You get the picture. 

So this special service takes about two days and costs about $150, which is roughly about twice what I normally pay for cleaning (we have a pretty small house).  When I ordered the service over the phone and explained in detail exactly what I wanted done, they asked me if I wanted the extra "green" service.  For an additional $75, they will only use natural products, put my trash into recyclable bags, etc. 

"Absolutely not," I said.  "First of all, if it costs more, it's not green to me.  Second of all, I don't give a rat's patootie about green cleansers.  I want an antiseptically clean house.  I want chemicals.  I want complete dirt removal."  The manager said she understood, but that the company still maintained a green philosophy, but they would not charge me for what she considered a more moral way of cleaning.

Well, the house cleaner, Rose, showed up, and in spite of the fact that I made it clear that I was not a greenie, she refused to use any products containing bleach or ammonia.  She washed my windows with vinegar, which frankly, smelled nasty.  She washed my hardwood floors with water and nothing else.  She used recycled sponges and rags, which, she informed me, would be washed back at the office when she returned, yes, even the one she used to clean the toilets.  She used stuff like lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, etc.  I could not convince her to even clean my bathroom with a real cleanser.

I said to her, "Rose, let me ask you something.  If, hypothetically, you need surgery someday, would you want the surgeon to clean the instruments and operating table with vinegar?  Would you want him to use recycled tubing from another patient, cleaned with baking soda?"

"That's different," she replied. 

"Not so much, actually.  I want my bathrooms sanitized.  We have a lot of guests on the weekend, and I don't want to get sick.  I want every surface of my bathroom gone over with a bleach-based cleanser."

"Even at the expense of killing the Earth?" she asked me.

Yeah, she really said that.  I live in a very greenified area.  We stick out like sore, ungreen, thumbs.  Politicians in my area actually run on a totally green platform (and win!).  Everybody here recycles like demons.  Many of the grocery stores here don't offer paper or plastic; they'll give you a box or ask you to bring your own grocery carrier (which many people do).  I am like an atheist in the Church of Environmentalism.

I think that most die-hard environmentalists who know me just write me off as a selfish Conservative, one who wastes, who doesn't care, who consumes without thought.  The fact that I don't believe that climate change is a real problem is enough to convince some environmentalists that I am crazy, or evil, or both.  I recently posted something to my Facebook profile on Barbara Boxer's comment about how the number one threat to the U.S. Military was climate change.  Oh yeah, she really said that.  I received the equivalent of a hate mail message from a friend of a friend, who told me I was no better than Sarah Palin, shooting deer from a helicopter, etc.


The truth is, I"m not a wasteful person at all.  I'm a huge believer in gemaching, freecycling, and borrowing instead of buying, and just in general not wasting resources.  I don't believe these sorts of things should rule your life though, and frankly, I am perfectly comfortable with using paper plates.  I think killing germs is actually good for the environment, and I embrace the use of bleach for disinfecting.  I don't think Mother Earth is dying.  I don't even think she's sick. 

I refuse to jump on the environmental bandwagon.  It is a culture of baseless religion.  I will not drink the green Kool-Aid.


Anonymous said...

You must move to Israel. Besides major "green technology" we have none of that here (at least in the major cities). If someone recycles there bottles here, that is huge.

Nice Jewish Guy (signed out) said...

I don't get it.. why is paper not environmentally friendly? Paper degrades. Styrofoam, I can see. But paper?

Like in any religion, it seems that the extremists and fundamentalists have a poor sense of perspective. It's all-or-nothing, black-or-white. Real dishes or nothing, not even paper. Does Lainey drive a car, or does she bike around? How about the energy used and resources depleted in the manufacture, distribution and collection/recycling of recyclable products? Some analyses have shown that the net energy and resource conservation achieved by using green products and recycling is negligible, and in some cases, more than by using conventional products.

WebGirl said...


I couldn't agree more. We don't recycle because studies and investigations have shown that our state has all the recycled goods it needs for the next hundred years and that there is no money to process the materials. I won't recycle just to feel good about myself. As far as Lanie goes, she is young, very young, and clings to environmentalism because it's so warm and fuzzy to stand up for Mother Earth. I don't know what she drives, but you have a's like a vegetarian who wears leather shoes. As far as paper plates, she just views that as consumerism...using up things that don't need to be used up. And don't get me started on green products. I have yet to find a green product that will both 1) do the same job as the ungreen product and 2) cost the same or less.

Another little detail about my meal with Lanie....after the meal, I took home all of the chulent bones for my dog. I always do that, at least with friends I'm comfortable with. I hate to see stuff like meat go into the garbage when I could totally "recycle" it for my dog. Lanie noticed me doing that and said, "you're not going to bring that home in a PLASTIC bag, are you?" I jokingly asked my hostess if she had any recycled newsprint.

I view the Green Movement as the feel-good religion of the decade.

BTW, love the new moniker!


Nice Jewish Guy (signed out) said...


Well, it's not really a new moniker- I'm just signed into a different Google account for work, calendar, etc, so I didn't want to have to sign out and in again under my NJG account, and then again in reverse.

. Let me guess... Lainey is single?

WebGirl said...

Lainey is single. We've got plenty of married environmentalists as well. One couple here takes home our garbage when they come for a meal (so they can go through it and recycle).

frum single female said...

yes im with you. environmentalism is a religion that i dont belong to. its not that i try to be wasteful, but sometimes i find it downright ridiculous. years ago when someone complained about the styrafoam cups used for coffee they bought paper cups and were poised to throw the styrafoam ones out when i decided i would actually use them. after all, using a styrafoam cup instead of just throwing it out unused is more ecological. i think the greenies are just a bit too zealous and they forget what its supposed to actually mean .

Anonymous said...

OMG this exact thing happened to me...except it was in NYC...and cost me a non-refundable $250!! She "cleaned" with water and vinegar! The apartment was FILTHY afterwards and I had to spend hours re-cleaning the whole thing myself...not cost effective or environmentally friendly! So annoying.

MK said...

I think you'll find many "greenies" are atheists. If you believe the Earth was created by random mutation, it also implies that the Earth is fragile and and changes in climate or environment will be catastrophic.
Besides it "feels" good, and you can convince yourself that you're morally superior to the non-greenies.
Like the morons who want electric cars because they don't want to burn gas. Instead they're using electricity made by coal burning generators.

David_on_the_Lake said...

There is a happy medium.

I think Lainey was a bit doubt.

But on the other hand, I don't like how the environment (the E word) has become a sort of dirty word in our community (one nitch below socialism, which is one nick below nazism)

Isophorone said...

I am an environmental engineer with over 20 years experience and I agree with you! What is really annoying are those office parties that have you bring your own plates and utensils. What's up with that? Definitely gone overboard.

I also agree with you that the modern environmentalism is very much like a religion. Interestingly, personality profiles of environmental "activists" and various evangelical types are very similar. It is no wonder that the "global warming" groupies are trying to hijack various religious organizations.