Hooked on Being ‘Green’

If environmental consciousness had a brute squad, Emma would be its commander-in-chief. The squad leader’s favorite tactic: Strategically aimed guilt.
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By Beth Vrabel For Smart

If environmental consciousness had a brute squad, Emma would be its commander-in-chief.

The squad leader’s favorite tactic: Strategically aimed guilt.

“Ready for composting!” she reports, handing over an apple core she plucked from the trash can.

“What are you doing?” cries Emma, outraged when she catches me throwing away tattered clothes. “We should have a yard sale instead!”

“Don’t waste those eggs, Benny,” she chastises her toddler brother at breakfast. “Wasting is bad. Those eggs will go to a landfill and be there forever, not eaten.”

(Sometimes, the logic is a little mixed up.)

She recently filled a plastic bottle with scraps of paper, beads and glued-on strips of ribbon and proclaimed it recycled arts and craps. (Yes, she mispronounces “crafts,” but it’s just too funny to correct.)

On rainy days, she sometimes fills a bucket with the stranded worms on our sidewalks, and adds them to our garden. Which sort of stinks for Benny, who’s not entirely sure that worms aren’t evil. (“Worms don’t fly,” I hear him repeating to himself during these rainy walks.)

It would be one thing if our little environmentalist were on a solo mission, but we consider ourselves pretty eco-conscious without her prompting. We take our cloth bags to the grocery store (except when we’re running low on puppy cleanup bags). We limit processed foods, buy organic and compost our leftovers. You know, the easy stuff.

Still, I see that outraged little pixie face when I’m about to toss out an empty can of beans just because rinsing out that sludge at the bottom kind of makes me want to vomit. I look away, rinse it and add it to the recycling bin instead.

In some ways, I think her righteousness is karma biting me in the bottom. When I was her age, we learned in kindergarten about the dangers of smoking. The boiled down lesson: If you smoke, you will die. I went home, found my dad’s carton of Marlboros and threw them in the trash.

The next day, they were back on the counter. So I unwrapped them and broke each cigarette. Dad quit smoking. Something about a 5-year-old with conviction and her mother on her side just couldn’t be argued with.

The same sort of scenario is going on now. A clever marketing strategy is to hook them when they’re young. The green movement has hooked my daughter. And, frankly, it’s pretty cool.

For her, things are either good or bad. Right or wrong. Gray doesn’t exist to this child. Who wouldn’t want to keep the world as bright and clean as she sees it?

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her children, Emma, 6, and Benny, 2. Read more Smart Mama columns here.

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