38. It’s Not Easy Being Green

38. It’s Not Easy Being Green

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


It’s Not Easy Being Green

Vegetarian—that’s an old Indian word meaning “lousy hunter.”

~Andy Rooney

I’ve always felt that it was our responsibility to care for our planet. So, like many like-minded souls, I adopted a new Earth-friendly lifestyle. But like Kermit the Frog, I soon learned that it’s not easy being green.

My first mistake was trying to make a radical change overnight. Turning from a typical consumer into an eco-savvy citizen should be gradual. Instead, in my sudden fervor to keep the world from descending into the muck of human refuse, I wanted to be green all the way—and now. Of course, being married meant that my husband was going to have to go along with me. That was mistake number two.

My husband adjusted fine to tossing cans and bottles into the new recycling bin in the kitchen. We switched our light bulbs to CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs, a good trade that rendered cost savings as well as conserved energy. I went about the house flipping off lights and unplugging appliances that weren’t in use. Our new cleansers lacked the same cleaning oomph of our usual toxic brands, but scrubbing harder was well worth avoiding a future generation of mutant flora and fauna.

So far, so good. I was learning new green lingo and we were doing the Three R’s: Reduce, reuse, recycle. But it wasn’t enough. After all, the rate of global warming exceeded our snail’s pace conversion to greenhood. So I pressed onward.

I tossed out cosmetics that were tested on animals, and for once felt relieved that my husband was too cheap to buy real leather. The kids and I even made our own solar cooker from cardboard and foil and a vermicompost bin, where red worms ate, or rather recycled, bits of celery ends and carrot tops while I envisioned a garden that would provide all our nutritional needs. And speaking of nutrition, one of the greenest things we could do, I decided, was to become vegans. Mistake number three.

For the uninitiated, there are different levels of vegetarianism. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and fish but no red meat. The pescetarians abstain from all animal flesh except for seafood. Vegans refuse any animal flesh or commercial goods made from any animal byproducts such as milk or fats. And now, there are flexitarians who are vegetarians most of the time but who will eat meat on occasion. That would have been the wisest choice for newbie greenies like us, but I wanted to be a dedicated greenie so there was no other choice but veganism for us.

My family loves vegetables, so one wouldn’t think veganism would be a problem except for one major obstacle: My husband was born and bred a Texan. He was weaned on beef. Something needed to have died a violent death for his meal or it wasn’t dinner. I began with not-so-obvious vegan dishes like bean burritos, vegetable curry, and high-fiber vegetable stir-fry. It took a few days before he realized that he hadn’t been eating any meat, but soon his biochemistry detected a total lack of decayed flesh in his intestinal system and it began to balk.

“I’m getting constipated,” he announced. In our household, bowel movements constitute breaking news.

“You need to drink more water,” I said, without mentioning the sudden enormous increase of fiber in his diet. He shrugged and drank a glass of water as I secretly added prunes to our grocery list.

“I feel like eating beef,” he announced. In our household, in addition to bowel movements, food cravings constitute news as well as a family decree. So that night, I cooked up some delicious vegan chili, hoping he would not notice that the chunky texture in the spicy mixture was not beef, but a delightful medley of summer vegetables… actually just zucchini. Zucchini chili admittedly lacks the appeal of “Savory Vegetarian Chili” so I plunked down a bowl in front of my husband without an official introduction. He shoveled in the first mouthful and a curious look crossed his face. He peered into his bowl. Darn that Texan in him. He could taste beef—or the lack of it—no matter how well disguised it was.

“This is not chili.”

“It is chili.”

“Where’s the beef?”

“Living peacefully somewhere on an open plain where it belongs.”

“I knew it,” he groaned. “You’re going through one of your vegetarian phases again, aren’t you?”

I’d attempted several times in the past to turn us all into vegetarians, but it never lasted more than a week. His taste buds were developed completely around the flavor of animal carcasses of every kind: cattle, pigs, deer, lamb, chickens, and ducks. Converting him was like feeding hay to a lion. Those who know their Bible stories believe this is possible because Noah allegedly did not feed meat to the animals on his ark for forty days and forty nights. But it doesn’t actually state that in the Bible. Maybe a few pairs of animals didn’t make it to dry land after all. In any case, my husband would have abandoned ship long before the rainbow appeared.

Before he could rage on about not wanting to give up meat, I quickly reminded him about global warming and how grain-fed cattle consume our dwindling resources of oxygen and release more methane gases.

“Do you know how much methane gas I’d release into the earth’s atmosphere if I had to eat beans instead of beef?” he snapped. I tried to console him with some soy ice cream but apparently, he can taste the lack of animal byproducts as well because he spat it out and pouted for the rest of the night.

Now I’m all for preserving our planet, but what good would it do to save the earth for tomorrow’s generation if today’s died of starvation? The next day, we went out for burgers. I was very careful to place the paper bag into our recycling bin.

~Lori Phillips

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