Okay, so I’m a little eco-anxious. As I put it in an essay in last week’s TIME:
I am not particularly eco-conscious. But I am increasingly eco-anxious. Every day, it seems, I hear of some new way the world around me is going aggressively green. Workers in Portland, Ore., are cycling to the office. Ireland has slapped a tax on plastic bags. Incoming freshmen at California colleges are asked to keep their Red Bulls in thermoelectric fridges. David Duchovny says he recycles, has solar power and drives an electric car. Now every time I purchase a single-serving water bottle, I hear the opening theme from The X-Files.
But I’m not alone!
So it was with some relief that I learned that eco-anxiety is a diagnosable condition. A so-called eco-therapist in Santa Fe, N.M., reportedly sees up to 80 patients a month who complain of panic attacks, loss of appetite, irritability and what she describes as some sort of a twitchy sensation in their cells. Eco-anxiety is not new–the etymology website WordSpy found it mentioned in a 1990 Washington Post article–but it’s only now becoming widespread. Environmental consciousness is no longer just another lifestyle choice, like open marriages or joining the circus; it has been upgraded to a moral imperative. That forces Americans to add environmentalism to their already endless checklist of things to fret about. Did I remember to turn out the kitchen light? Couldn’t I memorize the directions to my job interview instead of print them out? Why, for the love of Pete, did I use a napkin to wipe my mouth when I have here a perfectly good sleeve?
My household sucks down energy and spits out waste like a voracious beast. According to the calculator on ClimateCrisis.net, my household produces 15 tons of carbon dioxide a year. The average is 7.5. Mine is the Sasquatch of carbon footprints.
Turns out, though, that at least I’m doing something right: I’m staying married. Says this article in USA Today:
Divorce isn’t green, according to a new study. The research, led by ecologist Jianguo “Jack” Liu, a Michigan State University professor of fisheries and wildlife, looked at international data comparing utility consumption and housing space per capita in married and divorced households. He found that divorce creates more households with fewer people, using more energy and water and taking up more space.
Of course, I haven’t even got that right all the time; for two years, my husband and I lived 8,000 miles apart as I worked in Japan and he worked in New York. Not only did we produce two households worth of waste, we burned up tons of carbon dioxide doing the bimonthly visits.
Also turns out I have company in my grudging but well-meaning efforts to greenify my very brown lifestyle. (Is that the color of carbon? Or would it be gray, like smoke?) Reader Mark Olson told me about Vanessa Farquharson’s blog, Greenasathistle.com. The reporter for the National Post in Toronto is at the tail end of a 365-day effort to go green. Read it; it’s great fun. But I gotta say I draw the line at not shaving my legs forevermore; that may put my marriage in peril, and, like the good professor said, that union does more toward being green than a few razors in a landfill.