Back in December, I did a spot for a bunch of local TV news programs on wrapping gifts using materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill: brown paper sacks, those plastic mesh bags that onions and lemons come in, even old sweaters (Natural Home, November/December 2004). I was happily regaling one anchorwoman with statistics about how much extra garbage we generate during the holidays when she said, “These are great ideas, even for those of us who don’t really care about the environment.”
I was stunned. It took me a moment to recover and mumble something inane like, “Well, yes, if you run out of wrapping paper on Christmas Eve, this would work, too….”
It was a very public moment of awakening for me. Because I live in Boulder, Colorado, land of the politically correct, and work at Natural Home & Garden, where everyone I come into contact with is passionate about saving the planet, I can easily forget that the environment isn’t necessarily a big issue with mainstream Americans. It’s taken me a good five years to really allow this to sink in; for so long I had clung to the belief that everyone should want to fight global warming, conserve natural resources, and just generally save the planet from human destruction. All too often, that should mentality lent a schoolmarmish rigidity to my “educating” about the whys and wherefores of living green. Bottom line: When we should be living a certain way, it’s not much fun.
I’m thinking about this a lot lately, especially as debate rages within the environmental community about whether we’re fatally out of touch with America (for a great recap, check out “We’ve Got Issues: What we talk about when we talk about the future of environmentalism” in Grist magazine. And all this thinking has led to a subtle shift in how I go about my job as NH&G editor-in-chief—I’ve stopped assuming that everyone’s reading us because they want to “do the right thing” for the planet and instead started courting readers who see the benefits of bringing beautiful, durable, nontoxic materials into their lives. (Ulterior motive: This is a much larger pool of people—it includes just about everyone. Kevin Salwen, founding editor of Worthwhile magazine, explained it to me as the 70-20-10 rule: 10 percent are just never going to buy into our message, 20 percent are already on board, and 70 percent are out there just waiting to be touched and inspired.)
I’ve come to see that preaching the gospel of the nurturing home accomplishes all my goals; clean air at home means clean air for everyone, and saving your own dollars by implementing energy efficient measures means less CO2 choking the planet. And honestly, it’s a lot more fun to help people create blissful, gorgeous living spaces than to play on their guilt about how their every move destroys the planet.
As ever, I go back to my mantra, a quote from the late Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, the founder of Naropa University here in Boulder. He says, “The only way to implement our vision for society is to bring it down to the situation of a single household.” These days, my vision is big, bold, and beautiful—and it just happens to also be green.