Environmentalism=Marital Bliss?

January 19, 2010 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Every green geek I know is passing around this New York Times story, When Trying to Save the Planet Strains the Relationship“.

Here’s a quote that sums it up:

“As the focus on climate increases in the public’s mind, it can’t help but be a part of people’s planning about the future,” said Thomas Joseph Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Ore., who has a practice that focuses on environmental issues. “It touches every part of how they live: what they eat, whether they want to fly, what kind of vacation they want.”

While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged.”

Based on my completely unscientific poll of my office mates, 100% have had this come up with their partner or their immediate family.

I have a friend who almost had a relationship-ending fight with her future mother-in-law over her desire to have a sustainable wedding and only serve vegetarian food. The MIL told everyone she’d invited to eat before the wedding, because she was convinced they’d be hungry without meat at the meal.

In my house, I’ve brought my formerly ungreen husband around to my way of living and together we’ve made more lifestyle changes that I probably would have on my own. I’m a vegetarian and he’s the chef extraordinaire. From our very first meal together (mushroom risotto), he’s come up with a huge repertoire of tasty veggie food that he cooks at home. When we’re out for a meal, meat is usually his first choice, but he is now much more committed to eating locally. It helps that we live in a place with great access to farmers’ markets and to shops that have local foods. (Check out this “Eat Well” section of the Madison Resources page on our website for more details.)

When I visit my parents, it’s a different story. They don’t want to talk about where their food comes from or what chemicals are in the products they use. For them, those decisions are made on a upfront cost basis and purchased at the cheapest outlet. On the plus side, they grew up during the Depression, so turning off lights, driving less, and only buying the necessities is second nature to them. My staunchly right-wing parents inadvertently raised me to be a very left-leaning person, thanks to their ingrained and frugal habits.

I try to be evangelical rather than judgmental when talking with others about living a green life. When we host a dinner or drinks party, I mention where the food came from and hope that they can taste the difference. When I have people in my tiny (and yes, somewhat uncomfortable) car, I say something about my 35 m.p.g.  When I travel or go to meetings, I proudly plonk my supercute waterbottle on the table.

Even as I’m typing this, it sounds self-aggrandizing. Maybe I am an environmental high-priestess and I don’t even realize it? Or maybe the guy who called his wife that in the article needs to cut her some slack? I guess I should ask my husband to weigh in on this post!

Have fun. Be green.


Entry filed under: conservation, consumption, energy, food, sustainability, waste.

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