It is impossible to grow up in Northern California without becoming, at least at some subconscious level, a tree-hugging long-haired hippie environmentalist.
I remember actively resisting this at several points along the way – refusing to finish even the first week, for example, of a summer day camp on a farm commune that made us thank ‘the spirits of the fruits and grains’ before lunchtime PB&J’s.
But, despite my best efforts, the Earth Day attitude stuck. Just this morning, I caught myself turning off the water mid-toothbrushing, a long-standing habit that makes good sense in draught-ridden California, yet far less here in New York City, where rain has been pinging against my windowpanes all weekend long.
Water conservation aside, the thing that produces the greatest environmental guilt in me is disposability. Anything used once and then discarded, I envision piling atop the giant imaginary landfill dump that I carry around in the back of my brain. I can’t tear a sheet off a roll of paper towels without questioning whether the spill is sufficiently large to warrant it, can’t hear the inevitable register-side ‘paper or plastic?’ without chastising myself for not carrying around a canvas ‘think globally, act locally’ grocery bag.
So it is with great regret that I must admit to an intense and enduring crush on Procter & Gamble’s SwifferÆ line of products. Thanks to the WetJet, my kitchen and bathroom floors are, for the first time, if not clean enough to eat off of, at least no longer cause for alarmed comment from visiting friends.
Just this week, I similarly discovered the Swiffer Duster: little blue squares of what looks dismayingly like roofing insulation, strapped replaceably onto a long, blue, plastic pitchfork. Still, uninspiring appearance aside, with a thirty-second pass the Duster brought my bookshelves back to nearly new, saving me from the sneeze-inducing cloud that previously billowed with each volume pulled.
I’ve yet to fully accept the convenient, use-and-toss intentions of either of these products – I still occasionally cut deals with my conscience that require repeated use of the same cleaning pad if it’s still possible to see some semblance of the initial color. But, day by trash-full day, I’m getting the hang of this whole expendable consumerism thing. Pretty soon, I’ll be printing long internal documents on non-recycled paper with impunity, asking restaurants for more rather than less little napkins stuffed in the take-out bag.
Sure, I have years of ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’ to make up for, but I figure it still shouldn’t be more than a decade until I can visit barren clear-cut acres they’ll have named in my honor. And I’ll be sure to bring several boxes of WetJet refills along. Because I bet, during those long centuries of redwood old growth, nobody ever bothered to mop.