Written by, Nora Fierman, The Alliance Center Communications Intern
| Green Guilt | : (Noun) – Feeling like you should or could do more to help the environment.
Maybe you forgot to turn the lights off that one time you left the house all day. Maybe you drove to the store that’s just a few blocks down because you needed that one thing. Maybe you forgot your grocery bags or used plastic utensils and watched as the waste added up. Maybe you finally thought, I’m just one person, this is too much.
This is green guilt. The feeling of ‘I’m not doing enough’ or ‘I just did something wasteful for selfish reasons.’ As climate change takes position on the political stage, activism increases and we begin to see real affects, it’s easy to fall victim to this feeling. Green guilt is everywhere. I feel it when I buy something wrapped in plastic. When I have a to-go cup or containers, even if they are compostable. I feel it for other people – when I watch strangers waste food, fail to recycle or friends drive to work, though the distance is short.
The absolute worst of all, I feel it when I’m doing the things I love most – when I’m outside. As an avid backcountry skier and mountain biker, a climber and a backpacker, a self proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, I feel green guilt when I drive to trailheads. Maybe don’t drive as far to this new trail or this new objective, I tell myself. Maybe don’t go on that after work mountain bike ride. I know that these activities run in my blood and that I am the absolute happiest summiting a peak, skiing deep powder, beginning a descent on my bike and flowing through wildflowers. Warm coffee on a cold summer morning in the backcountry or hot dinner curled up in sleeping bags under the stars bring the biggest smiles to my face. How do I combat this green guilt? I know if I eliminate these activities, I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have the friends I have and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
How do I deal with this? I have adopted the concept of the ‘backyard expedition.’ It’s not a solution, but it allows me to continue pursuing my passions. I’ve realized I don’t have to drive across state boundaries to find new objectives and reach new heights – we have all that right here, in just a two-hour drive. This past winter I have made it a goal of mine to explore closer mountain ranges more intimately, and I’ve been successful! We are lucky that in Colorado, we have vast ranges right in our backyard, just waiting to be explored. Every time I head into the backcountry, I see a new peak beckoning. In just a short drive, I’m back exploring the next.
My green guilt still lingers, knowing I’m still causing waste for personal satisfaction. But then I remember – these activities make me the happiest, so I will do them as responsibly as possible. Maybe this is the category in which I have the biggest footprint, despite searching for ways to reduce it. I make extra effort elsewhere. I bike to work. I have grown increasingly aware of plastic at the grocery store and consciously reduce purchasing it. I bring my own bags, always. I’m a vegetarian. I cook at home, making many staples rather than buying more plastic-contained products, and I waste pretty close to no food weekly. But the green guilt whispers – ‘is that enough?’ For now, yes. And I promise to continue my commitment to reducing my impact. After all, it’s my job at The Alliance Center to spread the word about sustainability and help our community join this movement.
That’s why this summer, The Alliance Center is dedicated to exploring this idea of ‘green guilt:’ what it is, why we feel it, and how it affects our community. Most importantly, we want to offer tips and advice as to how to overcome these feelings. The Alliance is a resource to our community. We work at the intersection of the environment, the economy and our community. Our building is full of resources to help our neighbors reduce impact, because we know small change leads to big change! Follow along and join this journey as we post challenges, resources and tons of tips and tricks, as well as events at The Alliance and around Denver! As always, let us know what you are up to with the hashtag #MyGreenGuilt. We love to hear from our community!