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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!

Written by: Diana Dascalu-Joffe, Senior Attorney, Public Lands, Center for Biological Diversity

My family is a busy, bustling and active bunch made up of two working parents, two very energetic and fun-loving kids, ages 10 and seven, and a sweet three-year-old chocolate lab named Violet. Our lives are pretty typical of most Denver metro-area families, running the kids around to activities and sports after school while maintaining meaningful careers in the field of environmental and energy law. There is never a dull moment and usually not much time to devote to reducing waste in our own home. We already own a highly energy efficient home with solar panels for heating and cooling. We drive only one car for our family of four, with my husband and I utilizing RTD public transportation to get to work. So, we already prioritize eco-friendly personal choices in our home and family. Our kids understand and value the part we all play in bettering life on this planet. It is one of our central core values as a family.

Since starting as senior public lands attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2016, a tenant of The Alliance Center, I began to educate myself about my family’s personal waste stream and how we can begin to minimize trash beyond just recycling at home. The Alliance Center has a hard to recycle station in the building with information on what items can and cannot be recycled and what is actually landfilled. I learned a great deal from this station and the informational emails that would go out to tenants at The Alliance Center on how to use the station. The Alliance Center also composts food waste.

Back in 2016, our family would generate about two bags of trash for the landfill every week, even while doing our best to maximize our municipal recycling. We committed to cutting that landfill waste in half by utilizing The Alliance Center’s hard to recycle station for items that couldn’t be recycled by our municipal recycling program. Then, in 2017 we signed up for Denver’s municipal composting program. By 2018, our family reduced our landfill trash to one full trash bag a month, beating our goal by 175 percent.  We realized that most of our municipal trash was comprised of food waste and non-recyclable plastic bags, bathroom and cleaner waste, and foil-lined bags/tubes, which The Alliance Center takes to recycle. I bring a small bag full of these items to the Alliance Center every week, and it has made a big difference in our total family’s waste stream. My kids and husband have learned which items go into which bin (or recycle bag for mom’s office). We introduced this commitment to reducing waste into the core of our daily family routine. It is not only good for the planet, but good for our own well-being. Self-care, care of others and planet-care go hand in hand. While our family might not be totally zero waste in the foreseeable future, we have made it a priority to be as low-waste as possible.  The Alliance Center has given us the opportunity to do just that.