Lately, you can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper that doesn’t have an article reading “10 Easy Ways Go Green With Your Family and Save Money and Have Fun and Bake a Cake and Save Puppies!!!” And let me just tell you how much that fucking irks me.
With tips like buying generic groceries, growing your own vegetables, and “ditch your gas-guzzling SUV and take the bus!” these articles aren’t just annoying, they’re old, they’re tired, and they need a healthy dose of realism. You are not going to beat the economy and find magical savings by propagating your own radishes. You’re just going to have a lot of radishes to eat.
I live in a town that is very big on being eco-friendly. We have good co-op groceries, we have a wonderful farmer’s market, we have curbside recycling, we have a shit ton of bicyclists (who, by the way, have an amazingly obnoxious sense of road entitlement), and I could get advice on how to start a compost pile or knit a blanket out of old newspapers from probably 6 out of 10 people I’d stop on the street.
But thanks to an old concern from a few years back, urban sprawl, if I wanted to ride the bus to work, I would have to leave my house at 6:30 in the morning, catch the bus, switch buses at the main station, switch buses again, and I’d get to work around 8:45. Or, I could just drive my non-gas-guzzling Ford Focus and get to work in ten minutes. But I still have to pay upwards to $4 a gallon for my gas.
Remember all those grocery stores I mentioned? They’re the place to get your bulghur wheat in bulk, your vegan cheese alternatives, your organic chapstick. If you’re into eating organically and into being eco-trendy, that is where you shop. But those stores are not only the most expensive places in town to get your goods, they’re in such unfortunate locations that unless you live downtown, you have to drive to get there. You could always turn to the “organic” options at Kroger, but you still end up spending more, so there goes all the money you saved riding your goddamned bicycle everywhere.
So what’s the fix? If you want to be close to your green and friendly groceries, if you want to walk everywhere, if you want to be close to the essentials – the library, the post office, the farmer’s market, the bars, the stores – you move downtown. But then what about a job? A great deal of the jobs are outside the center of town. How to you get to work? See above for details about the shitty bus system.
I’m not saying it can’t be done. I know lots of people who do it. But these people are fortunate enough to have a job downtown (or, hell, a job at all) and/or they don’t have kids. The people who are hit hardest by the recession we’re not in, by the high gas prices, by the decrease in job growth and the grinding halt of wage increases are your average, lower- to upper-middle-class families. These people make the cuts they can – in my town, most of them are driving their kids around in beat-up Volvo station wagons or Honda Odysseys. You think about growing your own produce, you buy what you can and what’s useful from the farmer’s market (notice I haven’t complained about that, mostly because I love it so much). You combine your trips around town. You walk when you can, you clip coupons and discount shop. But you hold your breath and hope that you aren’t one of the hundreds laid off the next time. You cringe when gas rockets up another 15 cents. You get pissed off at the bicyclist in the middle of the road, clogging traffic when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk three feet away.
There’s no solution. There’s just coping and bitching, because it isn’t something the people can control. We’re in a recession and we’re going to be for a very long time. So stop with the fucking articles already. In fact, if “going green” is really such a big deal, stop printing the magazines in the first place.