A local reporter recently showed up to interview the Smiths, the Alberta family fresh off their "green" makeover by yours truly. They'd thrust aside many of their gas guzzling ways, admitted they'd sacrificed nothing, yet gained so much.
The reporter's first question: "Where are your solar panels?" Then he leaned into the garage looking for signs of a shiny Prius.
Unfazed, with nary a solar panel nor hybrid car in sight, Melanie Smith — mother of four — proudly whipped out her homemade liquid laundry soap. Her once full bottles of store-bought detergent now brim with a less toxic, fragrance-free, cheap and equally effective concoction. And her energy-efficient, washing machine has never been happier — especially in cold water.
The Smiths won me over with a plea Melanie wrote to Canadian Living magazine last fall. "Greening the Smiths" isn't just a catchy title. They're for real.
Unfamiliar with the Queen of Green, they weren't sure if I might tell them to sell a vehicle or remortgage their home to install solar panels.
After all, I'm an "environmentalist" right? A word that conjures up images of sandal-wearing off-the-gridders who've sworn off T.V's and cars, and who can't walk past a tree without hugging it.
Today, "going green" has a new set of stereotypes. To be green you must have green — money. Can't convert your home to solar power or grey water recycling? Then why bother!
In the face of something as serious as climate change, can small steps like making laundry soap really make a difference?
Maybe individual action is a way to deal with procrastination. Not your own delays on that year-long bathroom renovation. But the frustrating inactivity on important issues displayed by government and policy makers.
It took the Canadian government two years to ban toxic BPA from baby bottles — a landmark decision. Moms like Melanie Smith had a choice: wait for government action (her youngest is now walking and talking) or take a small step to go toxics-free at home.
Do small steps detract from the big picture, which can be overwhelming and depressing? Or does going "green" one laundry load at a time give us the perspective we need and a sense of the responsibility to act?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green