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Confessions of a Guilty Green

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We all do it — those little un-green habits. We'll share ours if you'll share yours!

Originally Published: 12/30/10


I'll admit it: I throw away peanut butter jars because I hate trying to clean them out for the recycling bin. My mother, an avid recycler and rainwater collector, has a secret bottled-water habit and admits to a penchant for using way too many paper towels. Even my 4-year-old daughter, whose favorite book is Curious George Plants a Tree, has a guilty green: Despite my cajoling and admonishments, she refuses to color on both sides of a piece of paper.

One of the latest symptoms to environmentalism is "green guilt", a feeling that afflicts at least 1 in 10 Americans, according to a survey by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation. Green guilt is that sense that no matter what you do, there's more that you could be doing to help the environment — and guilty greens are those dirty little secrets, the far-from-green habits that we just can't seem to break.

Indeed, even those of us who are the most passionate about our environment still have the occasional pang of green guilt. Here at RecycleBank, where we spend our days thinking about the environment, we thought it would be fun to share our own guilty greens, and maybe even think about how we might be able to break some bad habits in the new year. Last names have been concealed to protect the guilty (but still green in other ways!):


My guilty green is leaving a stream of water running out of the faucet for my picky cats to drink from. Lara, Sales

Our Suggestion: If Lara's cats prefer running water over just a dish of water, she could invest in a cat drinking fountain. The trade-off? The fountains run on electricity.


My guilty green is sometimes forgetting to bring my reusable bags to the store. Rowena, Data Management

Our Suggestion: Who isn't occasionally guilty of this? Rowena could find some cute reusable bags that are small enough to fit in her purse — that way she'll always have a few at the ready.


My guilty green is printing out too many documents. Azim, Advertising & Sponsorship

Our Suggestion: When possible, Azim could save those documents and feed them back into the printer so that he can print out new documents on the reverse side. He can also make sure that his printer is loaded with paper that has a high recycled content.


My guilty green is I don't let it mellow. Sue, U.K. Operations

Our Suggestion: Putting a Toilet Tank Bank into the toilet tank is an easy and cheap way to use less water when you flush.


My guilty green is drinking a lot of wine from far-flung countries, including New Zealand. Alison, U.K. Sales

Our Suggestion: If your wine taste is rather worldly, you can at least try to make it a habit to find wines you like that are made by organic or biodynamic wineries — and don't forget that there are some fantastic wines (organic and not) right in the U.S. and U.K.!


My guilty green is I use an unknown but inordinate amount of petroleum-based hair gel every year. Scott, Operations, and My guilty green is my petroleum-based American Crew pomade. Aron, Advertising & Sponsorship

Our Suggestion: There are plenty of terrific hair-styling product options that don't contain scary ingredients like petroleum. Buy sample sizes of a few different environmentally-friendly hair products, and try them all until you find just exactly the one that works for you.


My guilty green is that I love using (and then disposing of) disposable silverware and paper plates. Kristen, Marketing and Operations

Our Suggestion: Disposables are so convenient! If you can't help but use them every so often, at least try to buy green disposables that are made from renewable or recycled materials, and/or that are recyclable or compostable — and tell yourself that at least you're not wasting the water and detergent it would take to wash dishes!


Our consensus? With all the sobering news about the environment, and the ever-growing list of things we should be doing to help it, we shouldn't feel guilty about what we don't do, we should feel proud of what we do do. After all, small steps will lead to a world without waste, too!

What is your guilty green? Share it in the comment below.


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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Barbara E. 2 years ago
    I feel guilty wondering how much WATER we waste, rinsing out recyclables.
  • WENDY T. 2 years ago
    My guilty green...I use paper plates should I rinse and recycle them to the bin? Also, I do clean recyclables before I put them in the recycle bin, but I don't know if I recycle enough. I know my plastics/papers/metals bin over flows but I never fill even the bottom of the garbage bin.
  • Kelly F. 3 years ago
    sometimes plastic bags are good though; you can use them as garbage bags or to separate your wet bathing suit and towel from your dry items in your beach bag....I feel like some people think only use reuseable bags but plastic bags can also be reused; you can even bring them to stores like Target, King Kullen, and Rite Aid which have bins just for them!
  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    My guilty green is when I'm in a bad mood, I won't clean something recyclable and just throw it in the trash. I try not to do it anymore thought.
  • Gregory B. 4 years ago
    Forgetting reusable bags, using paper towels, forgetting my reusable coffee mug. I'm sure I take longer showers than I need to and more often than I used to because my wife is allergic to almost everything. I use more heat and air than I'd like because our apartment isn't sealed up very well. There are many things I would like to change, I definitely have serious green guilt!
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