Energy News | Green, but Still Feeling Guilty

JOSH DORFMAN, author of “The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living,” could not be accused of failing to live green.

He and his partner, Stephanie Holzen, a former stuntwoman, and their 5-month-old son, Shep, recently moved to a rental in a Victorian house in Crested Butte, Colo., where, he happily notes, the renovated stairway is made from reclaimed barn wood. Their furniture is also made from recycled wood and steel; in fact, the coffee table is wood that was reclaimed twice, having been salvaged from reclaimed wood that was being made into flooring.

Mr. Dorfman, 38, and Ms. Holzen, 35, use natural cleaning products, and are “constantly” drinking out of their Brita pitcher, so there is no need for disposable water bottles. All their personal-care products are organic, and Mr. Dorfman’s clothes are made from organic cotton and recycled materials — including his Nau blazer, which, he said, is made from recycled soda bottles.

But they have one great greenie flaw: they are addicted to disposable diapers.

“We tried cloth and think it’s totally unrealistic,” Mr. Dorfman said. Like the rest of America, he said, they have gravitated toward disposable diapers “and that’s really environmentally sinful. It’s plastic derived from petroleum. You use them once and then they get tossed in a landfill. It’s a terribly inefficient use of natural resources.

“Not only do I feel guilt, I feel hypocritical. But it’s the most functional diapers we’ve found. They keep my son dry. They don’t irritate his skin. They don’t clump up and get really heavy. They happen to work the best, and that’s annoying.”

The couple have found a way to lessen their pain — though it may be tricky for those without the lightning reflexes of a stuntwoman-turned-mom.

“Because we feel guilty about using disposable diapers, we’ve begun practicing ‘elimination communication,’ ” Mr. Dorfman explained in an e-mail. “What this means is that we pay close attention to Shep to determine when he’s about to pee or poop and then race to the shower so that he doesn’t soil his diaper so we can use it longer. We’ve actually gotten pretty good at reading the signs.”

Living in an environmentally responsible way, for the truly observant greenie, can be difficult. Certainly it is sensible to take the position, as do Mr. Dorfman and several others interviewed, that guilt is neither healthy, nor a motivation for long-term change. But when one is acutely concerned about doing the right thing, it can be difficult not to feel guilty on occasion.

Those who skim the surface of the earth’s crust in their needlessly huge fossil-fuel vehicles, tossing their foam coffee cups out the window, may never give such matters a second thought, focused as they are on getting to the mini-mart and saying to the clerk, “A six-pack of your finest spring water, my good fellow. And would you mind triple bagging it?” But for those who are concerned about green, life is fraught.

Finally, a Use for Our Outdated

Baby Seal Shrug

It is one of the ironies of being a professional environmentalist that your business often requires you to embrace what you prefer to shun. Such is the case with Danny Seo, 33, who likes to tell people he was born on Earth Day, has written seven books on eco-living “from an aesthetic point of view” and frequently organizes magazine shoots about green living. He is writing a book, “Upcycling,” about reusing objects that might otherwise be thrown away.

Might he give us an example?

“A Patagonia jacket you might have worn out and you figure out a way to zipper them together,” Mr. Seo said. “It makes the chicest, most gorgeous Gore-Tex shower curtain. It will never mold or mildew. If you bought a Gore-Tex shower curtain, it would retail at $600.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Seo’s business has built-in conflicts with Mother Earth: From a carbon footprint point of view, one should live in the smallest house possible, but he has two houses in Bucks County, Pa., 20 minutes apart, although one is used solely for photo shoots — and, of course, he powers it down completely when it is not in use. He redecorates all the time, and probably it would be greenest to leave things as they are, but he is a decorator and likes things to look a certain way. And when he is in Los Angeles, he rents an S.U.V. to haul around rugs and props.

That doesn’t sound so bad — he needs to haul stuff.

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2 Responses to “Green, but Still Feeling Guilty”

  1. LIVING GREEN but still can't over yourself? This NYT piece is pretty awesome. Join up at "Haynesville"'s FB page…

  2. Haynesville Energy News features a NYT story on being "green" and still feeling guilty. Check it out and pass it…