The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
March 11, 2009

Do you have an Eco Confession?

We did a terrible thing yesterday and will now be stripped of our official green membership card. Actually, Michael did it. But he wouldn’t have if I hadn’t begged him to.

We turned up the thermostat on our hot water heater.

Icebergs will melt and polar bears will be stranded because I couldn’t handle one more luke warm shower. This morning, standing in the steamy heat while my skin turned red and blistered, I thought, “How can something that feels so good be so wrong?” And then I started belting out Like A Virgin.

My mom would totally understand. Here’s a picture of her in Hawaii recently when the temp dropped to a frigid 70 degrees F!

This post has nothing to do with plastic but everything to do with questions about how willing we are to make personal sacrifices to care for the wider world outside our own skins. And my skin was screaming for heat.

Fake Plastic Fish readers sometimes make little comments about how they could never be like me in the plastic department. In fact, one of them who will be rooming with me at the Blogher Conference wondered if she’d measure up as my roommate.

She was just joking. I think.

Because what’s easy for me may not be for others. And what sucks for others might be no sweat for me. Washing my hair with baking soda to avoid a plastic shampoo bottle and to save money? No problem. Doing it in tepid water? Forget about it!

In my defense (because, you know, I’m all about being defensive) I don’t shower every day. So I rationalize that my long, hot showers (Did I mention that they’re long?) should really be considered as several day’s worth. Still, I wonder what Crunchy Domestic Goddess would think (she doesn’t shower every day either), just as Lisa Sharp wonders what I would think when she buys plastic.

What are your eco sins, children? Please confess. I think we can all use a bit of absolution once in a while. On the other hand, if there really is someone out there without eco sin, please go ahead and cast your stones. I can take it — as long as I can be warm. And as long as we can all have a good laugh at the end of the day.
 

53 comments
judy
judy

I have a swimming pool. It came with the house, and I don't have the heart to get rid of it. We live in AZ so it gets a lot of use in the summer, but I feel horrible about wasting all that water and electricity to run the filter. :-(

Ryan Elizabeth
Ryan Elizabeth

First of all, this is a fantastic post, I love the concept. Makes me feel better to know that others have guilty pleasures too. :-) I have a salt tooth. Some people have sweet tooths, and I have those too, but I think I may be addicted to salt. As a result, once in a blue moon I can't help but enjoy a bag (consumed over days/weeks) of chips. Doritos, tortilla chips, and/or Humpty Dumpty BBQ potato chips (only available in Maine and sinfully delicious). Every time I indulge, I feel guilty, which I guess is a good thing! Someday I'll try making my own chips and/or finding another way to get my salt fix! O:-)

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Caitlin. I did find this article online:http://www.marketingwithmeaning.com/2009/02/09/sun-chips-becomes-a-meaningful-brand/The relevant paragraph says:"Now the company is driving aggressively to do more in support of SunChips by doing more for the environment. Kumar described how Frito-Lay is working to invent the first completely biodegradable bag. A teaser video claimed that they are targeting Earth Day 2010 for its arrival, and he promised to give away the technology to all competitors. Naturally, SunChips will be the first to bring it to market."So I guess they are working on it but not ready to make it public? And, just to make sure we're on the same page, you do still consider it a sin even if it comes in a biodegradable bag, right? Repent! Repent!:-)

Caitlin
Caitlin

It's like someone supernatural actually heard my confession! Riding home on the metro yesterday, reading my beloved Real Simple magazine, I noticed a SunChips ad that literally brought me to tears (yes, literally, don't laugh!). It reads: "Can the earth love my snack as much as I do? If it comes in the right bag it can. That's why some of our bags are now made with 33% renewable materials. And by next year, they will be 100% compostable..."Woah! A sinfully salty snack for those bad day/bad mood pick-me-ups that won't ruin my next day with plastic guilt? Self-centered as it is, this news made me grin even bigger than Beth's oil-from-plastic news or Amazon's new "frustration free" packaging program.Unfortunately, I can't find any more information about it online. Does anyone know?

Amy K.
Amy K.

Too many sins to name, just know that I'm working on them! My next focus: Gardening, and making this year's garden more successful than last.Suggestions for the people above: To minimize the time the shower runs to get the water hot, I turn it to full-hot and fill a 1-gallon bucket. That's just right to clear the cold water out of the pipes in the morning, and exactly the right amount to fill the humidifier each night too!My parents have poor water pressure, so I grew up taking a comb into the shower to comb the last of the shampoo out. It really does help the running water rinse the residue away. Even though I have a low flow shower head now (2.5 gpm), their shower is still wimpier, so I fall back on the comb when I'm visiting, and that cuts down my shower time.

Carrick
Carrick

Long showers are probably my most frequent sin, as well. My reason is that I shower in the morning between waking up and going to work, and I hesitate for several minutes, just standing there in the running precious water, for one main reason: it is warm in the shower and f-ing freezing outside the shower. (60 degrees in Los Angeles, lol.)One solution to this would be blasting the heater, but of course, that's yet another sin. So I'm afraid I'm just gonna have to put my Navy-shower hat on, grit my teeth and bear the cold, eh?

Cousin Yellowstone
Cousin Yellowstone

My biggest sin is that I don't compost. I'd like to, but I don't own any land and cannot have an indoor compost bin where I live. I feel terrible about all the compostable material that goes into my trash can.I also take long showers. Like Sadraki, I use showers to relieve pain. Another reason my showers are so long is that I simply can't get shampoo or soap to rinse out of my hair quickly any more. I was fine back in the bad old days of high-flow showerheads, but with low-flow showerheads it takes ages to rinse completely.

Rachel
Rachel

The beauty of this post is that it brings out the fact that we ALL CARE about what we do. And we do more than most. And what's great to know, is that if everyone does a few little things, it would make a huge difference. I think it's VERY important to teach people that they don't have to do everything, they don't have to turn into radical, granola greenies who shun all material things. But do what you can, be proud of that, and enjoy those long, hot showers!

Cheap Like Me
Cheap Like Me

Apparently, reading this list, nearly everything I do is an eco sin! I felt *good* because I insisted our leftover pizza the other day go in a cardboard box instead of styrofoam. I time my showers at about 3 minutes and use a low-flow head that cuts it down to 2 gallons per minute, but yes, my water heater is turned up. I am gleefully eating the individually wrapped Reese's peanut butter cups that someone gave us. I have Diet Dr Pepper in my laundry room, and sometimes I drink one. I have a child, and I drive a car; even though I semi-hypermile, I do it within reason and only get 22 miles per gallon. I don't even own a bike because I hate riding on city streets AND I hate wearing a helmet and the two necessitate each other. I like bacon too (but do pay 3x as much for Coleman natural - yum), and we ate Popeye's fried chicken for dinner recently. Sometimes I need a latte really bad and my cup isn't with me. So I take a disposable cup! I do! And I, too, switched to clinical strength normal deodorant when I got sick of the lingering onion-and-mineral aroma of the natural stuff (not to mention hives in my underarms, except from the crystal, which only works once in a while for me).Oh, Lord, I feel exposed now. Seriously, I think we should focus on what we DO do instead of berating ourselves or being holier than thou about what we do, do. Probably those of us who are worried about those possibilities are the guilty parties. :)

Sadraki
Sadraki

Showers definitely. I had surgery this year and some days they only thing that controls the pain is a long shower--something about the water is soothing. But I tell myself I compensate by continuing to get around with no car even with several months of not being able to walk -- YAY for wheelchair accessible buses and nice folks helping me on hills.

Crunchy Domestic Goddess
Crunchy Domestic Goddess

i can't throw the first stone, cuz know what, this winter all bets w/ the shower challenge were off for me. it's true i don't shower every day, but i think most of my showers are leaning much closer to the 8 minute mark, than the 5 min mark (where they should be). oh, the horrors!other eco sins - i use the big-size ziploc bags for freezing food. i order takeout (so much easier than trying to take 2 little kids out to dinner) and don't bring my own containers to have them put the food in. i should try it sometime to see if restaurants would freak as much as i think they would. maybe they wouldn't care. /shrugwe're all going to hell in a handbasket. :P

greeen sheeep
greeen sheeep

Green Cat: Candy bars and soda in plastic bottles good with you? ;)Beth: I get dry itchy skin from hot showers, too. And I am not a boy. My hair also gets frizzy. I read somewhere that it was good to do a quick cold rinse on your hair before you get out. Something about making it shiny or smoothing the follicles? I can't remember.

The Green Cat
The Green Cat

Beth: At least I'll have good hair when I get there. Greeen Sheeep: We can travel together in my handbasket as long as you bring the snacks, ok? ;)

Chiot's Run
Chiot's Run

Mr Chiots and I shower together (and not every day either like you) to help offset the hot water we love so much. We also turn off the water while lathering up. Every now and then I get cold in the evenings and have to turn up the heat in the house. Usually 60 is fine, but a couple night during the winter I just can't take it.

Billie
Billie

I have only taken baby steps in the greening area so I have many sins.I find that there are a lot of competing interests out there that are almost impossible to do all at once. You might be sinless in one area but not in another. I get soap from a company in Ohio. They don't have coconut oil in either their shampoo bar or their bath soap(allergy). Their products are all natural. They won't package in plastic if I ask them. I am plastic free and chemical free in this area. But... I am not local.So what are my sins?- I don't eat local.- I eat things that are packaged in plastic although I have reduced dramatically.- I LOVE my long shower. I feel guiltier but I still do it. - My heat may be down in the winter but A/C will likely not be turned down in summer. - I clean with chemicals although I use vinegar in my D/W and have used baking soda. I could go on but I wont. I have started my baby steps and will continue as best I can given my living situation.

Caitlin
Caitlin

dairy and meat are impossible to find without plastic in our neck of the woods, so i try to reduce how much we eat of them...but i can't quit entirely. (for one thing my husband wouldn't stand for it, for another i worry about my bones.) but i search for plastic-free alternatives and i make an effort, so i try not to feel as guilty on that one.my dirty secret: a potato chip addiction! any plastic-free/low-plastic chip suggestions out there?

Lara S.
Lara S.

I shower in hot water in winter, but completely cold showers in summer.I use natural a hair conditioner in a plastic bottle.But the biggest sin is that I eat tons of plastic wrapped chocolates and sweets of all kinds. Well, I've been eating less of them for about a month.But I ride my bike and buy in bulk as much as I can (though I HAVE to buy Quaker's oat because the oat I can get in bulk is gross!).And I do use plastic bags to line my garbage cans (everybody does it in Argentina, there is no such thing as a big trash can outside to put the garbage directly in it, as there is in other countries. You just take out your bag). Usually I reuse the bags that other people who live with me use (I rent a room in a big house full of students).I really wish I could buy more things in bulk, like vinegar, oil, corn, tomato sauce, deodorant (I use antiperspirant. BS didn't work for me), cheese, soy sauce, mayonaise... If a store offered those products in bulk, though, I would be the only one to buy them ):BTW, one thing I don't regret is the conditioner. My hair looks SO good!!!!!!!!! ^^

CT
CT

I love hot showers; my husband showers in water that I consider downright cold. I have terrible circulation (I have proof -- an infrared camera showed my hands as green and my fingers purple!), so I keep the heat up during the day. I don't consider buying bread an eco-sin because I'm bad at breadbaking, my oven is broken, and the bag gets used for my husband's sandwiches and then for kitty litter. Probably the thing I feel guiltiest about, which is funny, because I'm sure that compared to the heat it's nothing, is putting on all the lights downstairs. I hate being in the dark, and the downstairs consists of four small rooms, most of which you can see from each room. Most of the bulbs are CFLs (one old lamp doesn't seem to accept them). I guess I'm talking about 20 extra watts. Funny to feel guilty about that as I blithely turn up the heat.

RecycleBill
RecycleBill

No guilt here-- I installed a solar hot water system 25 years ago.But yesterday I did buy 2 Little Cesars' pizzas in the standard issue cardboard boxes to share with the guys who work on my recycling yard-- sorry.But in my defense I did walk to Little Cesars'.

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Some of these are better than the joke comments a couple weeks ago!Anarres -- what do you smoke?Anonymous -- I've used the No Kids excuse myself at times. Is it truly valid?greeen sheeep -- Yes, you will burn in hell.Clif -- Crap! Could that be why my hair has been drier than usual for the last two days? Crap oh crap!Green cat -- You're going to burn with greeen sheeep. Hell is filling up with little green animals.Nollij -- Double crap! But wait. Only the boys have mentioned dry skin. Maybe it doesn't affect girls the same way. Right?Mrs. Hoppes -- "drying the toilet paper" Please, please, please explain. Enquiring minds have got to know what this means.Undersharing -- I think you just overshared. Remind me to keep my amputee orphans out of your way.Carmen -- Oh man, me too. I do stay away from McDonald's as much as possible, by I have the occasional slip up. It reminds me of childhood. Gotta hand it to their marketing.Condo Blues -- Hug or headlock? I guess we'll have to wait and see.The rest of you -- Go and sin no more. Or sin some more. Who am I to tell you what to do?

knutty knitter
knutty knitter

I like long hot showers. There is no water shortage here so the answer is to get solar hot water. We did that 2 years back and made sure it was a really decent sized system. Result - happiness!Sins - fancy cheese and persimmons.viv in nz

Green Bean
Green Bean

That's too funny! We (meaning me) just turned up the heat on our hot water heater a week or so ago. After a year and a half of lukewarm showers, I was done. I don't shower every day either. But, I will say this, with the hotter showers, I don't stay in as long as I did before because I was desparately hoping to feel a tad warmer before.Eco sins? I drive too much. Way too much. Not for fun but to pick kids up and drop them off and such. Sure, I could be less structured with my kids but life doesn't always work out that way. One of my kids has ADHD and needs to be heavily structured. So we carpool and so on and so forth but you know what? I still drive to much.Oh, and I also bought new stuff at the dollar store to supply our rummage sale - labels, some sharpies, and some ziploc plastic (sorry!!) bags for keeping stuff together. Felt totally gross. I hadn't been in one of those joints in a couple years.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Prewashed and chopped fruit and veggies in plastic ... this is the only thing I've tried that's worked to get me to eat something healthy every day and not just throw away a bunch of rotting stuff in the fridge.

Carmen
Carmen

I love McDonalds. Can't help it. I've always loved it. The food tastes good. I fantasize about Big Macs and Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuits. I know one meal at Mickey D's generates a TON of waste (but usually minimal plastic). Ohh, I am so torn.

Ellen
Ellen

I LOVED your video btw! It's so neat to see "how you do it." I copied you and had such fun today, using what I had brought when I wouldn't have thought I'd even be going out! THANK YOU! My biggest Eco-Confession is letting my CSA winter shares go to waste. I always have such high hopes and good goals, but I fall short, and many turnips and beets were wasted this year because I didn't store them properly and they turned irreparably moldy. I feel TERRIBLE about this but in spite of it, can't bring myself to finish off the 4 or 5 wilting squash left in the frigid basement. Next year, I'm going to offer half of my share to a friend for free. At least it won't go to waste!

Robj98168
Robj98168

Forgive me FPF, for I have sinned- I buy shredded cheese in a ziplock bag. Phew- I am glad I got that off my chest. Oh yeah, I buy tortillas in ziplocks as well but I do reuse those bags.

Farmer's Daughter
Farmer's Daughter

I use my dryer! It's high efficiency and I only have to do about 2 loads per week.

SariJ
SariJ

I love what pigbook1 said. I do comite eco sins..I simply can not do it all given where I live but I do make conscious decisions everyday and act as mindfully as I can. My biggest sin? Plastic bottle water bottles. I can not bring myself to drink tap water no matter what kind of filter is in place. It stems from a childhood trauma and once living in an area that had raw sewage leaking into the household water system....blahh!! I am careful about which water company gets my business yet I still feel very guilty for this sin.

João Soares
João Soares

Hello, dear BethThks for all your deep task in awake many ppl for help their own lives, supporting environment issues.All the best for you and family.I refer your fantastic blog to my readers.PortugalJoão Soares

Undersharing
Undersharing

BACON. I would toss starving amputee orphans out of the way for the stuff.

Beany
Beany

My sins are many, but I'll admit one:I use the evil deodorant that comes with plastic and aluminum and all sorts of other nasties. Nothing else works for me. I tried it all. Baking soda works, but I wanted to rip out my arm pits as it itched so bad. I added corn starch and other powders to modify the itchiness to no avail. I don't shower everyday, so that is where I gain my eco credits lost in the deo-zone.Mother Beth, forgive me for I have sinned and will continue to do so.

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

I've been doing the "green" thing way before it was cool or called "green". Once day, after reading some blogs from folks who where huranging about their particular pet practises that weren't mine (mostly regional differences or thins that if you get down to it are not 100% compliment like biodegradable trash bags.) I felt horrible and made a list of my green practises vs. my few non green practises. Turns out my Green list was 3 times as long as my Non and even then I could have written more on my Green list but my hand was cramping up. :)That's when I decided that my New Year's Resolution was going to be to not try to sucumb to green guilt for the few things I do that are not the darkest of green like shopping my local Mom & Pop ethnic grocery stores because like orgnaicneedle I like to eat my way around the world too. BUT if you look at my trah bin you will see that it's tiny & practically empty because I pay attention to how things are packaged and reuse it whenever I can. That's how I'm trying to strike a balance between living an environmentally friendly life and a Spartan life. As my husband often reminds me when I need a reality check, "are you doing this because it's a religion or a lifestyle?"That being said I wonder if you'll hug me or put me in a headlock when we meet each other at BlogHer this year. :)

Pippi
Pippi

I like hot showers and baths, too. I take one or the other everyday. It's not to get clean -- I could easily go every other day (or more probably) but because it's my favorite way to destress and a mom of a young kid. I can't hear her cry in the shower and so I can't feel bad when Daddy can't get her to stop right away.I also keep our place warmer than I otherwise would so she can run around with leg warmers instead of pants. I just can't fight the pants battle at every diaper change. The up side, though, is that I end up changing her (cloth) diapers frequently and she's gearing up to potty train really early. Does it make up for the higher heat and extra diaper wash cycles? I don't know, but it makes me feel a little bit better.

Luna
Luna

Incandescent light bulbs. As green as I am with everything else, I'm willing to sacrifice some watts. I'd LOVE to use LED's, but they aren't (yet) bright enough to replace all of my bulbs. I'd use CFL, but I have a problem with fluorescent lighting.

blondeoverboard
blondeoverboard

there are mangos from mexico on my counter and the avocados came from further away...much further away...than my backdoor.

CatMcCall
CatMcCall

I'm a long, hot shower person, too, but I do live in the PNW where rain is never lacking, no matter the season. I've considered conservation measures, such as using the warm-up water on the yard, but it's already to wet out there that I would be creating another problem ;-) Yes, I could use it to flush, but DH already thinks I'm nuts...

MrsHoppes
MrsHoppes

My confession:I use plastic grocery bags. I have the reusable and even keep them in the truck, but I forget about them at the store until check-out time.Not all of my seeds are local and the ones that are local, not all of them are organic.I use the dryer when children are sick or for drying the toilet paper.

nollij
nollij

I think my biggest green sin is that I'm still driving my truck (though a lot less than I used to). I haven't given up cheese (which unless you buy a whole wheel, always comes wrapped in plastic. To those who say "buy it at the deli and put it in your to-go-ware container", my retort is that it's NOT organic cheese unless you buy at Whole Foods (and even then not always) and when THEY don't buy the whole wheel, it's STILL wrapped in plastic!). I haven't completely given up toothpaste. The shower thing for me is easy: hot water dries my skin too much (I have eczema) and I make a bar of no-plastic soap go at least a month, and since I started doing the no-poo deal about 6 months ago, I haven't bought any new shampoo or conditioner. I sin, but it's getting less and less.. evolution right?

Trying to Teach Green
Trying to Teach Green

Baths. I take hot baths. So much worse as they use so much more water. If I could I would recycle my bath water or use rain water instead but I don't have any of those capturing resources available to me. Yet.

Condo Blues
Condo Blues

The dishwasher repairperson came to my house last week (and in Condo Blues DIY gone wrong fashion, fixed the dishwasher by turning the water back on because I forgot to after fixing the thing myself.) Since I was out $118 for the service call, I peppered him with questions about the quirks of my dishwasher namely why did I leave grit all over my stuff? He said that since my dishwasher is energy efficient (news to me - yay!) it only uses 2 gallons of water to do the job so the water has to be hotter to do the job of a conventional dishwasher that uses 4+ gallons of water. The solution was to turn my hot water heater up past 120 degrees (it's new and insulated BTW.) Since saving energy is my "plastic" I questioned him about the extra energy and water usage. He predicted that I would use less in both areas because I wouldn't be running the water longer in order to heat it up to warm/hot when that's needed. He said he had his set at 135 degrees which still seemed way too high, so I turned mine up to 125. No more grit on the dishes, shower water heats up quickly. Not sure about the natural gas use, I'll have to track the bills for awhile and see.

organicneedle
organicneedle

For me...it's the food. We eat from around the world...and love it. Even my toddlers are little foodies. If I need fresh sage for German mushroom stew and it only come in a plastic bag...I am still getting the herbs. The baby wants Gruyere and berries for snack...not local and smothered in plastic. Going in the cart? Yep. We try to go as organic as possible to at least not be contributing to the world being plastered with more pesticides and during the Spring-Fall we get the bulk of our produce from the CSA and farm markets, ...but I know it doesn't make up for the distance and plastic.In order to even attempt "greenness" in our lives for the long haul we need to still actually ENJOY our lives. It's all a matter of what gives you joy. I can take a short lukewarm shower...as long as there is a big wedge of stinky French brie and a bottle of Sancerre waiting for me when I get out.

Barb in FL
Barb in FL

Beth,I take long hot showers, but I do try to conserve water with the dishwasher and laundry loads as best as I can. I still applaud you for all you try to do in using as little plastic as possible! You're definitely a greener person than me! I'm still trying to cut down on plastic usage in our household, and since our 10 year old joined the Earth Club as school---he's become my eco-buddy! My hubby's not a big recycler, but I'm working on him!

The Green Cat
The Green Cat

I've been pondering this same idea lately. I find myself feeling superior when I see someone leave the grocery store with a ton of plastic bags and yet I justify my own transgressions. What is an easy change for me may be a compromise my neighbor isn't willing to make. My confession? My vanity causes me to use a lot of products that aren't the best for the environment. I tried vinegar rinse but found my hair really wants conditioner. I justify it by buying biodegradable/organic shampoo and conditioner, but those come in plastic bottles--and not very big ones either. I also have to confess that after my recent salon visit adn haircut, I broke down and bought a (small) can of hairspray--yes, an aerosol. I like how the product works with my hair (which otherwise looks like a hot mess on a daily basis) but luckily I hate the smell so I won't continue to use it when it's gone. I guess the point is, none of us is perfect and we are all only willing to make so many changes. It's good to talk about our changes (big or small) to inspire others, but it's also good to remember that we all live in glass houses.

Clif
Clif

If you like hot showers, you'd love it here as the condo mgmt keeps the hot water scalding hot. But, I've found really hot water showers give me itchy skin later on so I avoid the high temp for a non-eco reason.My guilt would have to lie in not limiting my use of plastic more than I do, but then I read your blog and think "way to go, Beth!" and feel better!Oh! Almost forgot...I should eat lots less meat than I do.

greeen sheeep
greeen sheeep

Yesterday I bought a soda (in a plastic bottle) and a candy bar because I needed a pick me up. Aaagghhh! I am quite sure I will burn in Hell for it.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I never had any kids. So that means I can take 10 extra long hot showers a year.

Amber
Amber

I take hot showers EVERY DAY! And I use shampoo, to boot. Plus I keep my thermostat at a toasty 70-72F in the winter (which I justify because I have a small baby).Oh, and I have a small baby, which means I have just produced another polluting human. And his 4-year-old sister, too.I feel kind of dirty now.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I'm a shower sinner, too. But I try to compensate by only showering hot and long in the winter time as I am not using the heaters in my apartment at all and sometimes, when it's dropping to 12 °C or something like that, a hot shower really feels like heaven. I am also, like you, not showering every day, so, like you, I hope the green gods forgive me. On the other hand I try to really keep showers cold and short in the summertime, which is usually working perfect (because the bathroom is not so freaking cold anymore).My other sin is not buying in bulk without all this plastic packaging, though I really, really try to. But there is nothing like the bulk section at Whole Foods in Europe, at least not that I know of. So, Beth, if you know about any possibilities to buy in bulk in Europe (not considering fresh fruit and veggies that you can find without wrapping if you take a good look), I would love to find some information here. But maybe that would actually be a great idea to open a shop with ...