Over the years, I have talked to lots of folks ... parents, teenagers, business owners, stay-at-home moms, college students, grandparents, and even toddlers about their efforts to go green. By far, some of the most tumultuous eco-arguements I have come across have focused on the relationship between parents and their kids — as in, parents who want to go green but their kids don't, and vice versa. No doubt, this is a touchy subject. But it looks like a new kind of eco-quarrel is emerging that may prove even more detrimental to families.
A recent article in the New York Times
focused on a new trend in marriage counseling, green disputes between couples that threaten to destroy the relationship. So in addition to worrying about finances, the kids, sex, the house, health, politics and religion, couples can add the environment to the long list of issues to sort out with their partner. According to the article:
"As awareness of environmental concerns has grown, therapists say they are seeing a rise in bickering between couples and family members over the extent to which they should change their lives to save the planet. In households across the country, green lines are being drawn between those who insist on wild salmon and those who buy farmed, those who calculate their carbon footprint and those who remain indifferent to greenhouse gases."
I can easily see how these kinds of issues can threaten to damage a relationship. Green issues summon a passion in folks that many others see as "bossy" or "obsessive." But it's a sad day when recycling comes between a couple to the extent that a compromise can't be made. For couples who are dealing with these issues, I have two bits of advice: don't push and don't make it into a contest.
You can't force someone else to care about the planet as much as you do. But you can set a good example and make doing the green thing the more appealing thing to do. Get an easy-to-use recycling bin that makes recycling a cinch. Or convince your partner to cut down on materialistic spending by using your money to do fun things together instead.
And don't make it in to a contest. If there is one thing I have learned from talking with all these people over the years, it is that there is always someone out there who is "greener" than I am. And I'm OK with that. There is no one set standard that makes one person green or not. It's the effort that counts, and if your partner is making an effort to do the eco-thing, that's really all that matters.
Do you agree? What other advice do you have for couples who are drawing a green line in the sand?