Choosing one’s friends is a very weighty endeavor that can yield significant benefits. Some people aim to befriend celebrities because of the exclusive par­ties and the possibility of landing on Perez Hilton’s blog. Other people aim for politicians because of the con­nections and first dibs on bumper stickers. Still others aim for musicians because it provides a more legiti­mate excuse to wear tight jeans and not wash your hair. Recently, a new subset of desirable targets has come on the market: environmentalists.

Traditionally, environmentalists have not been in very high demand as friends. This is in part because they have developed a reputation for being long-winded and angry about the state of things, because they want you to replace all of your belongings with green ones, and because until now, they have been largely inaccessible, living in communal farms in Vermont and in the world’s biggest hippie compound — commonly re­ferred to as the Pacific Northwest. They can seem like a very difficult group to infiltrate and eventually exploit.

Do not let this deter you from entering into what can be a financially and emotionally beneficial alliance. Understanding and talking about the things that environmentalists care about most will be your golden ticket to free lightbulbs, handmade soap and many other perks. In the coming week's I'll be providing a step-by-step guide to befriending environmentalists. 

Step One: Bringing numerous talking points to dinner

If an environmentalist invites you over for dinner, do not assume that your host’s primary purpose is to serve you a meal. The goal is education.

You cannot assume your host is vegan or vegetarian either. Doing so could lead to a number of social faux pas that are on par with or worse than calling her a Republican. While many environmentalists are vegan or vegetarian, others can talk for hours about how it is possible to eat meat and still be green. Their requirement of course is that the animal is raised on a small farm and allowed to run around and eat grass. If you are hoping to impress a host in the latter camp, tell a story about how you are raising a few chickens in your backyard. For extra points, use the following terms: free-range, factory farm and antibiotics.

If conversation starts to lull, it’s always a good idea to bring up a paradox that engages the entire table. The most pressing question of our generation is: local or organic? This subject is sure to create a lively distraction while you grab whatever delicious food remains, leaving only the tempeh and brown rice for the other guests.

Once the meal is over, it’s always good manners to insist on doing the dishes. But do not worry about actually having to do them. Simply walk into the kitchen, put the dishes in the sink, turn on the hot water, return to the host, and say, “I’m just waiting for the water to heat up.” They will bolt into the kitchen and shut off the faucet to prevent wasting both water and energy. Feign ignorance. They will finish the job and try to offset the awkwardness of the situation by giving you the leftover local, organic peach cobbler to take home. Environmentalists like to offset things.

More reading from the Guide:

Part 1: Bringing numerous talking points to dinner

Part 2: Brainwashing children

Part 3: Being depressed by statistics

Part 4: Knowing which ingredients in your shampoo will kill you

Part 5: Never throwing stuff away

Story by Christian Lander. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in November 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008