Sustaining Sustainability

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Food and Drink, Television | Posted on 06-03-2009


by Chelsey Simpson

When I say I was born a conservationist,
I’m not bragging. Conserving things–all kinds of things–has been a
lifelong obsession of mine, and not always a healthy one. Guilt and
anxiety are often the cause or result of my efforts.

As a child I was prone to hoarding and saving, always afraid
of wasting anything. Stickers sat untouched in my sticker book, candy
wrappers were squirreled away for their decorative potential as
wallpaper and Easy-Bake oven cake mixes were rationed. On the other
hand, dolls I didn’t play with seemed to cry out to me, making me feel
bad for owning something I didn’t use.

At the age of four I remember carefully separating my meals
into two portions: one for me and one for the African child my parents
“adopted” through a charity program. Luckily, they soon explained that
we were only sending money, not half of all our cornbread and potato

I have no explanation for my habits other than the fact
that I was very impressionable. I still remember a Sesame Street skit
about water conservation in which a boy’s wasteful habits threaten to
leave a fish on dry land. I still think about that fish when I brush my
teeth at night.

have also considered the fact that I might be the reincarnated soul of
someone who lived through the Great Depression, but that is neither
here nor there.

I remember making one misguided attempt to throw caution to
the wind and use (perhaps even waste!) all of something in one sitting.
Unfortunately, the thing I chose was green food coloring. As a prank in
honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I offered to cook dinner, then added
green dye to everything: the hot dogs, the chili, the buns, the spinach
and even the glasses of water. My heart told me I shouldn’t use the
whole bottle on one dinner because that would be wasteful, but I
pressed on, gleefully ignoring all the voices in my head for one
triumphant moment!

These days I wouldn’t add margarine to my food, much less
green dye, but I can’t say I’ve mastered the balancing act between the
guilt of consumption and living a satisfying life. There are so many
aspects to living sustainably and responsibly that it is easy to become
overwhelmed. Some days I am at peace with the fact that sustainable
food is the main direction I focus my energy, but other days I feel
guilty that half of my clothes are from Old Navy, and I haven’t
properly winterized my house. I probably think too much about small
things, like whether I could have fit two more plates into the
dishwasher before I ran it and how many times I have to open my fridge
in the coarse of fixing dinner.

I am still searching for a
sustainable approach to sustainability, a peaceful lulling of my 1930s
soul. I want to respect the Sesame Street fish and the African baby
without letting them take over. At least these days my food is green in
an entirely different way.

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