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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

(Environ-)Mentally Prepared

The other day, I was asked a seemingly simple (if rather pointed) question:

What are you doing to save the environment?

I was not ready for this question. I certainly had not thought about this question. And it’s quite possible I was eating a megafarm beef burrito from a big-chain restaurant out of a styrofoam container at the time I was asked this question.

I don’t remember doing that. But the way the question was asked, it sure as hell felt like that’s what I was doing. That, or strip-mining the Amazon rainforest with chlorofluorocarbons, somehow. Something very enviro-dickish.

My answer was, of course, inadequate, mumbled and incomplete. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing for the environment — I wasn’t thinking about what to do for the environment, just at that particular moment.

“The environment is a little like your left armpit. It’s always there, and you’d miss it if it went away, but you never give it a lot of thought.”

Or at many others. Let’s be honest. The environment is a little like your left armpit. It’s always there, and you’d miss it if it went away, but you never give it a lot of thought.

Not until something weird grows in it, anyway, or it starts to smell like an overripe mushroom with halitosis. Then you call the EPA. Or the people at Mennen.

My point is, I do some things to help the environment — and, for the record, my left armpit. I just don’t keep a running tally of each and every one of those helpful little deeds I do.

Or rather, I didn’t, until some jackhole came by and asked the question, and made me feel like Baron Acidrain von Oilspill when I didn’t have an answer ready. So now I know what I do to save the environment. In fact, I’ve come up with a whole five things. And I’m going to tell you what they are.

In digital form, thereby saving an innocent tree.

That’s the first one. Point, me. I can feel the ozone layer’s sphincter relaxing already.

Here’s the rest:

2. I recycle.

Which is to say, I have a blue bin at home into which I cram stuff that isn’t styrofoam or factory-cow burritos or spent plutonium waste, and another bin into which I do cram that stuff. If I have it. To be fair, I don’t keep a lot of styrofoam around.

Now, I don’t further sort the stuff in the recycle bin. My understanding is that there are machines or hobos or small indentured children whose job it is to keep the plastic side plastic and the glass side glass, so to speak. I mean, I put things into the blue bin, and not the not-blue bin. Responsibility has to be handed off somewhere; there’s only so much I can do. I’m just one man.

(I have it on good authority, by the way, that at my office, the blue bins and not-blue bins all get dumped together into unspecified-color bags and hauled off to the dump. I have no input or sway over this practice, so short of dragging my trash home to recycle it myself — and I’m not doing that; my car already smells like stale burritos — I’m really doing the environment no good with any personal waste management strategy I choose to employ at work.

Of course, I still throw my recyclables into the blue bin, anyway. I call this “recycling in spirit”. And goddammit, I’m counting it.)

3. Though I still run the water in the sink while I brush my teeth, I don’t run as heavy a stream as I used to.

My wife, little miss conservationist showoff, doesn’t run the water at all. She wets the toothbrush, then brushes over a completely dry sink like some kind of ascetic hermit.

I can’t even.

Look, I’m all for the environment. And she’s convinced me to run just a trickle of water, for the sake of the whales or farm-raised salmon or slip ‘n’ slides in the middle of the Mojave. Something or other. But good lord, woman — this isn’t feudal Europe. You might as well bathe in last night’s filthwater and get your humors bled out at Supercuts. We won the Cold War, already.

Fine. The first Cold War. Anyway, I don’t care. I’ll save the planet a little. But I’m running water while I brush. Next.

4. I only drive to work five days a week.

Because the planet can use a petroleum holiday for those other two, while I’m sleeping and drinking. You’re welcome, Ms. Nature.

5. I give to Greenpeace.

Frankly, I don’t know whether Greenpeace saves the environment or not. I’ve never actually read any of their literature or website or anything. So far as I know, their agenda consists of making PETA seem reasonable, mooning horny Japanese whalers and strapping friendship bracelets onto endangered penguins.

(Are there endangered penguins, even?

Probably the ones near the Japanese whalers. I’ll stand by that.)

But “Green” is in the name, so probably somewhere in there is verbiage about protecting all life and swaddling nature’s creatures and making out with potted ferns or something. I just assume. So why donate to Greenpeace in the first place?

Because my doorbell rang one Saturday afternoon between my sleeping and drinking time, and outside I found two painfully sincere college chicks with their hemp socks and their suburban dreads and their reverent plans to go (back? I didn’t catch that part) to the slums of San Povertina to nurse clubfooted chickens back to health. Something like that. Noble gesture. Poor country. Gimpy poultry. Something.

Anyway, I was so moved by their enthusiasm and their passion and their dedication that I signed up right there to help their cause. Because I am a person who firmly believes in contributing to the betterment of our environment.

(And totally not because I am a person who thought that they were maybe going to kiss if I made a donation.

Totally not that. At all.)

So, there you go, smartypants enviro-question asker. Five whole things that I do to help the environment, which is four-and-a-half more than you’re doing by going around asking pointy questions to unprepared burrito-eaters.

Why don’t you stick that in your pipe and… then carefully take it out, fold it into your compost heap, break your pipe down into components, reuse what you can’t recycle and give your nearest white elm — or reformed Japanese whaler — a big fat smooch for me. Because environment.

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