The Eco Worrier


“You shouldn’t leave your engine running – it’s bad for the environment.” A silver-haired, diminutive woman thrust her face closer and cocked her head towards the parked car.

True enough, her car was still burbling away. Between the radio’s jolly offering and the fan heater blasting warmth over her chilly passenger, she’d not noticed the engine noise when she hopped out and run into the shop to buy a paper. The car usually switched itself off as soon as she put it into neutral and took her foot off the clutch. Somewhat wrong-footed, she struggled to explain the failure of her vehicle’s environmentally friendly (if occasionally irritating) feature to the elderly lady currently fixing her with a dubious eye.

There was probably some techno-reason why the car hadn’t done its eco-thing, but the accusation of being less than environmentally friendly made her review her own planet-saving impact.

For one, she assiduously went through her rubbish to separate out the recyclables to be deposited in the brown bin, trooping to the bottle bank with her washed glassware too.

When she remembered, which was most of the time, she shopped using her own bags ‘for life’. Although she anti-bac-ed them regularly as she’d read somewhere they could harbour deadly bacteria and, really, bags ‘for death’ didn’t have quite the same jaunty ring..

Deliberately not buying cheap, virtually disposable clothing, she preferred to spend her money in charity shops and car boot sales when her wardrobe needed a makeover; surely something of a win-win for everyone?

But truthfully, as just a well-meaning, ordinary human, she found trying to be less of a blight on Mother Earth something of a minefield. Here’s one – Old Car versus New Car. An ‘Old Car’ might not be so clean to run, but scrapping it or trading it in for a ‘New Car’ that used goodness only knows how much energy and raw materials to manufacture. Which car takes the chequered eco-friendly flag?
And here’s another – plastic bags versus paper ones. Did she read somewhere that one supermarket was going to offer paper grocery bags? But didn’t she also read that the production and transportation of paper bags contributes more to global warming than plastic ones? Where had she seen that – and was it true? Reaching for her ‘phone she jabbed and scrolled feverishly, searching.
And if some plastic bags were bio-degradable, she wondered, why weren’t they all? Surely then there’d be a chance they’d naturally disintegrate before reaching the oceans where turtles and whales could eat them.

Then there was palm oil. A viral advert last Christmas rather poignantly highlighted the deforestation caused by palm oil plantations. That supermarket had vowed to ban palm oil from their own brand and she’d vowed to shop there as a consequence. Now she was disappointed in herself that she hadn’t done it more often.

And what about her beloved wood burner? Was she harbouring a soon-to-be-banned polluting monster in her sitting room? If a betting person, she’d have put good money on it being healthier for our planet than burning oil or gas forcibly extracted from the depths of the earth and transported hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

Ditto electric heating. Wasn’t most electricity made by some process that involved… burning fossil fuels or using nuclear power with its accompanying toxic waste? And where did this leave the debate on electric cars? They might be clean to run, but the power to charge them up had to come from somewhere, didn’t it?

She was no eco warrior – just concerned about doing the right thing. Wouldn’t it be great if she didn’t have to worry so much about her choices? What if only the right choices were available? Like her car. It made the right decision when it switched itself off – at least it did most of the time. She hoped it was the right decision anyway. As she didn’t actually sit stationary in traffic for long periods, she sometimes wondered if all this repeated re-starting didn’t in fact burn MORE fuel and release MORE pollutants into the atmosphere. Should look that up, along with every other thing she wasn’t sure about.
AAAGGHHHH… the list was endless and it was, to coin a phrase, doin’ her head in.

Neither a ‘chuck-it-all-in-the-same-bin’ barbarian, nor a ‘go-plastic-free’ paragon, it dawned on her she was that middle-ground creature – someone who does a bit to save the planet, whilst fretting a lot about the state of the planet. She’d become an Eco-Worrier.

And worrying, as everyone knew, was pointless, achieved nothing – she needed to know more, do more, try harder. And that feisty lady in the shop was quite right. She really shouldn’t have left her engine running…

© Lucia Foster-Found 2019