Saving the Earth One Scavenger Bird at a Time


I’m on a path of becoming a Friend of the Earth. My daughter is helping me. I have a long way to go and I’m starting out at a disadvantage.  True, I’ve done a couple things right: I’ve adopted two dogs from animal shelters, tried vegetarianism twice, and bought a PETA backpack for her.

But the list of what I’ve done wrong is long. I bought an Amazon parrot from a pet store once. I ate lots of meat by-products, including sausage and baloney. I owned two leather coats. I once wore a borrowed mink stole for 10 minutes to wear as I left my wedding reception to be romantically whisked to a big, gas-guzzling Monte Carlo. I went to a circus once. (Although to my defense, I found it so creepy, I never went back and never once took my kids to one. The questionable treatment of the animals was nothing compared to the freakish nature of the humans in the circus. And I’m not talking about the actual freaks. I couldn’t take my eyes off the red, raw knees and the amount of mascara on the lady trapeze artist.) 

My trip to the grocery store was a festival of political incorrectness. I got in my SUV and drove to Walmart, where I filled more than a dozen non-reusable plastic grocery bags full of Doritos, beef, Perdue chicken, non-organic vegetables, laundry soap with phosphates, and ozone-killing animal-tested hair products. I often was wearing a leather belt while doing this.

So with that kind of history, I’ve embarked on a journey to save the world, with my daughter as my coach and cheerleader. My husband and sons are not as supportive. They’re afraid I’ll stop putting pepperoni on the pizza and try to sneak in some “fricken” (my son’s word for fake chicken) onto their plates.

I started with the little things. I began snipping the plastic Gatorade rings before I threw them in the garbage. If I didn’t, my daughter would dig them out and demonstrate to me, again, how it’s done, holding the scissors dangerously close to my face. (She’d then demonstrate how a bird can get his head stuck in one of the rings during an innocent visit to the landfill, using the Beanie Baby eagle as a prop.)

Soon I found myself veering away from leather. (I didn’t have to worry about giving up fur. I never wanted to actually own anything that so closely resembled my dog.) I started wearing cloth coats, canvas shoes, fabric belts, and I bought my first pair of “pleather” boots (translation: plastic) since the days when it was called “patent leather” and it was in my Sunday School shoes.

There wasn’t anything I could do about the leather I had already bought. Like the four pieces of furniture in our house. I looked back through our receipts from Ethan Allen to see if, by chance, they, too, were a man-made material and alas, it was not to be so. The darn things will never wear out, so I guess they’ll have to stay until I’m rich enough to replace perfectly good furniture with some fabric-upholstered pieces. Until then, they’re a large, daily reminder of my old life as a specist.

I always thought it would be cool to be a hippie. And the hippies of today have normal jobs and wear bras and smell OK, so where’s the downside?  I have this fantasy of my future. I’m riding my 10-speed, with a reusable dye-free gunnysack hooked onto the handlebars, to Wild Oats to do my grocery shopping. I’m wearing Birkenstocks and a long patchwork skirt, my long gray hair is flowing and I’m wearing no makeup, but I’m somehow beautiful.  Although in this fantasy, I am also 6 inches taller and I have high cheekbones.  

I have another 10 or 12 years to get there, but with my daughter’s help, I think I can do it. Although, how I’m going to manage those 6 inches and the cheeks is beyond me.