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Going Broke Saving the Earth

In the age of Pricey Hybrids and Organic Cotton designer wear, is being eco-friendly just a new hip trend for the uber-rich? The original earth lovin' mamas and papas are starting to feel the squeeze, as a new breed of wealthy eco-warriors take center stage.

Looking at the heart of it, environmental issues are not really moral issues, they are economic issues wearing a disguise. Have you shopped for Organic Food lately? That's right - you'll get a nose bleed calculating the the cost for one pound of organic broccoli.

Thumbing through a catalog touting all organic clothing, brightly dressed models smile as they are, of course, happy to be saving the earth. I couldn't help wonder what type of families can actually afford to dress like this. How many people will shell out $89 for a hemp hoodie, or $59 for a baby natural fleece.? Sure, a true eco-gal can make do with a smaller wardrobe, that is quality and or vintage. However, I do like to shop, and even in window shopping mode, I start to worry. I park the catalog to the side, as I'll shred it later for 'shipping stuffing' - but it will feel good to grind up the smiling eco-models. The nerve. $89.

Surfing the neverland cable channels, I final settle on a show about Earth Friendly Design. Chic green designers have hit the scene, and have no shortage of business. Flaunting their huge commercial stores in New York and Los Angeles, any eco-conscious person can waltz in and fab up their home with green wares. What they forgot to mention on the show, is that you must be a direct heir of the Vanderbilt fortune to afford any of it. Organic hemp slip covered armchairs, start at $3,090. Organic, vegetable and plant dyed bath towels starting at $95. Vegan dog shampoo, only $25 for 8 ounces - on my 90 pound Golden Retriever, this may be good for two washes, if that, since she would probably try to eat the pricey goo.

As I stroll my mini-cart through the grocery store, I push the question of 'Can I afford to be eco-friendly!?!' to the back recesses of my mind. Sure, I can recycle, bring my own bags to grocery stores, buy local, buy vintage, but I feel downright hostile when I pay through the nose for my organic Californian grown avocados. I can buy avocados from Chile, heck they are much cheaper, and probably have no pesticide on them anyway. However, picturing the little green fruits 'put-putting' across the ocean on a smoke billowing tanker to the United States, undercutting hardworking American farmers, these avocados are sullied and have lost their cheap appeal. I feel guilty, and pay the .90 more for the Organic California avocados. This same scenario plays itself out up and down every aisle.

I start to feel a wee bit dizzy, when Eco Mom then whizzes down the aisle with her tot in tow. She is just as dedicated and determined as soccer mom, but she has abandoned the mini-van, and money is no object. The child asks if Eco Mom can buy ice cream. Eco Mom changes the subject, and asks the child to count to twenty in French. She loads up on organic salads, organic salad dressings, organic soups, organic spreads, organic paprika and organic 49-grain-bread without so much as looking at prices. She checks out with her stash of perfectly clean and ironed cotton grocery bags in hand.

I realize that the only difference between myself and Eco Mom, is that I agonize over half of my purchases due to price, and my canvas bags are a little smelly from the apple juice that spilled on them last week. Leaving with two bags of organic and fair-trade groceries for $95, I sigh deeply. It was worth it, but I wish it were easier.

I scowl at Eco Mom as she zips off in her shiny new hybrid with a KPBS license plate frame -- indubitably off to save the world at a faster and hipper pace than I.

As a website dedicated to promoting businesses that are eco-friendly, has launched a new page called "Eco-Friendly Coupons". In March 2008, is also launching a new blog-style section called "Affordable Eco Shopping", which will contain businesses that are hand-picked for eco-friendliness, and affordability.







Copyright 2008

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