Confessions of a Do-Gooder

By Donald Dale Jackson

EarthLike most good ideas at our house, this one came from my wife, Darlene. From now on, she announced not long ago, we are going to live environmentally responsible lives. I went along wholeheartedly. It so happened I'd been planning to become a better person for some time.

We began by shopping more responsibly. We passed up plastic bags in the produce section and dropped our vegetables into the cart naked. We opted for paper bags at the checkout counter or brought our own cloth sack. We got stared at, but you have to rise above that sort of thing.

Living ecologically provoked minor marital spats, but Darlene and I didn't bicker in earnest until Christmas approached. She'd consulted the SAVE OUR PLANET "Holiday List" and found some novel gifts: a set of no-phosphor cleansers for son Dale; compact fluorescent light bulbs (they last longer and use less power) for daughter Amy; a toilet dam (saves water) for my brother. "Your parents might like unbleached coffee filters," she suggested.

Somehow, I said, those things didn't seem very festive. That did it. "You never had any intention of going along with this," she sputtered. "I can't handle the pressure!" I protested. "Grow up," she demanded.

I agreed to take another stab at it - then my subconscious got involved. I dreamed I was at this place that looked like an environmental workout center. It was filled with people I knew, doing strange and uplifting things. My friend Julie was unknitting old sweaters so she could reuse the yarn. Leon had his exercise bike hooked to a gristmill so he could grind his own flour. Mrs. Hodgson was feeding leftovers to the worms in her kitchen composter.

At this point, I began to get giddy. Darlene laughed it off when I said we'd save water if I showered with the divorcee' down the street, but when I proposed commuting to work by balloon, she realized I had veered into mockery. "It's the ecologically responsible way to travel," I explained.

As she glared at me, I decided to confess. "I can't pull it off," I said. "Do-goodism makes me squirm. Sometimes I have this irresistible urge to run out for a Super Burger and then throw all the packaging out the window."

I think she gave up on me after that. I do worry about my inability to sustain virtuous behavior, though. So I'm working on a book called 116 FUN LITTLE WAYS TO HELP MOTHER NATURE IF YOU'RE NOT UP TO MAKING BIG SACRIFICES RIGHT NOW. I'm even writing it on toilet tissue made from recycled paper. And using both sides.