May 26, 2009 at 9:45AM
by Alexandra Zissu
Memorial Day Weekend (for some of us) means the beginning of having and/or being houseguests for a few months. We fall into the houseguest side of this equation. As urbanites, we want our daughter to have time out of the city, especially when the weather is good. So we spend a lot of the summer visiting family (and sometimes friends and friends-with-kids) who live outside the city or have second homes.
Whatever side of the equation you fall on, houseguest season can equal eco-related awkwardness. For environmentally sensitive hosts housing environmentally insensitive friends or family members, situations can arise over things like the Hummer they drive up in, requests for non-dairy creamer, too many towels used, extra long hot showers and so on. For environmentally sensitive guests staying with environmentally insensitive hosts, similar issues can arise over sheets that have been washed in conventional detergents and reek of synthetic (hormone disrupting!
) fragrance, BBQs
involving lighter fluid and frozen conventional packaged beef patties, and garden pesticides misted near crawling babies.
It's a delicate dance, but here are a few ways to manage.
If you're hosting, you have home court advantage. Chances are whoever is coming to stay with you knows you well enough to understand your eco tendencies. Keep in mind that guests are not people attending a lecture you're giving! Welcome them. A few simple ways to avoid the worst pitfalls:
*Offer to cook all meals, or to do the grocery shopping for meals well meaning guests offer to cook. Take them to the farmers' market Saturday morning and let them do whatever they want to there. Shrug off any stupid comments regarding your "hippie" diet. Or offer them other tasks you might want done - mowing, weeding, whatever - instead of cooking.
*Do the dishes if they're using too much soap and water for your liking. No one minds a host that does everything - green or not.
*If you have a no-shoes in house rule
, make that clear from the get go.
*Explain to them (gently) that you're giving them one towel for shower/bath, and one for swimming. Imply that there will be no more where those come from.
*Tell them you have hot water heater problems.
*Try not to get into post dinner tipsy clean up discussions on the merits of bleach vs. vinegar
unless you think your guest is truly asking your opinion rather than picking on your (wise) choices.
*Don't forget to be gracious - serving a gift-from-your-guests dessert or a wine that isn't up to your organic standards
won't kill anyone and will go a long way to smooth over any other glitches.
If you're a guest, being gracious is equally crucial.
Here are a few thoughts on how to (quietly) green your weekends in non green spaces.
*There's a lot that can be done under the radar. If fragrant sheets make you toss and turn at night, pack a few pillow cases from home that don't smell. Your host will be none the wiser and you'll be more comfortable. Baby blankets and sarongs can be spread over sheets as well. And hosts are always thrilled when people pack their own beach towels - less laundry for them once you go.
*People with specific dietary needs (i.e. vegans, diabetics, those with food allergies etc.) are pretty used to traveling with their staples without offending hosts. Why not do the same for whatever organic musts you feel like you can't spend a weekend without? This is easily done when traveling with (notoriously picky) kids. Arrive with some of their preferred milk, cereal, noodles, cheese, whatever, and everyone will just be pleased they're eating. So what if you're also using that milk for your coffee or snacking on what they're snacking on? Chances are no one will notice. Especially if you bring enough to share. Don't make a big deal of it.
*Head to the farmers' market. Most weekend spots have great local markets on Saturday mornings. Go with your hosts (if they want to go) and load up on all of the fresh local goodies you'd like to be eating for the weekend. Offer to cook them all up into a lovely meal for everyone. Win win.
*To avoid garden pesticides, offer to help. When the hosts hand you a spray can of weed killer, just bend down and start weeding by hand. It's addictive and effective. I should know - I've been hand weeding at my less-green-than-I'd-like-them-to-be parents' house for years now.
*Arrive bearing green gifts -- a bag of better charcoal for the grill, beeswax candles, organic mosquito repelant, biodynamic wine, natural soap, an organic gardening book. With any luck, they might just use them while you're there. Just don't over explain or lecture about what it is you're giving them and why. That's obnoxious overkill.
One person's green lifestyle does have the odd tendency to make others who aren't living green uncomfortable, especially in close quarters. But all it takes is a certain level of sensitivity and openness on both sides, and cohabitating during the summer months is truly possible.