Stuff Environmentalists Like, Part 1

From the cover story of the December issue of Plenty Magazine, the first installment in your beginner's guide to befriending and exploiting green people

By Christian Lander

Choosing one’s friends is a very weighty endeavor that can yield significant benefits. Some people aim to befriend celebrities because of the exclusive par­ties and the possibility of landing on Perez Hilton’s blog. Other people aim for politicians because of the con­nections and first dibs on bumper stickers. Still others aim for musicians because it provides a more legiti­mate excuse to wear tight jeans and not wash your hair. Recently, a new subset of desirable targets has come on the market: environmentalists.

Traditionally, environmentalists have not been in very high demand as friends. This is in part because they have developed a reputation for being long-winded and angry about the state of things, because they want you to replace all of your belongings with green ones, and because until now, they have been largely inaccessible, living in communal farms in Vermont and in the world’s biggest hippie compound—commonly re­ferred to as the Pacific Northwest. They can seem like a very difficult group to infiltrate and eventually exploit.

Do not let this deter you from entering into what can be a financially and emotionally beneficial alliance. Understanding and talking about the things that environmentalists care about most will be your golden ticket to free lightbulbs, handmade soap,and many other perks. In the coming week's I'll be providing a step-by-step guide to befriending environmentalists (if you simply can't wait for the rest, walk or take public transportation to a newsstand and aquire Plenty's current issue, number 26). 

Step One: Bringing Numerous Talking Points to Dinner

If an environmentalist invites you over for dinner, do not assume that your host’s primary purpose is to serve you a meal. The goal is education.

You cannot assume your host is vegan or vegetarian either. Doing so could lead to a number of social faux pas that are on par with or worse than calling them a Republican. While many environmentalists are vegan or vegetarian, others can talk for hours about how it is possible to eat meat and still be green. Their requirement of course is that the animal is raised on a small farm and allowed to run around and eat grass. If you are hoping to impress a host in the latter camp, tell a story about how you are raising a few chickens in your backyard. For extra points, use the following terms: free-range, factory farm, and antibiotics.

If conversation starts to lull, it’s always a good idea to bring up a paradox that engages the entire table. The most pressing question of our generation is: local or organic? This subject is sure to create a lively distraction while you grab whatever delicious food remains, leaving only the tempeh and brown rice for the other guests.

Once the meal is over, it’s always good manners to insist on doing the dishes. But do not worry about actually having to do them. Simply walk into the kitchen, put the dishes in the sink, turn on the hot water, return to the host, and say, “I’m just waiting for the water to heat up.” They will bolt into the kitchen and shut off the faucet to prevent wasting both water and energy. Feign ignorance. They will finish the job and try to offset the awkwardness of the situation by giving you the leftover local, organic peach cobbler to take home. Environmentalists like to offset things.

Read Part Five: Never throwing things away

Read Part Four: Knowing which ingredients in your shampoo will kill you

Read Part Three: Being depressed by statistics

Read Part Two: Brainwashing children


Great. Not only am I (very) white, but I'm also an environmentalist. What next? I better not be a hipster. If it turns out I'm also a hipster, I'm going to start liking NASCAR to offset the whole thing. sigh. no. I could never do that...

Christian, thank you for bringing your spot-on analysis of the sociology of the masses to the field of environmentalists. I am trying my best, too, check my website.

As a personne de couleur (genetically), I get a total kick from your book and blog. Took the test at the end of your book and found out I was 50% white (culturally). My husband who is very white (genetically) is less than 10% white (culturally) Conclusion: Don't judge a book by it's cover.

Oh Nathalie. If you started liking NASCAR, you would only become MORE of a hipster, because you couldn't help but like it in an ironic fashion. No, you are beyond help, I'm afraid.

Okay I'm an envrironmentalist born and raised in the PNW, but in the "poor" section, the Inland NW. Read some Sherman Alexie and you'll get a feel for where and how we live. North Idaho and Eastern WA do have a few of those Enviros with the spankin' new Subarus with five kinds of skis on the Yakima rack, townies mostly, But most of us are dirt poor, live in the woods, and spend all our time putting in firewood, working for nothing at non profits, tending animals, orchards, and gardens. We drive old vans with two by fours for a roofrack. You can't haul animals and firewood in clean Subaru. (You can't haul anything in a Subaru). What money we have gets blown on Microbrews and Columbia valley reds. We like our parties at bonfires in the snow. There's no cable or Sat.TV, just netflix and NPR. For fun, we scatter roofing nails on illegal ATV trails and match the swill brand cans to redneck pickups in the parking lot at the snowmobile park. We don't offset anything, we're too poor. We eat meat too. Otherwise we'd be too weak to chop wood and shovel snow off the roofs. Those Enviros you're talking about live on the West side in Portland and Seattle. There used to be trees over there, now they have one big megatropolis from Salem to Vancouver B.C. Thank the Gods for the recession, it's ending a boom in construction and sprawl, and nobody needs lumber.

fourmoundfarm, I raise trees just outside the PDX Urban Growth Boundary. My neighbors grow Noble Firs and grapes. Me, I just hug my trees, one by one and leave them be. They block the highway noise and shelter the deer and coyotes.
You know what I like about these sites? The Google Intellisense ads that pick up on the ironic subjects, and blithely echo them as if they were literal. Just adds to the humor.

Hey fourmoundfarm, thanks for the heads up about Sherman Alexie. I love finding new authors and learning how others live. I second your thanking the gods for the recession. Maybe people will start living within their means for once.

I'm an "environmentalist" and I LOVED this. Stop by for a local brew & an elk steak on the grill when you're in the Butte America hood!