Shame on Me

A new online (un)eco confessional

By Tobin Hack

With today’s booming green industry, being green is getting easier all the time. There are lots of small, easy actions we can take to improve the environment. But it’s not always feasible to recycle, compost, eat all local and organic, and forego the car and airplane trips, so True Green Confessions, a website launched October 1st, welcomes you to log in and fess up (anonymously) to your eco-sins and eco-bloopers.

Plenty of users are already making genuine confessions on the site. One woman touchingly admits that she resents her husband for his eco-habit of spending their precious evening time together ripping the plastic windows out of commercial paper envelopes so that he can recycle them. Another user “hates” herself for buying bagged lettuce instead of loose (a little harsh, but okay).

Another confesses, on behalf of all of his fellow vegetarians, to patronizing behavior: “Not all vegetarians & vegans are assholes. I know a lot of us are & I apologize on our behalf. Some of us realize it's more than ‘Animals are cute’ & some of us even realize it's a PERSONAL choice. Honestly, given the chance, I'd eat most vegetarians.”

One particularly concise user chirps guiltily, “I use bleach!” while a new parent really wants to be green, but “can't bear the thought of cloth diapers.” Readers can easily admit their faults by clicking a “me too” button that increases the tally next to a particular confession.

But as it turns out, a fair number of the people who have been logging onto True Green are using the site to make some pretty egregious comments. Earth-abusers and environmentalists alike show just how pissed off they are in their comments. Nine people “fantasize” about keying Hummers, and three actually admit to keying hybrids. Then there’s the lovely subset of why-should-I-care comments like, “I officially stopped giving a rat's ass. It's too late,” or “Screw water restrictions there is a giant ocean full of water. Kiss my ass city!!”

Although all entries are screened before being posted, some “confessions” that make it through are just plain nasty, disrespectful, and inaccurate. One user boasts:

Oh, boy, where do I start? Let's see. Global warming is a natural cycle, it is NOT being caused by our so called green house gas emissions, I always use plastic bags at the grocery stores, I preheat my oven, I take looooong hot showers, I never recycle anything, we use paper plates all the time, run the air conditioner 24/7, leave our lights on all the time, leave the television on all the time as well as our 4 computers, I use paper towels like there's no tomorrow, we own two cars and drive everywhere, and the best part about it is I don't feel guilty one bit. And yes, I sleep fine at night.

Let’s not overlook the delightful bragging and lecturing True Green gets. One user describes a garbage pick-up hike she took with her kids, and writes that they found “five 13 gallon trash bags in just over 2 miles! Gross!! Grow up people! The world is not your trashcan!!” And complaining: “I read a story about a couple in our city that uses 1 million gallons of water on their property. It made me ill.” Is this really entirely helpful?

Unfortunately, the angry rants, the unproductive whining, and the holier-than-thou lectures posted on True Green almost overpower (in volume, though not number) the genuine confessions and instances of non-angry humor. Founder and editor Romi Lassali admits that the submissions she gets include “a lot of green bashing,” and says that the next step for the site should be to “offer more resources and advise. More solutions.” Until then, we suggest you own up to your eco sins if the site moves you, but don’t go to confession just to defend your actions or lash out at others.

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It makes perfect sense to do the "little" things. I have been using the same set of every-day cloth napkins for about 15 years now, (bought for $1 each in a thrift shop) and only use paper towels when there is no practical alternative. That means 2190+ paper napkins stayed out of the landfill each and every year, (that's 32,850 I haven't had to buy) and I have used only one roll of paper towels this year. Is this a big savings? Maybe not, but it is sure easy to do.

I also print on the backs of paper in my computer printer, reuse cardboard cartons and use the public library instead of buying books, magazines and DVD's. These are such easy ways to share and make things last longer.

I often wonder why Americans don't want to make some of these easier adjustments.

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