50 Simple Things, or Maybe Just One

I traveled to Dillon, Montana, last week with the director of our local land trust. Podunk’s Green Queens had been invited to present a talk we called How Conservation Can Revitalize Rural Economies at the University of Montana Western.

To go on a road trip this time of year, we’d give a talk at a preschool about how to make stuffed animals from bellybutton lint.

But the topic was fun and the audience was lively. Despite the university and awesome Patagonia outlet store, Dillon speaks Podunk. The complicated work of getting all kinds of people together to solve tough issues like finding enough water for fish and irrigators, or working on a logging project in a roadless area seemed to strike a chord with our new friends who face many of the same conflicts our valley does.

But as the night carried on, the questioning got more intense. Eventually, we revealed ourselves for the complete phonies we are.

As the wildlife biologist sipped her cocktail at the Dillon Bar, she looked at us both.


Dillon Bar


“Do you use dryer sheets?” she asked. First checking to make sure nobody’s sock had static clung itself to our wardrobe, we both stated that indeed we regularly used the fresh smelling fabric softener.

Wrong answer. We soon found out that the thoughtless use of dryer sheets was the real environmental problem facing ours and the next generation (if they made it that long).

Her war on Bounce sheets reminded me of my senior year in college when I discovered the book, 50 Simple Things You Can do to Save the Earth.


Soon, people were calling me Greena. I recycled, turned off the lights, and let my lawn die. I felt great! But as I got older and started working on environmental issues in my professional life, I realized not very much was simple about saving the earth.

I’d love to go back to the days when paper or plastic represented a moral dilemma.

In the meantime, please tell me if I have a pair of socks hermetically sealed to my sweater.


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