A Green Light in a Red Home…

  • Published on March 10th, 2008

redandgreenlight by justinShe was very young, 3 or 4, when our green light started to blink. As we drove through the streets of suburbia, the extensive urban sprawl was evident everywhere. Orange trees and grapefruit trees were plowed down quickly and furiously by developers. From her car seat she would become enraged about the trees and animals. We found it amusing… at first.

She became incessant and consistent in her convictions as the years passed by. The groves of trees all around us were still being destroyed. She wanted to write to the President of the United States. We started to become concerned. Where was this coming from? How did this happen? A green girl in our very red home. It became a joke — our little “treehugger,” we would say.

One day, standing in our kitchen, she asked me a very pointed question. “Do we recycle?” she knew the answer, by this time she was 5 or 6. I honestly said, “no” (I was a little ashamed). “Why not?” she pressed. I didn’t have an answer. What was I to say? The county provides containers for that very purpose and they retrieve the containers from the end of our driveway. Instead of answering her question I said “Let’s start now.” She was pleased. We immediately found the recycle containers in the garage and put them in a handy place. Then we went on line and looked up the rules, days and times for our area.

My green light grew brighter. She became more outspoken in homes that we visited as well. Innocently she asked them if they recycle as she finished with a plastic container or soda can. Her message was clear.

More years have passed and she is 11 now. Recently she said “I’m not a treehugger.” I asked her why she would say that and her reply was revealing. “I do care about the environment but I’m not a treehugger.” My sensitive girl had taken offense to our comments. I realized her green light, that had once shown so brightly, was an innate part of her. We were able to dim that light by our offhand remarks and basic disregard for her concerns. I regretted not allowing her to write her letter to the President years ago.

She is my inspiration. Encouraging me to passionately pursue a green lifestyle, green products and green issues in our world. She is a social conservative (at this point… I will remember my past mistakes and embrace her unconditionally no matter what her stance on the issues) and a very green girl. She is a green light in a red home. Actually, she is a green light in a red community. Her statement today, “God gave us the earth; we should take care of it.” I agree.

Photo Credit: Justin via Flickr

About the Author

I graduated from Wesleyan College (Macon, GA) with a degree in Psychology and Sociology. Definitely part of the "conservative minority" I discovered my passion for good discussion with those who may not share my ideological views. My interest for anything Green was sparked by my young daughter who seemed to innately have a passion for anything environmental, from citrus groves ruined by developers to people recycling in their homes. She ignited change in this conservative household. My desire to help conservatives pursue green in their daily lives led me to Go Media, Inc. and to being part of their political writing team. I am a conservative girl, redefining stereotypes and labels.
  • Ranjit,

    I never used the term "treehugger" for a label myself. If you look at my original comment, I was interested in the fact that Heidi's daughter didn't like the label even though she was clearly concerned about the environment.

    I then went on to try and explain that labels tend to divide people.

    The whole point I was getting at is that separation is not what we need for global issues like climate change.

  • Claire Bancroft

    Your "green light" has helped change my way of thinking…there is a recycle bin at the end of my driveway now….Keep up the good work!

  • Helen

    My family makes fun of me when it comes to my recycling convictions. If they only knew we could be dong so much more. It scares me to think of the planet I am leaving behind for my children.

    Count me in as one more in your community that is plugged in. BRAVO to that young ladies spirit, something tells me she got it from her mother.

  • Ranjit Arab

    Excellent story! Wow, five or six years old and already understanding the concept of recycling…you must have been doing something right even if you weren't consciously trying!

    Your story was really encouraging. It's good to know there are kids so young paying such close attention to Mother Earth. Granted, your daughter sounds very bright, but I think overall we underestimate the brilliance of kids to grasp such grand concepts.

    And, though I'm not a Christian, I think it's so fitting that your child "shall lead" you into Green awareness. She does sound like a very smart and caring person. She's lucky to have parents who now encourage her to develop those interests. Many parents would never make the transition you did; they'd simply hope the kid grew out of that phase!

    As for Adam and the whole "Treehugger" argument…aren't you guilty of the very thing you accuse the environmentalists of doing: Saying that labels are wrong but then generalizing (labeling) the majority of environmentalists as "treehugggers"? I know Adam personally, so I understand what he was ultimately getting at, but I think you're treading some dangerous waters, pal! 😉

    Anyway, great read.


  • Sorry, poor choice of words perhaps. Let me elaborate.

    From a non-environmentalists standpoint, the name "treehugger" is used negatively sometimes. (Not by myself mind you, I am just passing along observations) I believe they use it because the act of hugging can be viewed as "soft."

    My point was that environmentalists that accept the treehugger title are not what I would consider "soft." As I wrote the post quickly, it came out less definitive than I may have liked. Sorry for the confusion on that.

    But you see how a label creates separation. Just as I used the term, you looked at it as an insult. Which it was not meant to be.

    Absolutely "environmentalist" is a label. And a lot of people are turned off by the term. I don't know if there is a way around that. It will probably continue to take education.

  • I am a Treehugger and I fully embrace that fact (when I'm not fully embracing trees).

    So Adam, if I accept the label of treehugger and even identify with it, you perceive me as a 'wuss?'

    I'm not sure what to make of your statement, "When in fact many environmentalists are not." Are you implying that most ARE? Maybe you'd care to elaborate on that.

    Finally, isn't "environmentalist" a label in its own right?

  • Helene Porter

    Yeah Miss Heidi! This article is fantastic. I'm so proud of you. Keep up the good work.

  • heidi suydam

    Adam – Thank you for the comment and question. Thinking about this today, I realize she spent a lot of time with my father before he passed away. He had a great passion for animals and their environment….it is likely that this is where her passion was birthed.

    I agree, labels create separation.

  • Very interesting read.

    I am curious if she is aware of where her passion came from?

    I also found her distaste for the label "treehugger" fascinating. I think that for a lot of people, labels turn them away from environmental issues. "Treehugger" makes someone sound like a wuss. When in fact many environmentalists are not.

    The other problem with labels is that it creates separation.

    Good stuff. Very insightful.

  • Julie Windus

    Thank you for this article – I just ordered my recycling bins after reading it!

  • Marjorie Suydam

    This was an inspiring article. After reading it, I realize how neglectful I have been and plan to recycle in the future.

  • Tim – Good question. Honestly, I just dismissed it. It's shameful in retrospect. Change can only come by first honestly admitting where you went wrong, so that is what I've done.

    By the way, she has forgiven me and is cheering me on in my green pursuit (and helping me too). She feels very validated and empowered!

    Thanks for the comment and the question.

  • Heidi – Great story and you told it well. I think kids all over are doing remarkable things out of concern for the environment.

    Really young people are usually apolitical, kind of like the way they may not like the taste of asparagus or fish. But just as their taste buds develop, so will their politics. It will be people like your daughter who will help dispel notion that "the environment" can only be a cause supported by the political left.

    But, I've got to ask, why didn't you let her write the letter to the President? Don't answer if you don't want to 🙂