Honey, I Killed The Plant: My Green Guilt Comes Home

This, my friends, I am sorry to say is—or rather, was— my Cuban oregano plant, until it started to die. You should have seen it when I brought it home from the farmer's market, all bright-leaved and bushy-branched, practically bursting out of the soil in its photosynthetic ecstasy. I was immensely proud, and when my husband gave me that quizzical I'm-pausing-while-I-carefully-consider-how-to-say-what-I'm-thinking-right-now look, I hurriedly cut him off: "Don't worry! I will take care of it. It'll be fine this time." Sad, sad optimism that comes before the fall.

My husband had a reason to be concerned. The thing is... I can't quite seem to keep any plants alive. Gasp! I know, I know! As the managing editor of Re-Nest, a site not infrequently devoted to writing about gardening and growing your own food and window boxes, this seems a bit out of the ordinary.

I love plants, and I'd like nothing more than an indoor herb garden. And yet... I seem to be terrible at it! Robust herbs shrivel into nothingness, ferns fade away, and all I'm left with are piles of dirt that are a pretty good approximation of how I'm feeling right about then. And then I think: "Thank goodness for some of the other writers on Re-Nest who do and write about this with such aplomb," followed closely by "I should ask the readers what I'm doing wrong." And then I had a bit of an epiphany:

(Are you ready for this? Because it's pretty mind-blowing. I considered patenting the idea before I wrote this post.)

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I don't need to do it all!

Wow. I'll give you a moment to digest that. I bet you didn't think you'd be in for such philosophizing today!

Here's what I'm saying: if you're someone interested in green design and lifestyle, then you're probably someone that suffers from an unhealthy case of green guilt every once and awhile. I know I do. I spend my days reading and writing and researching about all aspects of a green home—products, furniture, design, consumption habits, urban homesteading, the handmade movement, locavores, zero-net energy, recycling and composting— and sometimes a vision emerges through all those things of the "ideal green home," or even more ominous, the "ideal green person." I'm sure you can imagine what I mean by that: in my mind, it's usually some combination of radical homemaker cum DIY maven cum interior design afficionado.

First things first: If you are one of those people, then you deserve all the accolades I can possibly give you. And I would like to be your roommate. (Husband not included.)

Secondly: If you're only part of the equation above, or maybe none of it at all, welcome to the party! Most of us are middling achievers, just trying to do the best we can. But there are good things to not being able to do it all yourself.

  • If you can't do it, support someone who can. Not having the skills or time to do it yourself shouldn't be a cause for guilt; it can be an opportunity to support someone else. I'm not growing my own food right now (clearly), but that lets me be a member of my local CSA and shop at farmer's markets and support a whole group of people who make their living this way.
  • If you don't know how to do it, find someone who does. This is one of my favorite things about Re-Nest and the whole Apartment Therapy community—writers and readers, many of whom are experts, offering helpful and constructive opinions on everything from how to install cork tile floors to recommended natural non-bleach whiteners to the best design tips and strategies for small spaces. (Granted, I know not all comments are constructive, but I think most people get what we're about.)
  • If you don't do it all, don't feel bad. Sarah Rae knows her way around a craft project better than anyone I know; Amber is a homemaker's dream; Rachel knows a ton about green building materials and strategies; Liz is an amazing photographer. They're better at all these things than I am, and I'm grateful that I can learn from them and try to improve my own skills and habits as best as I can, gradually. Going green in your home and your life shouldn't be a competition.

Maybe someday I'll finally try worm composting. Or build this super cool pipe plumbing shelf. Oh, and I really want a new, eco-friendly mattress , too. But for now, I have this Cuban oregano plant that is trying to survive despite my best efforts to kill it. And that's a good place to start.

(Images: Cambria Bold)