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Tree hugger finds her own shade of green

I'm all about being kind to Mother Earth - we moms have to stick together. Until recently, though, I hadn't given much thought to the whole environmental consciousness thing.

I'm all about being kind to Mother Earth - we moms have to stick together. Until recently, though, I hadn't given much thought to the whole environmental consciousness thing.

But, my kids dragged me to a Disney movie and all that changed. The show was Wall-E. Its premise is that, in the future, reckless consumption by humans caused the planet to be one big landfill. The gluttonous humans vacated earth, leaving one little (cute as a bug) robot named Wall-E to fix what billions of us broke.

The landscape of Mother Earth looks dismal - filled with debris and junk. Day after day our protagonist, Wall-E, picks up the garbage, one painstaking piece at a time.

That little guy, Wall-E, touched my heart. If he could make a difference, so could I! I vowed to pay more attention to my wasteful habits. I learned about carbon footprints and the importance of making mine smaller. I started separating the garbage - recycling pop cans and cardboard boxes with regularity. I refilled water bottles and started using the goofy-looking spiral light bulbs. I turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees and invested in some long underwear.

I even went out and bought some reusable cloth grocery bags. I made a special trip to a store that sold green-colored bags because they say that green is the new black, and I figured if I was going to do this "green" thing, I might as well be trendy and hip at the same time.

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When I came into the house carrying the new bags, my four children let out a collective gasp.

"Why'd you get those?" they asked. "They're tree-hugger bags!" I wasn't sure if their observation was a commendation or accusation.

I decided it didn't matter. I smiled back at them and proclaimed, "I am a tree-hugger."

The kids met my husband at the door when he came home from work.

"Mom's a tree-hugger," they announced. "She got new green shopping bags!"

That evening, everyone looked at me with a certain watchfulness, like maybe the green bags were just the start of something slightly sinister, and perhaps I was likely to turn vegetarian, get myself a Prius, take away all their electronic toys or refuse to shower for weeks.

Unfortunately, I am too practical (and fond of showers) to go that dark a shade of green. Still, I am tree-hugger in my family's eyes (and proud of it). I keep my bags in a handy spot in my van. They work well and hold lots of items.

So far, there's been only one drawback with them: my memory. More times than I want to admit, I've filled my shopping cart and then realized that I left the tree-hugger bags in the van. On lazy days (this is embarrassing) I just use the store's plastic bags. When I am feeling more tree-huggerish, I take a jog out to the van, grab the bags and return to the store huffing and puffing in an environmentally conscious sort of way.

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When making the commitment to hugging trees and reducing one's carbon footprint, one must be willing to go the extra distance, even if it makes you out of breath.

The latest research takes the idea of commitment to a whole new level. This research shows that some of the biggest contributors to large carbon footprints are the humans with the smallest feet: kids.

That's right - the people we are saving the planet for are partially to blame for its destruction. One report that came from a place called Optimum Population Trust said having large families is an "eco-crime" and should be frowned upon as an "environmental misdemeanor."

Those are strong words - especially for a law-abiding mom of four kids. At first glance, it seems I can't win. I've already broken (shattered actually) the rules dictating that a good tree hugger has no more than 1.5 children. My family's carbon imprint - can you say Big Foot?

I can't deny kids are leaving their carbon mark on the world. We all are. But I've always considered myself an optimist. My kids (and kids around the planet) may be living, breathing contributors to our pollution, but it is quite likely that they also hold the keys to our future. If a solution to this planetary mess is to be found, it's likely that one of our offspring will be the guy or gal to discover it.

Besides, if it weren't for my kids dragging me to a Disney movie, I wouldn't have caught a ride on the green train in the first place.

I hold faith in kids - that's why I had four of 'em. I'm sure that challenges my status as tree-hugger. I probably can't actually call myself "green," maybe a label of "teal" or "chartreuse" would be more appropriate. All things considered, I'm okay with that.

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award winning freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. You can check out their Web site at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/ or e-mail Jill at pertmn@qwest.net .

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