Green Spotlight: Eileen Tackles Green Guilt and Eco-Friendly Economics

We at Green Baby Guide love to hear voices from the trenches of eco-friendly parenting.  In part three of our Green Spotlight series this month, Eileen Spillman, single mom, middle school teacher, and environmentalist, inspires us to use green guilt to our advantage. 

How do you handle “green guilt?”

I put it to good use!  Seriously, guilt is normal and healthy.  If you didn’t feel guilt, I think you’d be a sociopath.  Just don’t let it turn into anxiety and paralyze you.  I use it to fuel my creative energy.  I try to always tell myself that I can’t completely change my whole lifestyle overnight.  I make one change at a time and once I’ve got that down, I can think about the next thing. 

I guess for me the guilt is just an awareness, I recognize that my lifestyle is still not one of zero environmental impact and so the guilt keeps me moving forward.  I don’t know if a life that has zero environmental impact is possible and I wouldn’t want anyone to kill themselves working towards that, but I also don’t like to see people who say that we can never do enough so why bother or who make one change and pat themselves on the back thinking they’re all done.   

Have you managed to save money going green?  If so, how?  

Oh gosh yes.  And I actually don’t think I am spending less than before I made these changes, but I am able to keep up with inflation even when my paycheck doesn’t.  I use less electricity, less gas and I definitely spend less on cleaning supplies.  Instead of running out and buying something when I need it, I try to be resourceful and creative. 

Buying fewer consumables and not buying things new saves you a ton of money.  For me, living on a very tight budget, many of these green choices were no-brainers.  It’s just a huge ironic bonus that, by being poor, I am for the first time in my life doing something trendy and cool.  Truly being green means consuming less and that saves money. 

We’d love to hear your reflections on today’s green spotlight.  You just might end up being our next contributor!


  1. What a fabulous, sane, healthy attitude. And you’re absolutely right that the cornerstone of green living isn’t dropping $125 on organic Edun jeans, but having less – and somehow getting more! A few years ago, we spent nearly every Saturday at the mall, buying stuff we “needed.” Now we spend our Saturdays at the local park or in our friendly, walkable neighborhood. We’re so much happier – and I don’t cringe when I open the Visa bill, either. I’m going to keep your perspective on green guilt in mind whenever I stew over Not Doing Enough Right Now – thanks!

  2. I’m all for using guilt to our advantage, but sometimes as a parent I feel completely overwhelmed by it. I have to worry about lead, plastic, diapers, organics, sunscreen — each of these can have safety components, environmental components, and cost components. And then of course as a parent there’s thousands of other things I should worry about too (safety, childproofing, daycare, discipline, sleep, money, etc etc etc). I often wish for some good data about relative benefits so that I can focus my concerns in the most effective places.

    But to stop complaining, I do think its great when we can make a choice that does double duty or even triple duty. Buying non-processed foods saves money, wastes fewer resources, and tastes better (but of course I have to balance that with the costs of time). No driving lowers my carbon emissions, keeps me fit, and gives me more opportunity to engage with my local community (and I have to balance that with time/inconvenience issues).

  3. Angela, I really do understand how overwhelming it gets. For several years I did nothing except recycle (which is so second nature around here, it doesn’t even count!). And I guess that’s my point. Don’t worry about it all at once, just take care of one thing at a time. When that feels second nature, try another thing.

    And I hear you on wanting to know what things actually make the biggest difference. One interesting tool is to calculate your carbon footprint. There are several places on the web to do this. IF you play around with it, you can see how different activities change your footprint compared to others.

  4. Green guilt is just the tip of the iceberg…I also live with first world guilt – our abundance of food, toys, box stores, and clutter!

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