the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Talking “Green” with My Mother and Her Friend, Laura

I had lunch on Sunday with my mother and Laura, the friend who went with my mother on the recent Alaskan cruise.   I hadn’t seen Laura in a while. She was the one who made the arrangement for the trip.

Neil:  Did you enjoy the Alaskan cruise?

Laura:  Wonderful.

Neil:  What was your favorite part?

Laura:  Everything.

Neil:  I think Mom liked the food the best!

Mom:  Ha Ha.  You’re right!

Neil:  When my mother came back, I asked her to tell me all about Alaska, and she spent most of the time talking about the food.

Mom:  It was too much, even for me. You could eat 24 hours a day, even at midnight.  This man at our table would order three entrees every night — meat, chicken, lobster.  That’s just not healthy.

Laura:  I tried to limit myself.

Mom:  Me, too.  I still put on ten pounds.  From now on, I’m good. 

Laura:  There were plenty who were a lot worse than us.

Mom:  Remember when that woman from Seattle came to the table with a big tray of ten desserts, and I thought, “How nice. She’s bringing one for everyone at the table,” and then we found out that they were all for her!”

Laura:  She would have slapped you if you went near her dessert.  People went crazy with the food.

Neil:  Mom said the glaciers weren’t as impressive as in the brochure. 

Mom:  They looked more like rocks with snow on them.

Laura:  Well, it was that time of year.

Neil:  It was funny how on the Princess Cruise website, they show the ship sailing between what look like the icebergs from the Titanic movie.

Mom:  They also never show you the five OTHER cruise ships that are there at the same exact time you are.

Laura:  But it was a lot of fun.  We played some trivial games with some other passengers.  Some never even left the ship!

Elaine:  We loved this train ride up… where was this…?

Laura:  I don’t remember.  It was nice.

Elaine:  And the entertainment was Las Vegas quality.  Maybe not the Belaggio quality, but one of the lesser casinos.

Neil:  Did you see any whales?

Mom:  That was funny.  One day, they said “Whale on the right side,” on the loudspeaker, so everyone ran — and all you could see was a fin.

Neil:  On the website, they show whales jumping out of the water and eating snacks from the hands of the passengers.  Liars.

Laura:  But it was delightful.

Elaine:  It was.  The people of Alaska are very nice.

Neil:  How many Alaskans did you meet?

Elaine:  The tour guides.

Neil:  Do you think the glaciers are smaller now because of global warming?

Laura:  I don’t believe in that Al Gore stuff.

Neil:  Why not?

Laura:  I saw another show where they said it is a natural occurence.  We had an Ice Age once before and now the weather is changing again.

Neil:  What do you think, Mom?

Mom:  I believe in global warming.  Too many cars.  Whenever I go to LA, everyone has three cars.

Laura:  I don’t believe in the whole “green” thing.

Mom:  I do, but some of it — I have to admit — is just plain stupid.

Neil:  Like what?

Mom:  Like they say, “Don’t take the plastic bag at the grocery store.  Take the paper bag.”  Now if I take the paper bag, where am I going to throw my garbage in the kitchen?  The paper bag will just fall apart.  So, then I will end up buying Hefty plastic bags to throw out my garbage, and it’ll be the exact same thing, except before – I could have gotten the plastic bags for free.  Right?

Neil:  You know, you make a good point, Mom.  I don’t know the answer to that question.

Mom:  Why don’t you write THAT on your blog?


  1. Dagny

    Sometimes I get the paper bags and sometimes I get the plastic. Have you ever tried to get rid of litterbox scoopings in a paper bag? Ewwwww! And it’s illegal in California to flush litterbox waste.

  2. sizzle

    Your mom really does have a very valid point. It’s all about using less.

  3. Stefani

    Great post. The paper/plastic bag thing is a tough debate. Some would say to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, so you don’t bring home extra plastic OR paper bags, and you’ll end up just throwing away the Hefty bags, as your mom puts it.

    This is your Mom, however. Will she remember to bring a reusable bag to the store? Will she remember to bring enough of them? It’s never easy…so when in doubt, less is definitely better. Not the best, but better.

  4. Neil

    Sizzle — My mother emailed me with a question for you?

    “Using less . does that mean you should eat less or eat the garbage so you would not have so much garbage . but you still need plastic bags to throw out the garbage whether it is big black plastic or pathmark [our local supermarket] plastic.”

  5. alissa

    I kind of really want to have lunch with you and your mom.

  6. Alice

    it is a good point. i use the plastic bags i do end up with for cat scoopings as well, but…. then again i am just using regular hefty bags for the main trash. sheesh. i guess the best you can do is impliment small changes so it all adds up.

  7. Judy C

    Buy less, use less but my guess is that your mom has a naturally small carbon footprint.

  8. Dagny

    Forgot to mention — I use the paper bags for taking the recycling out to the curb. And yeah, still using Hefty bags for the garbage itself most of the times.

    Your mom would not have these questions in San Francisco though. Grocery stores in San Francisco can no longer give out plastic bags. It’s paper or bring your own.

  9. Memarie Lane

    I actually made that very point on my blog once. Everyone’s using those reusable bags now, but if I used those I’d have to start buying trash bags, so what’s the point? I also don’t understand why people put dog poop in plastic bags and throw it away. They’re turning something biodegradable into something non-biodegradable.

  10. Jennifer H

    She does have a point.

    I do use my reusable grocery bags, but my husband never does. So the ones he brings home get used for the small wastebaskets in our house, or I take them back to the store to drop off for recycling.

    The reusable bags I bought were only 99c at my grocery store, and they give a 5c credit for every bag you use when you shop. So in 20 uses, they paid for themselves.

  11. mp

    I like your mom! I love the uppity snobby people who go to the grocery store w/ their reusable tote bag…then they fill it w/ plastic bags full of groceries..IDIOTS

    I’m w/’s a natural’s a cycle.. Ice Age..melt..Ice Age..melt.. Flood, Fire, Earthquakes..every once in a while humans help speed up the process.

  12. mp

    PS, I don’t believe in Al Gore either

  13. Neil

    Can’t someone come up with biodegradable garbage bags that are strong like plastic?

  14. Florencia

    I knew I liked your mom! Here in San Francisco we no longer get to choose and yes, we end up spending money to buy garbage bags. Very clever, good job people!

    p/s Neil, we should have coffe or something when you come for BlogHer 🙂

  15. di

    I don’t feel clever enough to comment today … sigh.

  16. Amanda

    I use reusable bags for my groceries. I think the point is, you can fit a lot more trash in a hefty bag which will use less plastic than the equivalent in small grocery bags

  17. wendy

    Reusable bags user here…except when I forget them in the trunk. Then I curse. I don’t feel uppity at all about it. It’s a tough habit to break…and it’s just a tiny little habit. But it’s a start.

    I also never bought my kids “lunchables” when they were smaller. Not biodegradable…We have a compost pile sometimes..and I drive a hybrid.

    Yeah, I guess I’m a snobby tree hugger.
    Deal with it.

  18. wendy

    PS… check out the Bio-Bags site…

  19. kristen

    I agree with your mom – someone needs to answer the plastic bag question definitively. I use a reusable much of the time, but not all the time, because in our house we too use the plastic bags for garbage. Maybe we’re supposed to not use bags for our garbage at all….? Just carry the bucket down to the dumpster and turn it upside down?


  20. better safe than sorry

    i use the recyclable bags when i grocery shop, but i still need to use plastic bags to throw out garbage, but i hardly have any garbage now, i’d say about 90% is recycled.
    there was an article in our paper recently on a high school student who won an award for creating some sort of solution that goes on those plastic bags and helps them decompose in three months instead of the 1000 years, i wish i had kept the article, i would have e-mailed it to your mother.

  21. pia

    Your mother posts have reached iconic status to me. They’re as good as a trip home, well sorta 🙂

  22. Finn

    I’ve had that question about the plastic bags, too. OMG. Have I become YOUR mother?

  23. Neil

    I have to be honest, I don’t use those Trader Joe’s-type bags either. I usually shop once or twice a week and buy three or four bags of groceries at a time. Do most of you keep four bags in your car or carry these bags with you when you go shopping?

    Or do most of you live like Parisians and go shopping daily, picking up a fresh baguette, an orange, and some fresh cheese from your little corner store — enough just to fit in that little Trader Joe’s tote bag.

  24. Neil

    Finn — No wonder why I like you so much. You are like my mother.

    And here’s that link from Better Safe Than Sorry about the Canadian high school student working on the plastic issue

  25. Stacey

    Around here you’re lucky if you can find paper bags. If you don’t specify that you want paper, you get plastic. (Don’t expect them to ask your preference either.) I guess the plastic bags are cheaper for the grocery stores or something like that. Nevermind that you wind up with eight plastic bags instead of two paper ones.

  26. Fairly Odd Mother

    I’m still stuck on the lady who ate 10 desserts. God only knows what SHE’s doing to the environment!

  27. Poppy Buxom

    Green, shmeen. Who cares? Your mother gave birth to you AND she handed you a blog post–how cool is that?

    By any chance is she open to the idea of adopting a middle-aged woman? I could use a little inspiration for my blog, and this might be just what the doctor ordered.

  28. Lady Jaye

    People have let this whole going green thing go way too far. I love the environment as much as the next citizen of the earth but I don’t think things like your mother was talking about are really going to help the world.

    It’s totally out of control when a school drops a sporting team (football) because of no money but can instated a “green” fee from every student.

  29. V-Grrrl

    I love your mother’s take on the cruise. I’ve never been on a cruise because the thought of being trapped in a confined space with hundreds of camera toting tourists,too much food, and Vegas-style entertainment sounds like torture.

    Maybe the icebergs are melting from too many people on ships breathing on them. All those CO2 emissions from panting fat people (stuffed with cruise food)jockeying for position along the rails to get photos. GAH! ; )

  30. Neil

    V-grrrl – just to defend cruises – not that I know too much about them — but I also had this image of everyone on the cruise being ninety years old or eating all the time. But my mother says that times have changed. She said there were all age groups, including young honeymooners and a lot of parents with kids. The ship offered extensive activities for the kids and daycare.

    So, while my mother’s take may be mostly about the food (it is always the food with her!), she herself told me that a cruise could be different things for different people. There were even adventure side-trips, like hiking and going on dog sleds, that were catered to the younger and more athletic crowd.

    I don’t have much of an interest in cruising, but I wouldn’t look down on it anymore. It looks like it could be fun experience — if you accept it for what it is. I once went on a short cruise to Mexico with Sophia, and it was kind of fun, in the same way that going to Las Vegas is fun.

    I even won the trivia tournament (and knocked a shuffleboard puck off the ship into the Pacific ocean).

  31. Poppy Buxom

    I’m the blog crush of the day!


    (Take that, betches!)

  32. melanie

    love it! whales, buffets and free plastic bags.

    Cant wait to see more blog material from the NY sabbatical.

  33. Dana

    Trivial games *never* leave the ship.

  34. Sarcastic Mom

    I’m the blathering idiot who wants to say a million things right now, like:

    We actually re-used our plastic bags as garbage bags for a long time. Recently, I started using those reusable grocery bags. Probably the best, as far as the choice b/w paper or plastic.

    (Btw, some sources say that it’s NOT better to use paper, since MORE resources are used in their production. So if plastic is chosen and recycled, it may really be “better.”)

    Recently, I started thinking that even plastic grocery bags are uneccesary for us. I mean, what if I just dump everything into the dumpster that gets emptied at my curb? Why do I even need to put it in a plastic wrapper first? It just gets thrown in the truck and them dumped somewhere, after all. I know that’s not convenient for everyone (there are many different types of living situations, after all), but for many, I think using the “garbage bag” is just a habit or tradition. Not really a necessity at all.

    Also, comments like, “I don’t belive in the whole “green” thing.” kind of disgust and intrigue me at the same time. I’d like to have known more about why she said that. Does she have “valid” points or is that just a translated form of “I’m lazy.” ?

    Sorry. I’m gone on enough now….

  35. Sarcastic Mom

    I meant “plastic GARGABE bags are unnecessary for us.”

    And felt the need to add that we recycle a lot… and all the recyling already goes into the bin with no bags involved. Hmmm….

  36. Dea

    Your mother (and all of us) could use biodegradable garbage bags instead of Hefty bags, or at the very least, trash bags made from 100% recycled plastic, which most big brands aren’t. Both choices are far more earth friendly.

    Of course, neither are free. So the personal choice becomes which matters most–getting free plastic bags that will harm our present, as well as our children and grandchildren’s futures, or paying for them so one’s grandchildren can breathe clean air and not have to deal with the difficulties of constant natural disasters.

    I know economically it can be a difficult choice to add more cost to one’s household budget. It is for me. But I am progressively feeling like I have a responsibility to not ignore the impact of what I’m doing using those free, environmentally harmful bags.

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