Ruth Goldman: it’s a lifestyle
By Donna Hoke Kahwaty

Ruth Goldman.
Photo by kc kratt.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. It might be the buzz phrase of the global warming generation, but for the so-called crunchy granola set, it’s always been a way of life. What used to be reserved for hippies—eschewing modern conveniences, buying used, eating organic—is now the domain of hipsters, the environmentally responsible folks who are forging a path for the rest of us, one very light carbon footprint at a time.

It’s a safe bet that we all know what to do, but it’s people like Ruth Goldman who are not just doing it, but doing it with both conviction and commitment. Raised in a family of early health food adopters and by a mother who, in her late seventies, drives a Prius, Goldman learned by example. As a typical teen, she resisted conformity, but out on her own, earth-friendly choices came naturally.

The list of choices is long. She keeps her heat low and buys only one hundred percent non-toxic health, beauty, and cleaning products. She fills her gas tank only once every three to four weeks, walking and biking wherever possible, and carefully planning errands to minimize mileage. To reduce direct contributions to the manufacturing industry, she furnishes her home with hand-me-downs and items collected curbside or at yard sales. Eighty percent of her wardrobe is thrift store chic. She keeps things for years.

She buys in bulk to reduce waste and fills her kitchen garbage pail once every two weeks; she wishes it were monthly, and is frustrated by the excess packaging she blames for the shortfall. She supports local businesses, eats organic, and, as much as possible, seasonally. “I have become much more aware of where my food is coming from, because transportation uses so much energy and creates so much pollution,” Goldman maintains. “There are things I won’t buy in the winter now, like berries or asparagus.” This summer, she’ll try the 100-mile diet. She researches parent companies so that she won’t end up buying veggie burgers from a tobacco company. If you happen to be next to her at the Lexington Co-op, she’ll likely share that information with you.

“A lot of the things I do might seem extreme to people,” Goldman notes. “I haven’t bought plastic wrap in twenty years. If I do get hold of plastic [storage] bags, I wash them out and reuse them. I just try to do all these little things, and I don’t know if I’m making any difference but I do feel good. It’s about my relationship with the earth, and treading on it as lightly as possible.”

At the University of Buffalo, where she teaches American Studies courses, Goldman is pleased by the level of her students’ awareness. And children even younger than that, she says, are the ones who are educating the parents, who are now trying to undo decades-old habits and lead greener lives. But for all the positive results of today’s eco-encouragement, there is still a “green” choice that has Goldman seeing red: lawn pesticides.

“We’re literally poisoning ourselves because we want green lawns without any weeds,” she contends. “Lawn pesticides cause cancer in dogs. People track it into their homes. It’s a whole ecosystem: It’s in the lawn, there are worms in your lawn, the birds eat the worms … People don’t realize that they’re endangering their children, animals, birds, and that there are [safer, organic] alternatives.”

That one seems so easy, Goldman observes, but “for most people, the big thing is giving up convenience. I know a lot of people who were like me but they aren’t anymore because life got hectic and they don’t think they have the time, or they have certain aesthetic values. But every year, when I go up to my family’s cottage in Canada for a few weeks, I get a huge reality check. It’s pretty remote and you can’t get much there. It makes me realize how much we think we need and how little we really do.”

Donna Hoke Kahwaty has been a writer/editor for more than twenty-three years, and returned to Buffalo with her four children in 2004.



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