Terry reaches over and shuts off the water as his wife brushes her teeth. “You don’t need to run the water when the toothbrush is in your mouth,” he chides. “You’re wasting a valuable resource.”

“Our marriage is a valuable resource too,” Deb responds. “And if you want to conserve it, you’ll get the hell out of this bathroom and let me brush in peace.”

“Suit yourself,” says Terry. “But when this lovely planet becomes a cesspool due to just this kind of thoughtless waste, you may come to regret your selfishness.” 

Deb reluctantly turns off the water. The planet is saved. But her mood is ruined. 
Cartoon by Isabella Bannerman. Used with permission.

Terry leaves the bathroom smiling. He’s discovered the unique thrill that comes from saving the earth and annoying his wife at the same time. 

• Sixteen-year-old Sara conserves water by showering infrequently. “You’ll never attract a boyfriend!” protests her mother.  

“I’ll attract an environmentalist,” says Sara smugly. “And we’ll live happily ever after, working together to rescue the earth from people like you.” What teen-age girl doesn’t love to drive her mother nuts? And Sara has found a great, Green way to do just that.

Are you a hostile person who gets into trouble when you express your anger? Would you like to annoy the hell out of friends, family, and co-workers and get away with it? Then join folks like Terry and Sara, who have mastered the art of being Greener Than Thou. You’ll drive people crazy. And they can’t tell you to go to hell—because you’re saving the planet!

Greener Than Thou is a game anyone can play. 

• Take Meg. She’s an aggressive recycler. She never misses an opportunity to guilt-trip friends and family when they toss a magazine into the trash, not the recycle bin, or commit the heinous eco-crime of enjoying bottled water.

• Or Seth.  Seth refuses to flush. “Flushing whenever you go wastes water,” he proclaims. Even when his roommates protest that the stench that builds up in their tiny shared bathroom makes them pass out.  “I love Planet Earth,” Seth says proudly.  “Deal with it.”

Of course, these folks could quietly model good ecological behavior, setting an example that others will want to follow, in a manner that is harmonious rather than provocative. But where’s the fun in that? 

• Liza’s dad recently divorced her mom after decades of marriage and bought a grand new house with his brand-new wife. How does “Greener Than Thou” Liza respond?  

Whenever she visits Dad in his new home, Liza saves the planet by unplugging every appliance not actually in use. “You do realize,” she explains as she moves through the living room unplugging everything, “that these things gobble electricity even when they aren’t turned on?”  

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Dad’s new wife says through gritted teeth as Liza unplugs the flat-screen television.  

 “I’m just helping you reduce your egregious carbon footprint,” Liza explains patiently. “My mother raised me to care about this planet.”

Liza is not only saving the earth while annoying Dad’s new bride, but she can look forward to entertaining her mother by telling her about it later. Liza is a veritable GTT black belt.

• Susan re-gifts. Give her a present, and within a year, you’ll get it right back, wrapped in used newspaper. Her friends call her a tightwad, but Susan proudly claims eco-hero status. “I refuse to buy one more piece of useless junk. Our landfills are too full already.”  Jane won’t let you throw away even a single piece of paper. “You can still use this!” she’ll cry, grabbing it out of the wastepaper basket. “Just turn it over. There’s plenty of room on the other side!”

• When a pal bites into a burger, Sam invariably remarks, “It takes 350 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. You ought to care about that, even if you’re unconcerned about how bad eating dead cow is for your heart.”

These folks have all discovered how satisfying it is to save the earth by annoying other people. You can too! Learn to express your own hostility in a socially acceptable and eco-responsible way. If you put your mind to it, I’m sure you’ll come up with hundreds of ingenious ways to save the planet by zinging friends, family, and co-workers. They may all end up hating you—but Mother Earth will love you for it.


Cartoonist/animator/painter Isabella Bannerman’s work has appeared in—among other places—“Glamour,” “The New York Times,” “The Funny Times,” “World War 3 Illustrated,” MTV, and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” Since 2000 she has been the Monday artist for Six Chix, a comic strip syndicated by King Features.

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  • Becky August 23, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I couldn’t stop laughing as I read through this post. I myself am new to this whole going green thing, but am so glad that I have. I have been reading a great book, “A Country Where All Colors Are Sacred and Alive” by Geoffrey Oelsner and am learning that our natural environment is more responsive to our love and partnership than we may have imagined. That is one reason why I will continue in the effort to protect the planet.

  • jody August 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Very funny. I always suspected a hidden objective among some of my greenish friends. Maybe I’ll find my own…

  • RozWarren August 12, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    A lot of great people posted some really good comments about this piece that were, unfortunately deleted. I’m told that it’s not possible to get them back and I’d like to apologize to everybody who took the trouble to post a comment that is no longer here. I do appreciate your posting comments about my work and hope that you’ll continue.

  • Isabella August 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Roz, this was a great pleasure to work with you on this funny essay. Part of it reminded me of an Argentinian artist I once worked with , Daniel Malgarejo.
    http://oscartoons.blogspot.com/2006/04/daniel-melgarejo.html . (His friend, Oscar Grillo, put up a short biography). Anyway, Daniel was a fantastic artist who also hated to waste paper. If you did a bad drawing AND you only used one side of the paper, he would get really mad – and then you would feel even worse because even the drawings he did on tiny scraps were great.