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Q. Dear Umbra,

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I consider myself to live simply and in an environmentally conscious way. I have been having trouble with those who also are “green” but seem to be smug about it, ostentatious even, maybe hypocritical when judging others who appear “un-green” based on superficial things like my clothes. How do I stop being judgmental of the judgmental?

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A. Dearest Meghan,

omigodHowsabout we spend less time being shocked by people’s green choices and more time getting good stuff done.I chose your letter to kick off the New Year because I think it reminds us all of an important rule to live by: Judge not, lest ye be considered a self-righteous eco-prig more interested in the appearance of greenness than in making true planetary progress.

Meghan, you have probably noticed that over the last two or three years “green” has taken on a certain trendiness. Celebrities parade about in “think green” T-shirts and electric cars, and stores push us to keep up with the fashions by buying eco-items we surely don’t need. But you must know that there’s a wide spectrum of green in the world, and there’s more to green than all this faddishness. Clothes may make the man, but they don’t make the man (or woman) green.

While your consciousness is apparently not elevated enough for those who are judging you, it is probably far higher than many others will ever achieve. But that is not the point. The very layeredness of your question — how to stop judging the judgers — suggests that we are all in danger of losing sight of the true reason for “being green” in the first place. It is not so that we might win a contest, or parade our virtues about, or be in a position to make snide comments about those who don’t appear to have seen the light. It is so that we might make this planet a healthier, happier place to live.

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Far be it from me to judge you for judging. But may I gently suggest that one way to stop being judgmental of the judgmental would be to put your energies into something else instead. Go clean up your local park. Become a Grist Climate Citizen and fight for climate legislation you believe in. Get a home energy audit and take steps to weatherize your house or apartment. Write a letter to a corporation either lauding or lambasting its practices.

We all could stand to spend more time doing this sort of thing in the New Year, and less time playing the “who’s greenest” game. Let’s just agree to live and let vert — and let’s make 2010 a year to remember.