Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Green as I Can Be

Everywhere you turn, somebody is urging you to "go green" - act in an ecologically preserving/restoring way. Frankly, some of the urgent "go green" messages are just plain dumb.

A major oil company wants to impress with its green attitude, reinventing itself with alternative energy sources or methods. I will admit to skepticism here. I mean, how great is your commitment to sustainability and conservation when your entire stable of products is based on burning fossil fuels?

While I applaud green efforts by anyone, we need to face reality. There is probably no completely environmentally sound lifestyle or business practice. Think about it. You grind your fair-trade organic coffee beans to make your morning coffee. Even if you use a metal mesh filter, thereby saving a paper filter from the landfill, you're not completely green. You used either tap or bottled water to fill the pot - that tap water most likely went through a filtration or treatment system, the bottled water came from a jug or bottle. You used electricity to pump and heat the water and brew the coffee. Do you add your coffee grounds to your garden, or pitch them in the trash?

Recycle aluminum, paper, plastic or glass? Does the energy expended to recycle something exceed that needed for new production? Are you really practicing sustainability if you purchase carbon credits to offset your flight to Vegas?

There is no perfect sustainability, as far as I can see. So here's what I am doing about it. I take reusable shopping bags with me most days (I am occasionally forgetful, you know), even though I sometimes have to push to get the store to use them. I print on both sides of the paper whenever possible. I reuse paper that's been printed on just one side, or on only one part. I drive a hybrid vehicle and get 52+ miles to the gallon combined highway and city driving. I reuse plastic containers for food instead of plastic wrap or foil. We are changing our light bulbs to low-energy bulbs as they need replacing. I recycle clothing and housewares to charities whenever possible, and I've given away things using FreeCycle.com instead of the trash. I combine trips in my automobile, planning out my errands by the side of town I am visiting. I am the champion of turning off lights when not needed. I recycle my trash for curbside pickup. And I even use Blackle instead of Google to save minuscule amounts of electricity.

Here's where I could do a better job: batteries, wasted food, wasted packaging (buying bulk instead of individual servings), unplugging chargers and appliances when not in use, walking or bicycling more. Really, I need to try to reduce in addition to reusing and recycling - I don't really need so many possessions...except my books, and those I tend to buy from (and resell to) a resale shop anyway.

I know - no matter what you and I do, it falls short. But if we are doing something at all in the right direction, I think we're making the world more sustainable. I am willing to keep trying new ways to save our planet, and I am glad to know so many others are doing the same. Thanks - as the author Terry Pratchett wrote, "ONLY YOU CAN SAVE THE WORLD!"

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