Saturday, May 17, 2008

Going green - It's more than light bulbs

Our local news station ran an article and news clip yesterday about a gentleman in town who was "going green and saving green."  The article described "going green" as the latest fad, but that in a time when prices are rising, this fad could be a way to save a little money.  The article goes on to talk all about changing light bulbs, the possibility of installing solar panels, and ends with four links about going green (all of which are energy/bulb related).

All this is fine and good, but is this really what all of mainstream America thinks of "Going Green?" This is just a fad, not a new way of life? That when the economy is better, we can go back to being wasteful and irresponsible with resources? That all we need to do is change a few light bulbs and we will have single-handedly saved the Earth? I'm glad that most people have accepted that it's important to do something, but is this all the further the message has gone?

I'm glad these kinds of articles are hitting our papers, but I guess I find this disturbing for two reasons:

First, this CAN'T just be a fad. It MUST become a new way of life. It's like the women's or civil rights movements - once we realized we'd done wrong, we began to change our errant ways. "Going green" is no different.  I believe being "green" is about
  • Not wasting resources just because we can
  • Getting back in touch with the fact that we are part of nature and not masters of it
  • Realizing that we as humans are taking more than our share of the Earth's resources (a lot more) and taking steps to correct it
  • Acknowledging that we (the inhabitants of Planet Earth) are all the same (we all want to be happy, we all want our needs to be met) and that other people, plants and animal's needs for earth, air, water, food, etc. are just as important as mine - so SHARE, dang-it!
  • Connecting with the things that make us happy on a fundamental level (no, that's not more stuff - not even more "green" stuff) like relationships, community, health, peace, etc.
Second, why do we keep hearing about light bulbs when there are so many other SUPER EASY ways to be green? Here are some things that we've done at our house (certainly not exhaustive):
  • Park the car as often as possible - bus, bike, walk around town
  • Eat organic
  • Eat local
  • Eat whole, non-processed foods
  • Adjust the thermostat in the house just a few degrees (especially when we're gone during the day)
  • Use an electric blanket on cold winter nights instead of heating the entire house
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle!
  • Refuse to buy items that don't come in packaging that is recyclable within our area
  • Shop second hand 
  • Think before we buy - do we really NEED this or can we do without, make it ourselves, or borrow it?
  • Borrow books and movies instead of buying new
  • Buy local gifts or give baked goods, time, or other homemade goods (I crochet blankets for all our nieces and nephew's births)
  • If we have to use paper goods, choose recycled (toilet paper, paper towels, etc)
  • Reuse computer paper at work for scratch pads
  • No Plastic Bags! We carry our own cloth bags. I follow the AMEX moto - don't leave home without it
  • Take my own water bottle, cloth napkin, silverware, and to-go container to any restaurant that uses disposable items
  • Use cloth napkins/wash clothes instead of paper towels and tissues
  • Take navy showers
  • Adjusted our toilet valve to use less water
  • Wash our clothes in cold instead of hot water
  • Eat lower on the food chain/eat meat less often
  • Make our own food from scratch - breads, yogurt, soups, tea, cookies, ice cream, etc
  • Compost (we have our trash down to 1 kitchen size bag every 6 weeks!)
  • Reuse paper to make our own greeting cards
  • Pack my lunch for work instead of eating out
  • Donate or sell (Craigslist, eBay, garage sales, etc) unwanted items so they don't get trashed - we try to find someone else who can give them a good home
And there are so many more things we'd like to try, like putting out a clothesline, starting our own garden, making our own butter, continuing to prune unnecessary consumption and expenses from our lives, etc. What else? I know there must be hundreds of easy ideas out there; small steps towards "going green." What other things are people doing out there?

I tend to be on the shy side so my philosophy has been fairly Buddhist in nature - rather than proselytize the green movement, I just do my thing and talk about it when someone approaches me and asks. How do you get the word out? What do we need to do to let people know that "going green" is here to stay; that it's more than just light bulbs?

P.S. Ok. I'm feeling better now. That article just got to me...


Melissa said...

this is a great post...what is ironic is that unlike the light bulb changing, many of these changes don't actually involve ANY up front spending. Buying less is free! walking is free! I don't think it's entirely accidental that most of these sorts of articles tend to offer "solutions" that involve spending money.

Beany said...

I agree with these sentiments.

My new complaint is for the green spokespersons (Al Gore, etc) to quit flying everywhere to tell people to change lightbulbs or buy a new hybrid car or whatever. We have satellite conferencing technology and these people should use it instead of stressing themselves and using up all that airline fuel. It makes the message seem a bit disingenuous.

Green Bean said...

Great list. I think it is important to spell out for people that Going Green doesn't mean you carry a canvas bag and install some CFLs and call it a day. But I also think it important to provide people with checklists so that there are concrete things to do to live greener. Great post.

Ginger said...

If you're really into helping out the environment then I suggest "switching to bioheat" be added on the list. It's great because it's non-toxic and biodegradable. The best part is that it's made of heating oils blended with organic materials like corn and avocado. If you're interested in making your winter green then t his is definitely the way to go.

I found out about bioheat here at my job. I researched it and got a lot of great info from:

Check it out and see what other kinds of stuff you might be interested in trying.

Heather @ SGF said...

Ginger - are you here in the BCS area? What did you have to do to change to bioheat?