Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Actually Pretty Easy Being Green

I'm not sure if I should be worried or celebrating. Right now, going "green"--changing practices and products to be more environmentally friendly--is all the rage. NBC Universal is running a week of green-themed programming that started Sunday, as part of their "Green is Universal" campaign. There was recently a fashion show in which all the models wore environmentally friendly clothes--made from bamboo, recycled materials, organic cotton.

In a way, all this is fabulous, because (1), it makes transforming my everyday, non-famous, low-income grad-student life green much easier and cheaper, and (2), it makes those of us that are eco-friendly already cool, not crunchy.

Therein lies the problem, however. What is cool one week can be totally out the next. If going green is just trendy, just a fad, (and with the sheer amount of coverage it's getting in every area of our lives, it's easy to believe it is), it'll go out of style like slouch socks and synthesized music. People will go back to what's easier, more convenient. Environmentally-friendly products and services will be harder to find and therefore more expensive, so even more people will stop using them.

Hopefully, though, it will catch on and become so mainstream that people get dirty looks if they use plastic bags at the grocery store. Or buy regular incandescent light bulbs (seriously, if you haven't changed to compact flourescent yet, walk away from your computer and do it--or hey, order them online!). I'm not saying we should be mean to each other, but it's the (sad) fact that the perceived thoughts of the society around us do influence the way we act.

I think perhaps the way to make this last is to make it a movement, not a trend. Like civil rights and women's lib, we need to take a stand and fight for what's right. The government certainly won't change its policies based on what's trendy. Patterns show they rarely make changes even for the truth (like the fact that abstinence-only sex education doesn't work, and the fact that most Americans want low-income kids to receive health care through S-CHIP. But I digress).

So I would urge you--and I'll do the same--to take a moment today to do something for the environment that makes you part of the movement to take better care of the Earth and its inhabitants, rather than just making you part of the trend. Here are some suggestions:

  • Write an e-mail to your representatives urging them to make environmentally-conscious decisions

  • Donate money to a worthy cause that helps farmers grow organically, or cleans up the oceans

  • Go to and (for free!) save a little bit of the rainforest

  • If you invest, look into putting "green stocks" in your portfolio

  • Make eco-changes with a child, and talk about why you're doing it

  • Investigate ways to make changes at your workplace--here in NYC, I know of at least one law firm that has gone completely paper free. Perhaps your company doesn't need to be so drastic, but at least try make sure they're recycling and not using styrofoam cups!

  • For you churchy folk, think about your coffee hour: styrofoam cups? Disposable everything? Financially it's tight, I know, but what message are you sending about being stewards of God's creation?

Have more suggestions? Share them! Have good/bad greening experiences? By all means, send them on, Eco-Warriors! With any luck, my future great-grandkids will wonder why we had to fight at all.

Hm, on second thought, that'd be nice for civil rights and women's lib, too.

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  1. Hey Beth, Great blog. I am an aussie living in New Zealand to contextualise my questions! You mention, 'abstinence-only sex education doesn't work'. I am curious about this statement, as we have had a campaign in this part of the world that has been focused on using condoms (much more secular here). And interestingly this has mostly been unhelpful in combating the challenges around teenage pregnancy, abortion, and STDs. it is certainly a difficult issue to address. So the abstenance campaign isn't working?

    Also I was interested in your comments on being more green. I cannot help but feel much of what is proposed is rather token. Surely the number one priority is transitioning from petrochemical based transport and industry? This is the 'elephant in the room' and seem to be spending our time preoccupied with the little bugs. Be interested in your thoughts!

    Mark Brown

  2. Great questions, Mark!

    It's interesting to find out that the condom campaign in your area hasn't worked. Here in the states, a study was just released that said abstinence-only sex education (so that means telling kids nothing about contraceptives or safer-sex practices, only that they shouldn't have sex and ways to say no) has absolutely no effect on teenager's behavior. And if it's not stopping them from having sex, but we're not giving them info on how to do it safely...well, you see what happens. I'd be interested to know of similar studies in NZ or AU.

    As for the being green stuff, certainly on a larger scale, we should be lessening our dependence on oil, yes. However, my point was that we can start making a difference by making small, everyday changes. People worry that becoming more eco-friendly will mean huge lifestyle and so avoid doing anything at all. I was just trying to say that little things are a good way to start.

  3. Thanks for your response! I would imagine a abstinence-only campaign would only work within tight local communities, where those targeted are influenced by parents and significant others who they respect. Not sure that plastering billboards or having TV, magazine ads would do it. How was it delivered?

    I agree that 'little things are a good way to start.' Clearly any effort is good effort. The danger is that this becomes the substitute for more substantial action. People assuage their guilt in completing the small things with no further pressure or action taken toward the bigger challenges.

    Mark Brown