Friday, April 23, 2010

Global Schmorming

Last night, I was watching TV (I'm not telling you what show because I have my pride) and this guy was bragging about how "ungreen" he is. He proudly displayed for the camera the four "herbies" of trash that his family produces each WEEK (we have a baby in diapers and it takes us two weeks to get one full enough to bother with), talked about their determination to not conserve water or electricity and pointed out how his children are encouraged to be wasteful. "I just don't believe in global warming" was his explanation.

Okay, first off, a little sociopolitical ranting: If you choose to believe a scientist paid by a non-green government over decades of independent researchers, you are probably the proud owner of a certain bridge in New York. They lie, people. They lie. And okay, global warming is a stupid name, since it doesn't actually mean that things are going to feel warmer. Which is why most scientists have changed the terminology to global climate change. It's the politicians that keep saying global warming. Why? Because they don't want you to believe in it. If you believe in it, you might demand that the government freakin' do something about it.

Okay, end rant and taking off the tinfoil hat.

Here's my response to wasteful guy: So freaking what? You don't believe in global warming. Global Schmarming, you say? Fine. So what?

Do you not believe in half a million acres of land being covered in landfills (This is, by the way, only the active landfills, there are no accurate acre counts on abandoned landfills because there are so many ranging from actual municipal landfills to "dump" areas)? Do you believe in most of these landfills resulting in toxic chemicals leaking into the water supply? Do you believe in acid rain (a concept pretty much as old as industrialization? Do you believe in smog? Do you believe in the Pacific Garbage Patch?

Because it seems to me that global climate change (which I totally do believe in, personally) is just the tip of the iceberg (see what I did there?). Climate change is a serious problem and we need to deal with it, but even if you don't believe in it, or don't care about it or whatever, we still have other problems. Problems that can't be blamed on anyone but us. I mean seriously, cows did not dump all that plastic in the Pacific ocean.

I frankly, don't see what excuse anyone has to be that "ungreen." I am not super green. I am going to admit that I don't recycle. I feel terribly guilty about this. We don't have roadside pick up and we never have aluminum in the house. I have other excuses, but none of them are especially convincing. Brynna and I have agreed to set up paper and plastic centers in the basement this summer. We also have a sort of kind of compost pile. Okay, there is no compost in that pile, however, we still dump our vegetable waste in it and even though I have not managed to make anything useful out of it, it doesn't smell, it doesn't take up much room and it biodegrades in my back yard instead of in the local landfill, so I'm sticking with it. Maybe one day I'll work out the whole turning thing.

There are certain things, though, that seem like an obvious choice. CFL bulbs for one. When they first came out, I hated them. I bought them, because of the whole not recycling guilt, but I hated them. They took so long to warm up and the color of the light was weird. Trust me, people, it's fixed. They don't so much do the warming up thing anymore and the color of the light is now completely normal. And, you can get generic brands. I pay about $4 per lightbulb in my house. There is a light in the basement that is always on (for various reasons, mostly they involve me not breaking my ankle) and I replace it about once every two years. The rest, well, we've lived here three years and I haven't replaced any yet. On the other hand, the girls both have these lamps with tee tiny bulbs and I replace those things about once every two weeks. Not really, but it feels like it.

Reusable shopping bags for another. If you think that's crap, you haven't used them yet. They are stronger, you can put the milk in them and it doesn't end up pouring through the deck, you can fit more groceries in a single bag and the bags stand up. Why we ever started using those crappy plastic bags in the first place is beyond me.

There are some things (I am thinking water conservation, programable thermostats, turning off the freakin' lights) that are economical, in addition to being green. It seems to me that anyone who would say, "You know what, screw the planet, leave the faucet and the light on and use some of those overpriced paper towels to clean up," is just doing it to spite someone. You're paying for this crap, dude. Does it make you feel important to spend all that money on cluttering up the world?

The fact is that global climate change can be affected by the choices we make, but really, the major difference has to be made by government and corporations. The changes we make, the green actions we take in our homes have little to do with climate change and a lot to do with wastefulness. Using your disbelief in global warming to justify using disposable paper products at every meal is like saying that you don't have a cat because your car has a flat tire. It makes no sense whatsoever.

The simple fact is that like it or not, we are responsible for this world. There's lots of room to debate about certain facets of that statement (is it okay to destroy part of that world for fossil fuel extraction, are we causing climate shift, is it better to focus on finding alternate fuels or alternate sources of fuel, to name a few) but there are some things that are just not up for debate.

As a society, we used to teach our children not to waste things. "Waste not, want not," was a popular refrain. Reusing wasn't a green initiative, it was a matter of common sense. Why has that suddenly changed? Why is waste now the norm?

My mother in law recently bought me a case of paper towels. I laughed and said it would take us five years to use all those paper towels and she looked at me a little funny. The truth is that I've just never really seen the point. You know what I use paper towels for? Soaking the grease off of bacon. That's pretty much it. I use a dishrag or a kitchen towel to clean up spills, wash the high chair tray, etc. etc. I'm guessing that in addition to saving some landfill space, I've saved myself probably $500 over my married life.

I don't do everything I should for our home (I am referring to the Earth, where we live, which is another thing, we live here people, would you throw all this trash in a room in your house?). I need to get on this recycling thing. I need to use organic cleaning products. I should always carry reusable shopping bags, instead of just at the grocery. I ought to drive something more fuel efficient than my minivan. And all that's important, but seriously, just start with acting like your parents. Use a little more and waste a little less. It worked for them.


Suze said...

SO well said, Jessi. Bravo!!

I would add that the way we eat has serious environmental consequences as well. Eating locally grown and produced foods has a definite impact on the environment and the local economy. Plus, they usually taste better.

Jessi said...

Suze - That's a great point. And it's not just the environmental impact that makes it important either. Buying locally grown foods also helps stimulate your local economy and they tend to be healthier. I just found out about the benefits of eating local honey and I was freakin' amazed. I think that buying local is one of the hardest things for some of us, though. It's really hard for me to get to a farmer's market.

Steve said...

Well said. Here in the UK we have good recycling schemes that collect from home which helps a lot. Though the low-energy bulbs here are still hopeless unless you pay a big premium.

PS I see my blog is no longer in your roll.... was it something I said!?

Jessi said...

Steve - Ridiculous oversight. I'm so sorry. All fixed now. I added some and took a few off that hadn't posted for months and I just lost yours somehow. Very sorry.

Home pick up of recycling is city by city here and of course, Smallest Town in the World does not have it. We have a nice recycling center, though. I just need to go.

Suze said...

So true about how buying local is good for the local economy.

We like going to the market all together as a family. I know that makes us sound like annoying happy hippies (which we kind of are, I admit) but the kids get excited about going (especially if it involves sampling honey and/or picking up a couple cinnamon rolls). We are extremely lucky to live in a city with such good farmers markets, but this is a movement that's getting bigger all over the country.

Mrs. Allroro said...

There are sometimes farms that sell goods, too, if there's a farm closer to you.

As for recycling, we had a field trip to the local recycling facility,and I learned soo much. One thing that sticks out in my mind is how long it takes for glass to biodegrade: a million years. Longer than it would take the Statue of Liberty. About 100 times longer than a disposable diaper, you know, if they weren't in landfills and were actually able to biodegrade. So I learned it's a good idea to recycle glass. (I don't recycle much, either. We do it at school, but not at home. Something I think about a lot but don't do. We do not have pick up, but there is a place I could pass if I took an alternate route to work. I do reuse though: I'm not great about reusing plastic, because I'm always afraid of chemicals leaking into my food, but I am pretty good about reusing glass.)