Reduce, reuse, recycle. That plays at a low hum in the back of my mind all day, as I drive my car and consume products covered in every sort of plastic imaginable, as I pour chemicals down the drain, suck up my daily dose of dirty electricity, and eat my mercury-tainted fish.
While I wouldn’t call myself a true convert – if environmentalism were a religion, I’d be the one hiding in the back pew with one foot out the door, ready to bolt – I have been trying to live green lately. Let’s call it Green, with a capital, since there is so much eco-baggage implied by that little word now that it probably qualifies as a proper noun.
So, while I’m in the throes of my eco-adolescence, I’ll spend some time sharing my thoughts on what living Green means, how we can do it while still keeping our lives comfortable, and why it matters.
I’ll also be glad to share all the many ways I fail at this each day, like last night, when I was too lazy to take the empty toilet paper roll down to the recycling, so I threw it in the bathroom trash.
I saw it again this morning as I brushed my teeth with my organic toothpaste, pointing accusingly out of the trashcan. I might go home and get it out of there. Maybe.
Like a Bear or Like a Mouse? Footprints do Matter
Let me tell you, when I started working at WYDaily, I was pretty smug about working for an online newspaper. No trees killed each day, no ink, none of the chemicals associated with making paper and ink, and no trucks driving the papers all over town. How great, I thought. A Green job, hurray!
But, that’s not really the case, if you stop and think about it. There’s no such thing as a perfectly Green job, as far as I can tell.
All our electronic things here at the office are plugged in all day. We all drive to work. We use paper and water all day, and we turn on the lights so we can see. I hear our air conditioning running. There would be no working without electronics, and I doubt our boss is ready to break out the skylights and roof plantings or buy me a Prius.
So how much, exactly, is my “Green job” costing, in terms of hurting the planet?
According to Carbonfootprint.com, our nine-person office (that includes all the Davis Media staff folks) is responsible for 88,464 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year. That’s including what it takes to power an office, the fuel we burn driving to work and back, and other incidental office energy uses.
I’m sure there’s no need to recap how carbon dioxide is one of the big guys when it comes to greenhouse gasses, and that human activity is very likely the cause of global warming (though my father-in-law still hangs onto the belief that global warming is a big hoax). Carbon dioxide hangs out in the upper atmosphere for between 50-200 years, scientists estimate. To check out some of the basics from the eco-angle, check out the Greenpeace website.
The point here is not that we’re a bad company full of climate-trashers, the point is that everything people do has an impact on the world’s climate. It may not seem like a big deal to drive that extra few miles or leave a light on, but that’s pounds of emissions over a year that could be saved. If I do what I can to cut back, and so do the folks in our office, that can add up.
I don’t know if I buy into the idea of becoming “carbon-neutral,” though, by paying money to offset my emissions, which is what groups like Carbonfootprint.com suggest. The theory is, you pay in cash to a nonprofit group doing something to help the climate problem, like planting some trees or installing wind power somewhere, and then you’ve cancelled out your carbon-naughtiness.
For our office, the cheapest deal to offset our footprint would be paying $492.41 to a group supporting renewable energy; the steepest price would be $892.31 to another similar group.
I don’t think my boss is ready to pony up, but calculating our footprint was a worthwhile exercise anyway. We may be saving a lot of energy consumption by not printing our paper, but we’re far from perfect.
These are the kinds of things I think about now all the time. In the bathroom, I think about how bad toilet paper is for the environment, and how many squares I can conscionably use without being gross. I fret if I forget to turn off a light in the house, and I feel bad when I use the warm water cycle in the washing machine. Once you become aware of your impact on the environment, it’s hard to go back to blissful ignorance.
For me, this isn’t just about the cute little animals that are affected by climate change, or the lovely butterflies. This is about humans. It’s about my son, who has to grow up breathing and eating a host of nasty chemicals, and living in a world where there may not be enough food or water because it’s just too hot. Even if I buy him a few more weeks, that’s something.
Web Page for the Day
National Geographic’s environmental site tells you what you can do to Green-up your life, from household tips to gardening and appliance-shopping ideas. Not that I can’t give you plenty of good ideas here, but if you’re alone one evening with the computer on, check it out…
Tip for the Day
I mentioned this above, briefly: use the cold water cycle for your clothes when you wash them. This works, I promise! I have a 5-year-old son who gets plenty dirty, and a hubby who gets equally dirty, and as long as you pre-treat stains, the cold water does a great job. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a hot water wash costs 5-10 times more than a cold one. Save money, save energy.
Have a tip or comment? Think this “Green” business is a bunch of hooey? Or maybe you are a total convert who never recycled till one day it hit you. Tell Desiree, so she can tell everybody else. Email her at email@example.com.