A Zillion Little Things
There are big environmental ideas – renewable energy, plug-in hybrid cars, high-speed rail systems – and very small ones. Actually, there are many more of the latter – stuff that you and I can do right now. But will we?
One of my favorite green moments was when an audience member remarked, after listening to a speech I gave, “It must suck to be you.” What I think (hope) she meant was with knowledge comes responsibility and the more you know the more diligent you have to be. Diligence is hard work especially when thinking about a zillion little things.
Example: I have a hard time throwing away a paper towel in a restroom when all I’ve used it for is to wipe my clean hands, so I put it in my purse to use again in the next restroom. A bit of a hassle, but for me it’s one of my little contributions to material and waste reduction.
Earlier this year the Washington Post magazine published “Can One Household Save the Planet?”, a cover story about an overworked, underappreciated mom’s efforts to reduce her family’s carbon footprint. It’s funny, provocative and oh so familiar. The author, Liza Mundy, tackles the easy stuff first like unplugging electronics when they’re not technically being used but are drawing "standby power" to keep digital displays glowing. A green no-brainer, right? Except putting it into practice isn’t easy, convenient or in some cases even possible – if you unplug your cordless phone to make the little red light go off, it won’t work.
Mundy goes on to talk about other challenges such as learning to love CFLs and driving less in more fuel-efficient cars. Early on she recognizes the “ideological purity is one of the first things to go” when a tired Mom (or Dad) comes home from work. Yes, we should be “eating locally grown, seasonal foods to cut down on the emissions associated with food transportation…but am I really going to stop buying my children oranges from California or bananas from Costa Rica?”
The online discussion that followed was largely critical of Mundy for making “going green” so difficult. A typical comment: “Was your goal in writing this article to get people to do more to "save the planet" or to make them think ‘this is not worth the expense and hassle’? Because it sure seems like the latter…With writers like you, it’s no wonder the small stuff is a surprisingly hard sell.”
Mundy’s response echoes mine. “My goal was to find those household habits that are easy to change, and those that are harder. It seems to me there is some virtue in being realistic.”
I agree. Start with the Five Easy First Steps recommended on TheDailyGreen.com and see where you go. It won’t suck to be you – promise.