Going green has become a growing trend. The term "green" refers to making decisions in one's life that support the health and well being of our natural environment and all the life it sustains. I am, on many levels, delighted with its trendiness. In becoming the cool thing to do, public awareness has increased, eco-friendly products are more readily available, and recycling is no longer considered an overzealous hippie-freak thing to do. On the other hand, I fear that, like bell bottoms and mall hair, this trend too shall pass. People are going green because everyone else seems to be doing it rather than truly understanding that the survival of our planet depends on our treating it with more respect. People don't necessarily understand the why of it. I am so pleased that Elizabeth Millen and Pink Magazine have allowed me this platform to help educate and hopefully inspire a deeper understanding of the importance of green living.
Kermit knew what he was talking about when he said, "It isn't easy being green." Nor is it convenient. It takes time to sort your trash and take it to the appropriate center. Remembering your reusable tote every time you go to market can be a pain. Maintaining your car and household appliances in order to conserve energy can take time and cost you money. To stress how worth the effort it is I must draw another metaphor. One any woman can understand. You have a date. A big date. A this could be your lifelong partner kinda date. This is about your future happiness. Now, it would be easiest to pull on your jeans and a tee, your favorite Chucks, and pull your hair back and head out the door. That may be the easiest, but is it the most effective, you wonder? So you do the hair and make-up thing, shimmy into that fabulous dress, endure the heels, and put your best face forward. You may even curb your strong opinions for a while so as not to risk overwhelming the dear creature with your razor wit and intellect. We women generally have no problem putting up with all these machinations to ensure a second date. It takes the same kind of willing diligence to be successful at living green. That extra time and effort will pay off in the long run.
It also takes some courage to live green. Even with its trendiness, it still smacks of liberal activism in many eyes. You've heard it. Global warming is a crock, the ozone layer is fine, there is no energy shortage, and water contamination and soil depletion is all in our imagination. Speaking up when someone is throwing their cigarette butt on the ground or when you spot a tourist picking up a live sand dollar or starfish off the beach can be hard. Educating ignorance is a daunting task. Doing it with grace is even tougher. I cringe at the shrill, angry voices of protesters because it paints as ugly a picture as whatever they are protesting may portray. This is why education is so important. Railing noisily about an issue without having the knowledge to support your decision is senseless. It is like white noise. You can understand the difference between calling someone an idiot for using a plastic bag instead of explaining to them that plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food. It also helps if you can offer them a viable alternative so they can picture life without them. And if they refuse to give up their plastic bags, you can at least instruct them to tie their bags into knots when disposing of them so they can't blow out of landfills into wildlife areas. This is far more effective than name calling.
It can also feel pointless and lonely sometimes, being an advocate. How much of a difference can one person make, after all? Just to give you a fraction of an idea:
- If every household reused a paper grocery bag for one shopping trip, about 60,000 trees would be saved.
One person uses two pine trees worth of paper products every year.
- When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you'd filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground.
- If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we'd keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.
- If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees.
- Substituting a compact fluorescent light for a traditional bulb will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb.
This gives just a hint at the affect you, one person, can have on our ecosystem. Let's say you decided to change only one thing in an effort to be more green. Let's say you get a Brita water filter for your sink and instead of buying bottled water you start to fill a canteen or two on a daily basis and tote that for drinking instead. If you drink anywhere near the amount of water you are supposed to drink this means you are now not throwing away up to six 16 ounce plastic bottles a day. That means you are now not throwing away over 2,000 plastic bottles that 200 years from now will still be a plastic bottle taking up space in a landfill. That is just one small, singular change that can have a huge impact.
In the months to come I look forward to sharing with you the baby steps you can take to being environmentally responsible. I look forward to taking a hard look at some of the issues Beaufort County faces if it wants to preserve it's beauty and join the rest of the world in getting green. It will be fun giving you the tools you need to educate those around you and encourage them to get on board too. It's a date. You, me, and Kermit. Same time next issue.