Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not Easy Being Green

Yesterday, as I'm sure you are all aware, was Earth Day.

It occurred to me that Earth Day has come a long way since my youth. I remember that in fourth grade a girl in my class who everyone thought was weird tried to recruit a few of us to spend Earth Day picking up trash in some field. We all just rolled our eyes and went back to playing Super Mario Bros. or whatever we were doing that day. But clearly she was just way ahead of her time, because now Earth Day is a major annual event during which people re-dedicate themselves to saving the planet, and passionately declare how they are going to accomplish this by doing things like air-drying their hands in public restrooms instead of using paper towels.

I think it's just the contrarian in me, but when a cause becomes super trendy I find myself in the strange position of being vaguely annoyed by something that I actually support. (Celebrity adoptions also spark this reaction). I believe in protecting the environment, and we could all use a little consciousness-raising if we're going to keep our lovely little world from turning into an uninhabitable wasteland. But sometimes I can't help but question the power of one. Particularly in Southern California, where people proudly cart their designer canvas shopping bags around Trader Joe's and then hop into their ginormous cars. (If only SUV's could run on smugness).

There's also the rather frustrating issue of not quite knowing what we're supposed to be doing. Just last week, Nalgene bottles were the go-to liquid receptacles. This week, they might kill you. And people in poor countries all over the world are rioting over the increased cost of food. Apparently all the money that's been poured in ethanol subsidies is driving up corn prices and leaving other grains in short supply. I thought biofuels were supposed to be a good thing. Didn't we all think that one magical day we'd be running our cars on french fry grease?

It's all a little disconcerting, but it still behooves us to do the best we can. My own efforts at being more green fall into three categories:

Good things I do consciously: Recycle, drive a car with good gas mileage, turn off lights and appliances, cut way down on bottled water consumption and plastic bag usage.

Good things I do unconsciously: Take short showers (just efficient in this area), cut my daily commute by about 80 percent (circumstantial), don't use AC (don't have it), only wash clothes in cold water (too lazy to do more than one load at a time. I love the idea that my slothfulness is helping the Earth).

Good things I'd like to do but can't: Install energy efficient appliances in my apartment (I rent), drive less (L.A. not really built for walking, although I suppose that I don't have to drive to the Coffee Bean that's a mile from house.)

And then, of course, there's the fourth and largest category: Things I should be doing that I'm not. If you have any advice on what I can do to become greener, I'm all ears! Particularly, what should I be carrying my water in that won't, you know, poison me?


Ursula said...

You're supposed to use a stainless steel water bottle. I've seen them at REI and Whole Foods.

Kelli said...

I am so with you on the water thing. They say drink a lot of water - but only drink it out of certain containers...oh wait, no, use THESE containers instead. I'm all for saving the planet but the cynic in me, wonders where the bottom line hits and who at that bottom line ultimately makes the "proper" water bottle call.

I heard on NPR the other day about a group of 4th graders here in MA that were lobbying to have everyone change their margins on printer paper from 1 inch to a 1/2 inch. I forget the actual statistic but I was astounded when I heard how much energy, paper, and ultimately trees it could save. So, I promptly went into work and changed my margins.

In other news, my writing class is excellent thanks. I look forward to Wednesday nights like I can't even tell you.

Rumor has it you will be out East in August? The three of us should grab drinks or dinner or something...or maybe by then Luke Wilson will have found me and we can make it a four-some.

Officially ending longest post ever, right. now.

Sarah said...

I am so glad that you fessed up to your annoyance at greeness being trendy! I feel that way too! Like, if everyone cares about the planet, how can I consider it part of my own special identity anymore? Then I sheepishly remember, oh yeah-- I'm trying to set an example that other people will follow, so how can I be mad? It's kind of like when I get all worked up about some little band not being appreciated enough, and then when they get popular, I stop liking them. God, I hate myself sometimes.

Noelle said...

I agree that I can't stand when celebrities tell me what to do, especially if I agree with it already.

Something that I do, since I live alone, is fill my fridge with full bottles of water that I just keep there. That way, when I open the refrigerator door (revealing a shockingly empty space) the bottles of water retain the cold, and the motor doesn't have to work so hard to re-cool the area. The trick is to leave enough space for air flow, and to remember not to drink the water. (It's also a way to recycle old juice bottles.)

Anonymous said...

Words cannot express how annoyed I was when Leo DiCaprio and Al Gore stood on the stage of the Oscars (yes, THAT stage of the neon lights and excessive consumption) and announced that the Oscars had gone green. I wanted to vomit. Everyone else applauded.

Nicole said...

kyle and i just bought these:

they are great just be careful with the wide mouth on them. kyle and have spilt our share of water on our shirts since we got them.