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Being Green: A Primer.

January 3, 2009

Since I’ve been off on a “green” kick, I thought I’d take a moment and clarify what “green” means to me — before I become thought of as a wheatgrass-munching, nature-communing hippie weirdo.  (No offense meant to hippies.  I am merely referencing a common stereotype.)

“Green”, to me, does not mean Becoming One Wif Teh Earfs™.  It does not mean that I must be a vegetarian (a diet on which I would do quite poorly), or that I must live my life in harmony with a pre-defined concept of “nature”.  It certainly does not involve any attempt to spiritually attune myself with the planet.  I’m not going to crack down on anyone’s right to do these, but these are not green; they are another set of actions entirely.

To me, “green” means taking responsibility.  For the garbage I create, making sure that it goes where it belongs instead of unconsciously chucking everything into a landfill.  This doesn’t mean that I will hoard trash, or take other absurd steps to keep from ever adding to the landfills – thanks to modern manufacturing techniques and my current life position, there are some things that will simply have to go.  This does mean that if I recognize a piece of trash as recyclable, it’s my job to get it into the right bin.  And when I am given the freedom of choice, it means that I choose the route that leads to less garbage.

Even here, my only concern is not Teh Earfs™.  Being green is also about responsibility for the other people on the planet.  Is what I’m doing going to cause a detriment for other people?  If so, I will try to avoid it.  This includes flushing toxic chemicals into the water table and adding to landfills (again).  I must also minimize electricity use (to cut on pollution and prevent shortages), and choose a responsible vehicle to use for transportation.

Speaking of vehicles, “green” does not mean that I use a hybrid car or some other fancy uber-green model.  Instead, it means I choose a vehicle that can process gasoline efficiently and will not create large quantities of exhaust.  And minimizing electricity does not mean that I shut everything off for hours at a time when I would otherwise be using it.  It does mean shutting things down when I am not using them, and unplugging “vampire-power” devices such as the DVD player.

(The microwave stays plugged; we’re using the clock.)

Taking responsibility for others also means buying local or fair-trade whenever I can – to make sure that the individuals who produced the product I’m buying are being fairly compensated (i.e. paid enough to live on, assuming the product is their livelihood).

Green also means taking responsibility for myself.  Rather than putting toxins into my body through junk food and chemical-laden cleaners, I choose whole, nutritious foods and safe, plant-based hygiene products.  This doesn’t mean that I buy any lotion, shampoo or toothpaste that claims to be plant-derived, but neither does it mean that I have given up hygiene.  What it does mean is that I do not purchase any product unless I know exactly what is in it.  This is a bit inconvenient at first – I have to cross-reference every unrecognizable ingredient with the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database – but once I’ve familiarized myself with the products I simply add them to my shopping routine and that’s that.  It also means that, in a broader spectrum, I make sure that these things are continually available for me to use, either by growing them at home or by actively seeking places to shop that offer them.

And that, in a nutshell, is what green is to me.  Basically, it means that whenever I am given a choice, I take the option that will be better for the planet, for other people, or for my health.  That isn’t a choice.  It is my responsibility, and the responsibility of every temporary resident of the planet – that we take whatever steps possible to leave the place in a state fit for future tenants.  Anything less is simply irresponsible.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled lolz.

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