Going Green – Want to Join, But Aren’t You Beginning to Hate That Color?

Getting sick of “green” and every company in the universe trying to tell you that they and you can save the planet? Of course you have to buy their product to do it. Bamboo for flooring, sea grass for rugs, recycled paper, corn for gas, hybrid cars and you’ll save the planet from global warming. 

Aside from the fact that you cannot stop global warming brought on by the last century of excessive hydrocarbons and CFCs, etc. – it is already here and you cannot reduce or change it in your lifetime. The last tsunami of environmental awareness brought unleaded gas, phosphate free cleansers, eliminations of CFCs, EPA and air and water quality standards. Who knows what incremental changes will come from this awareness campaign?  And if all the big things are outside your control what can you do at a practical, down to earth level to be an agent of change?  After all there are 6 billion people on the planet, maybe we should focus on getting ourselves in order first.
Law of Unintended Consequences

This law is simple and very much like Murphy’s laws. It say that for every good action there will be negative outcomes that are unforeseen. Politicians live in the world of unintended consequences – they make a law that sounds good for a narrow constituency and have negatives effects or the law doesn’t achieve or backfires from its intended purpose. The current green classic is corn. Congress passes a law with good enthusiastic intentions to award massive tax breaks for ethanol production that would then become a gas additive and lower polluting car emissions.
Sounds good right? Lots of corn; lower pollution, help the environment, relatively easy to produce and you could even make it organic. Downside, the polluting cost of production is equal or greater than the ethanol improvements, the market price of corn shoots up and it turns out that corn is staple in everything from sweeteners to cattle feed so it drives up the cost of food around the planet, especially affecting the poor and there are no large scale ethanol production facilities and no distribution system to get to dealers, etc. The farming corporations get a windfall in profits of your tax dollars but the practical effect of well intentioned green legislation is mostly negative.
Closer to home and very Catch 22. There is a massive drought in Northern California, EBMUD, the water utility said water usage needed to be cut back, everyone needed to conserve for the good of the area and rates would go up to reinforce good behaviors. What happened – EBMUD got its wish; people conserved; water usage went down to help the communities and rates went up. A few months later, EBMUD says that their revenues are down – so they are going to raise rates to cover costs – no talk of cutting costs. So the consumer gets their rates raise 2 times for doing what they were asked.
What can we really do?

Caring is good, making a difference is good, understanding the big picture is important but you can’t let it overwhelm the reality that change is incremental and that being a good role model is what counts. Do simple things that make a real difference and are free:

Make sure your recycle – separate the trash, repurpose items around your house, garage sales, even eBay is environmentally friendly.  Feel good about constructively getting rid of items around the house and write it off your taxes as well..
Hang your clothes outside to dry – this will save money, reduce electricity, lower air pollution, extend the life of your dryer and your underwear doesn’t care where it dries out.
Refill your plastic water bottles – most people drink bottled water.  When you’re done just clean, refill and pout in the fridge. You save/delay plastic going to a landfill and save money on lower cost water.  In case you’re thinking about the water – the majority of fancy water you buy is actually tap water.  Read the label closely.
If you’re buying – buy big.  A lot of times larger quantities actually mean lower solid waste and packaging. Example a 2 liter bottle of your favorite soft drink instead of a six pack of cans or plastic. 
Look around your house and come up with changes that match your lifestyle

In the end you can march against global warming, give tax breaks to farmers for corn gas and buy a new hybrid to ease your social conscience BUT the key to change the environment is to make sure that your piece of it is in good shape and share what you do with your neighbors.  So while you can’t “cap and trade” or fix global warming – keep it real, make it simple and it can all be free to help your neighborhood be a better place.  And you don’t have to change colors.