At a dinner last night, the young woman sitting next to me, a well intentioned green wannabe, told me how hard it is to keep track of all her daily actions. ‘There is so much to pay attention to. In the end, I usually give up.‘ This morning, again, I had a similar conversation with my friend Anne. She too, is convinced of the necessity of changing her lifestyle. There are two things she is already doing, that she feels good about. She drives a small car and she turns off the faucet when she brushes her teeth. Other than that, where to start? She is at a loss.
In both cases, my friends expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes expected of them, as implied by the green press. As if to prove their point, I just found ‘A Consumer’s Guide to Going Green‘, a very well researched article in the Wall Street Journal this week, that left me, like my two friends, in a state of ‘Wow! You mean I have to do all this.‘ Too much thrown at me at once. I read it, and saved it for reference, for the time when I will summon the courage to go green all the way. The ‘Green Living‘ folder on my desktop has already 17 such reference articles, not including all the green lists I have written for this blog. Lists are mostly good for the list maker, I realize. They give a sense of mastery, and order. The illusion that things are taken care of. I have done my job, I have told you what to do. Now whether you do it or not, becomes your problem.
Anne is a smart woman. She can handle complexity very well, in her professional life. When it comes to green, however, she wants simplicity. ‘If I were to do only one thing, what would it be?’ I was tempted to answer her question on the spot. Instead, I went home, and started thinking about her request. Part of my problem as a green communicator, is I don’t want to choose. Insulating the house, lowering the thermostat, buying energy efficient appliances, using CFLs bulbs, buying less, driving less, flying less, using less water, using the washer and dryer less, getting a low gas mileage car, skipping red meat, etc. Everything is important, isn’t it?
There are three issues. First, is identifying priorities in terms of the biggest individual contributors to greenhouse gases emissions. Second, is figuring out from that first list, what is the one thing most likely to engage the green wannabe into his or her life greening process. Third, is how to support the person in that process. I will try to address all three questions in a series of subsequent posts.