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Posts Tagged ‘eco-sins’

Another article of substance in the New York Times, this time on ‘Human Behavior, the Politics of Global Warming and the Ubiquitous Plastic Bag’. I especially like the sentence at the end. ‘Plastic bags are a small part of the picture. . . But you think, if we can’t change our behavior to deal with this one, we can’t change our behavior to deal with anything.’ I agree. The plastic bag problem is symptomatic of a set of values. The values in question are so ingrained in our modern DNA that they are almost impossible to change. I am a perfect example.

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“I am tired of all your hypocrisies. You and your green do-gooder friends are all the same. You are the kind of people who will drive to an environmental event only a few blocks away. Look at you! Somehow your fingers are glued to the three light switches in the kitchen, even in broad daylight. . . You can self flagellate all you want, it’s not doing s… for the environment.” Green Guru got really upset earlier. I don’t blame him.

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Lynette Evans wrote a great article, ‘Save the Money by Saving the Planet’, about the win win strategy of buying natural cleaning products instead of the usual commercial paraphernalia. Her maths are pretty convincing:

Commercial products: Windex Original, $4.39; Pine-Sol Cleaner, $4.69; Kaboom Shower Tub & Tile Cleaner, $5.69; Chlorox Disinfecting Wipes, $6.19; Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner, $4,19; Palmolive Ultra Original Dish Soap, $3.49; Clorox Bleach, $2.29; O-Cel-O Sponges, $2.59; Swiffer Duster, $6.09. Total: $39.61.

Natural cleaning products: Heinz Distilled Vinegar, $3.90; Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. $1.15; Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, $3.49; Mule Team Borax, $4.39; Hydrogen Peroxide, $.59; Old cotton towels, $o; Crumpled newspaper, $0. Total: $13.52.

Lynette did the maths. $26.09 savings for us, and for the planet. I wrote a similar post a while back, where I stated my good intentions. The smell of all those chemicals was getting to me. Yet, I did not take any steps. Our cleaning cabinet is still filled with the same poisonous chemicals. Seems like another item to add to my green to-do-list.

To-do-list: get rid of existing cleaning products and buy natural substitutes instead

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Now is payback time

Great article from Vaclav Havel in the New York Times yesterday. He was able to put in words what I have been feeling for a long time. ‘Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.’

The bargaining problem

I can so well relate to the internal bargaining part, this vain attempt on the part of my ego to negotiate with nature. In my case, I am not questioning the need to repay with some kind of personal sacrifice. I am just wondering if, maybe, I can get away with not paying all of my personal debt back. OK, I will cut down on all the things that don’t deprive me that much, but the ones I really like, such as shopping for clothes, could I please keep on my to do list? I am also tempted to abdicate some of my personal responsibility and to turn it over to policy makers.

We are all responsible

I will leave the last word to Vaclav Havel. ‘I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics – a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.’

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Once a week, Prad and I go out to dinner to Il Fornaio, our favorite Italian eatery in town. Last time, we went with the children. Everybody was hungry, and we forgot our habit of splitting every order in half. We ended dinner with most of our plates still half full. And a doggy bag to take the stuff home. America is the only country I know, with doggy bags. One could say, it is a great way to avoid food being thrown away. I look at it differently, as another manifestation of the super size phenomenon. I can’t count the number of times when our doggy bags’ remnants linger in the fridge, until we end up throwing them away.

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Whole Foods is as much a social place, as a grocery store. I will seize any excuse to go there, just to break the monotony of a whole day spent working at home. Since I work from home everyday, that pretty much means daily trips to WF. Green Guru thinks I am not being efficient. I should be planning better, and find other ways to entertain myself.

What I need: Exorbitant gas prices that will make me think twice before I get in the car. Even better, citywide bans on private vehicles, like in Bogota, where cars are only allowed to circulate at certain times of the day. A city bike lane infrastructure, where cyclists don’t have to share the road with cars.

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Waiting in line at Whole Foods checkout counter. Thoughts:

‘Shoot, I forgot the damn bags again. I have the red Trader Joe’s bag in the car. I could go get it. That probably would not be enough for all I got. Plus I am tired. Don’t feel like going back to the car. I really should. (Clerk asks me the ‘Paper or Plastic’ question). ‘Plastic. Lets try to put everything in one bag. The rest I will carry’. Not bad, at least I am limiting the damage. If I had not said anything, it would have been two extra plastic bags for each gallon of milk, and a paper bag for the soup. I give myself a B.’

This is the kind of scenario that plays in my head, over and over again. I am constantly bargaining, berating myself for not being green enough, then I try to make up, some other ways.

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The Art of Navy Showers

Navy Shower anyone? I just found this post in TreeHugger, where the writer advocates that we all take abbreviated showers, just like those guys in the Navy. There is even a method to it. And since we are in America, even the simplest things come with an instruction manual . . . You may go to Wikipedia and find complete instructions for how to take a Navy Shower. In short, you just turn the shower on, just enough to get yourself wet, turn it off, soap yourself, and then turn it back on to quickly rinse.

The Farm Showers of my grandfather

This reminds me of my days back in my grandparents’ farm, when we did not have a shower. My grandfather was the only one to take a full ‘shower’ once a week. I still remember him stripping down to his underwear, and getting into the ‘abreuvoir’, what looked like a big cement bath tub, and was really meant as a drinking station for the cattle. The sight of him almost naked in the cold morning air used to make me shiver. The ‘Farm Shower’ – I just made up that word – consisted of one bucket of cold water poured over his head, quick soaping, and rinsing with a few more buckets of cold water. The women, my grandmother, my mother, and I, were content enough with occasional hand baths, using our ‘gant de toilette’, the French version of washcloth, which literally means toilet mitten. According to American standards of hygiene, we may have been dirty, but our lives did not suffer, and the clean country air did its share to minimize our natural body odors.

I love American Showers

Fast forward fourty years. While I look back on these years on the farm with great nostalgia, I certainly do not miss those hand baths. And I regard the long, hot American showers as a hard won indulgence that I am not willing to give up. I love the gushing of water, the washing away of the impurities of the day, the warm cocoon of the shower, where for a few minutes I can let my body relax. It is my daily version of a cheap massage. A luxury I am taking for granted. Of course, I am well aware it may not last. Water is going to become the new oil, a resource so precious that people may wage wars because of it. For now, I am not hearing, or seeing anywhere in my radar screen, that I am to stop taking long, hot showers.

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Robert Reich’s ‘Divided Mind’

Robert Reich was the guest on NPR’s All Things Considered a few days ago. The occasion was the release of his new book, “Supercapitalism”. His point, about the divided mind of the consumer and citizen really caught my attention. We are all two people, according to him. A consumer at the mercy of capitalism, and a citizen at the service of democracy. The consumer has taken over, and the citizen is no longer doing its job. We need to reevaluate our priorities and work on strengthening our democracy.

The challenges of being a good green citizen

This whole business of consumer versus citizen takes a special significance in the current environmental battle. Robert Reich made the following argument. You may be willing to take all the steps to become a good green citizen, but how do you know that you are not going to be just one amongst a small minority? In which case, you run the risk of making all these sacrifices for nothing. In the absence of a federated effort amongst citizens, that lets you know that we are all in it together, nothing is going to change, you have very little incentive to take action. Point well taken, Mr Reich.

The power of green networks

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about the power of small acts and individual action. I even called Rosa Parks to the rescue. I was trying to convince myself that whatever I do, no matter how small, does matter. Robert Reich called my bluff. The real truth is, I am a consumer first, and something is going to have to happen at the collective level, in order for the green citizen in me to spring into real action. Maybe Karel Baloun‘s got something going after all? ‘I am Green’, his new application on Facebook is an attempt at using the power of social networks to bring together green minded folks, and inspire them to help each other become green citizens.

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My Little Sister’s teacher suggested I get her an analog watch so she can learn how to count and tell time. I had to go to Target. Of course, once there, I went straight for their new Go Designer booth. Alice Temperley’ line is really hot. I especially fell for her capri pants with the pleat in the front. I decided to get two, in different colors. Right next to the Go Designer section, was the Dominique Cohen jewelry booth. I ‘needed’ to complete my fake pearl set with the necklace. They had just received a new shipment, and I was lucky. My necklace was there, fresh out of the box. Finally I got what I had come for, the watch for my Little Sister. The whole thing was a steal, and my wallet did not feel that much lighter. Of course the whole experience did not take into account the real cost to the environment.

‘What I need’: A price tag that reflects not just the cost of producing the stuff, but also the cost to the environment, in terms of carbon footprint.

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