Sunday, October 25, 2009

Be Green. But Don't Kill Yourself Doing It

Yesterday, as I was hiking down the Suntop Trail, I was having a conversation with one of our camping party members about green technology and being green in general. After a good discussion, he commented to me, "I never would have though you were so concerned for the environment."

Yes, it's true that I do care for the planet that God gave me to use while I fulfill the reason for my existence here. I have a feeling that mankind is going to be sorely punished for his poor stewardship of the land. However, I would like to inject some common sense into this green debate.

I do what I can with the limited resources I have. In our house, we (my family) recycle, we try to reuse things instead of tossing them. We try to fix things instead of buying new things. We try to save on energy consumption where we can. My wife uses cloth diapers on my son rather than disposable. Imagine that. Instead of Michael's old diapers sitting in a landfill, we chose to use to use reusable, and renewable methods of addressing the necessary evil of diaper usage. In my conversation with my hiking partner, I related to him that my Ramcharger sees as many miles in an entire year as the average Toyota Prius sees in a month. In 2008, I drove my Ramcharger all of 3,000 miles. I've only put about 2500 on it so far for 2009. I haven't even driven my diesel pickup truck in over 14 months! By owning older vehicles, more vehicles need not be made, which also saves resources.

Now, I could go on and on about all the ways we save green (monetary and planetary), but that's stupid. I've read all over how people save the planet with their little methods of saving a bit here and a bit there. I've also read about people who go to the ends of the earth to save the planet. There are people who throw away their money just to save mother earth from their own destruction.

Okay, really? Must we kill ourselves to save the planet? It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do what you can. If everyone does just a little, a lot can be accomplished. For instance, I was at Target last night and some dude was idling his large SUV in the parking lot - a total waste of resources when you first look at it. He could save money by turning the vehicle off and then running it only when it gets cold inside. But I wasn't about to accost him for that. It's not my place to tell him what he can and cannot do with his money and his gasoline. I didn't have all the facts. I idle my vehicle to get warm too. I just don't idle it for the entire length of my stay. Get warm and shut off. Get cold and turn on. Besides, how am I to know he wasn't just idling to warm himself up real fast and shut it down. Don't judge and don't act on judgements when you don't have all the information (more on that in another blog).

There is a threshold where you are doing the optimum amount of work. A lot of people cross that line though. They either do too much or too little and they really aren't saving a thing. There is a give and take. For instance, Lindsay isn't filling up landfills with diapers because she does cloth diapering. However, for the planet savings from not putting a diaper in a landfill, she has to wash the diaper in water, using soap, and then more energy to dry it. Do it a few times a week, and it adds up. However, in Washington, the cheapest and most renewable resources are water and electricity. Hydroelectric power from dams and a lot of water from the mountains are two main advantages we have in our region. None of our electricity is from coal fired plants (if you actually care). Now, the real saving is that since diapers have about a million year half-life in a landfill, we haven't put any into one. Instead of using and tossing something that gets a single use, requiring more resources, electricity, and materials to be used making new ones, we use a bit of water, some electricity, and the initial cost and materials to get the reusable diaper that won't take up space in a landfill. 6 diapers a day x 365 days a year = 2190 diapers that we have not sent to the landfill. That is just a simple thing. And I think that is what it boils down to - the simple things.

You don't need to go out of your way to make saving the planet some huge project that costs you more time and more money than you have. The way I see it, you need only look at the simple things that save you money in the end, and you will save the earth at the same time. Don't get caught up in technology that isn't there yet. Don't spend a lot that will only give you negative dividends in the future. Rely on proven technology now. Focus on the little things today, and you will see that you've made a big difference tomorrow.

-James

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