Friday, January 09, 2009

Green? Really?

One of the things that concerns me about the "go green" push is the "bandwagon" mentality I'm seeing. Or even, "if so-and-so says it's true, it must be true" type of attitude.

My company is trying to become more sustainable and green, so the"green" team has been doing research into what we can do. What we're finding is a lot of assumptions along with the smoke-and-mirrors. Frankly, it's very disappointing.

1. Plastic: We can't find anyone who can tell us what happens to plastic sent for recycling after it leaves the USA. In other words, is it really being recycled and if so, is it being done in a way that is environmentally safe? So far we have very little evidence of what happens and most of what we do have is downright scary. One manufacturer I spoke to that makes plastic items out of recycled plastic said, "We're starting to see recycled plastic coming back now. Most of it comes from Europe, through China." Knowing what I know about how China "recycles" we've opted not to use their products. In fact, after not being able to get ANY recycler to tell us what happens after it leaves the country, we're loath to even "recycle" it. We'd rather suffer the consequences of our own consumption than foist it off on others. Better to focus on reduction.

2. Fluorescent Lights: This is touted as the ONLY type of light to use in spite of their toxicity once disposed of and the detrimental effects that it has on some people.

Mercury is key to making compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) efficient. Electricity sent through the lamp, which contains mercury vapor and an inert gas such as argon, zaps the mercury, setting off a reaction that creates light.

By ignoring the issue of proper disposal and recycling of fluurescent lights, we will end up doing more harm to the environment than we will prevent by using them exclusively.

Some people do experience harmful effects from fluorescents, especially (but not exclusively) where standard ones are used. I've found studies on the internet that indicate that ADD and autistic children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects and fluorescents can cause headaches, migraines, stomach aches, fatigue, eye strain, anxiety, and irritability. Fluorescent lights can also negatively impact the immune system, making people sick.

However, just try and tell someone who's on the fluorescent bandwagon that people get sick and you'll get the same reaction that Galileo got when he declared that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

3. Bogus Surveys to prove your greenness: One survey I recently took (just to see what they called "green") really isn't very green. Their survey was largely based on things like what percentage of the cotton in my wardrobe is organic. Am I'm supposed to go dump all my cotton clothes and replace them with organic cotton clothing? That's not very sustainable! Creating trash just to have something greener is not green. When I indicated that I sometimes eat beef, I got a negative score. The survey builders don't seem to understand that some of us who eat beef are eating grass fed, not grain fed, beef. Very sustainable. Does buffalo fall into the "beef" category? I assumed it didn't, but most of my beef consumption is buffalo, which is not only sustainable, it's very eco-friendly since buffalo is native to the US and contribute to the building of complete and natural eco-systems.

All of the surveys that I've run across are all the same. Ignoring reality and penalizing people for generalities. If we're really trying to get people to think greener, we cannot rely on generalities.

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