Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Problem with the Green Movement

There's no question that the green movement has been a boon to environmentalists everywhere. Finally real attention is being paid to issues that will effect everyone's health, lifestyle and even social and economic patterns and all of that is just great. But the problem with the green movement is that it promotes "feel good" solutions that often take attention away from vertically-integrated changes that would bring about self-sufficiency for communities, which is what we really need in order to combat climate change and all the other crap we've been doing to our societies and nature for the past hundred years.

In many ways, the green movement is like winning the battle but still losing the war for environmentalists. For instance, people and companies can be cajoled now into making little changes in their lives and business plans, but few seem to realize that for bigger problems we need bigger solutions. Recycling is great and all, but it's not going to make a huge difference in our society as it is, especially as the price for new plastics and other materials continue to drop.

Here's an example of one company's attempt to be greener that is just totally missing the larger environmental picture. An anonymous Commerce Bank employee sent me something the bank sent out to all employees via inter-office mail. It is a "table tent" for employee work desks showing them how to set up their computers to print on both sides of their office paper, which is of course a positive shift in business practices:
The envelope containing this message reads: "Help us save paper. Please display the enclosed table tent in your work area." Now I don't know about you, but I and the employee who tipped me off about this just can't understand why Commerce would choose to give a green message about using less paper via a mailing that has to use an incredible of paper since every single employee received one of these. Plus, it's heavily printed which uses a lot of ink and printing in general is just not a very environmentally-friendly industry. Why, why, why would they send this on paper and not in an inter-office email? It just makes no sense to me, especially since duplex printer settings can be saved. It's not like you'd need to look at your table tent every time you need to print.

Little things like that drive me nuts because it shows just how far we STILL have to get to get people's heads around what we really need to do as a total society to keep ourselves from dying off and/or what I'm sure many people would find much worse: having to give up almost all of our luxury toys because we can't sustain them any longer.

But, it does give me hope to look at companies that really GET IT. Like the Q Hotel or Captitol Federal Park at Sandstone. Both of these businesses have vertically integrated the idea of being "green" so that they're much closer to being sustainable than most, since they are conserving and reusing resources so well.

I truly belive that eventually everyone will understand how important this stuff is, but I'm chafing at the bit because I really want it to be sooner rather than later. Every day we wait it feels like more of the natural world and our public health is just disappearing.

Related posts:
Light Rail Will Be an Epic FAIL
Test Your Home's Toxicity
Giving Nature a Helping Hand

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-Jenna- said...

All seriousness aside, the "printer memo" kind of made me chuckle a little bit. I totally get what you're saying and agree completely, but I did have to laugh a little bit at the hypocrisy of the situation.

Also, that Q hotel looks really neat! I hope that's a trend that catches on nation-wide!

May said...

Honestly, it cracked me up too when I first saw it. So ridiculous!

Warrior Two said...

I was just ranting with someone else about this topic, although it was more along the lines of certain forms of "alternative spirituality", being packaged as a lifestyle more than a real path of personal growth. It's all so easily romanticized.

I'm also thrown by how the little graphic at the top has dollar signs in the green part. I realize why they are there, but it backfires because it makes me think of all the people who are making a buck off of "selling green".

May said...

I guess that's true (about the graphic), but it just was the best graphic I could find for the post. Plus, I firmly believe that environmentalism and green jobs are going to be an enormous boost the the economy. I think it will completely change our society.

emawkc said...

You make a great point here, May. I've printed copies of your post and inter-officed them to everyone in my organization. I've also enlarged them and put them up on bulletin boards near the printers and in the break rooms.

We have to get the word out about this!

May said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing this!

m.v. said...

If I didn't know Emaw I would think it's one of the managers at work who likes to print out and hand-deliver his email. On the unrelated note, I don't like anything that calls itself a movement, because 9 times out of 10 it involves self-important pricks cashing in on other peoples' good will. Al Gore is a good example.

badabum said...

Getting people to realise and understand the big picture is THE most important aspect of "fight vs GW" (it's about fighting our habits to be honest). Grass roots movements, government, capital and media need to start working together, otherwise it's all in vain.

We'll see what happens from January 20th onwards, there's a good catalyst for all of the above on his way. Hopefully. :)

This caugh my eye (erm... OK, ear) today. (Not so) small piece of a huge puzzle. 60% of all domestic use electricity is pure waste btw, so unplug what you don't use, will ya? :)

Darcy said...

I think the thing here is more that Commerce wants the visibility and the prestige of being green rather than actually doing so. This is what the disconnect has meant for me... that the bandwagon approach is more focused on 'appearing' so versus actually BEING so.