Sunday, January 3, 2010

Grandma, God and My Carbon Footprint

Since calculating my carbon footprint- it is apparent that nearly every sector of what I called my "green life", needs not only tweaking, but a major overhaul!

Firstly- I think this is terrifying.  I always knew that saving the planet called for sacrifice, but this seems like it's going to be a lot harder than I thought!  Am I going to have to keep all the lights off and never watch TV?  Every action I am about to undertake has me wondering how it will impact my carbon footprint.

But, as I've been reading articles and blogs, particularly on the lost art of ironing, I am reminded that it may not be that impossible after all.  If you think back to days of the depression or WWII (which I can not do because I was not yet born, so I read about it instead), these were really the days when green behaviors were founded. Unknowingly, our grandparents/great-grandparents or parents laid a foundation of values and behaviors that we can use to build our green lifestyles upon today.  They were first and foremost, frugal.  Things were not wasted, they were used until they couldn't be used anymore.  Then they were turned into rags, storage containers or art!  Most of the environmental problems we've created can be reduced or eliminated through simply reducing our connection to and need for new material things.  Values such as honesty and humility and a sense of personal pride were also abundant then.  I think today many of us grapple with these concepts- we like to think of ourselves in these terms, but we feel that somehow we are not living up to it.

Where better to find a way to marry these values with environmentalism than in the midwest! Right here at home many of us go to church and hear the lessons regarding materialism.  We recognize that a new flat screen TV will not come with us to heaven.  And environmentalists try to push back against the conveyor belt of consumerism- recognizing that the purchase of a new flat screen TV means the old TV (perfectly good in many cases) is going to a landfill.  Midwesterners revel in the home-grown value of frugality already!  But, excuses do get easier and easier.  I myself used to be against owning excess "stuff".  We used to not even have TV!  Now I find the TV is on all the time, we are buying more DVD's, I made regular stops at the mall and online purchases.  I never felt ENTIRELY out of step with either my religious or environmental convictions- but looking at the outcome now, I can see I wasn't even on the right path!

You can take this same mindset towards many of the concepts found both in religion and environmentalism.  Honesty.  The bible says it's good.  Be honest with yourself, your neighbors, your parents, etc.  You can apply this to environmentalism if you are truly honest with yourself about why you are purchasing that new TV.  Is it because you REALLY want to see everything in Hi-Def?  Or is it partly that, but mostly that you want people to know you make a good salary, or you have a 'cool' house, or that you are cool.  I mean, it sounds lame to actually admit to yourself "I'm buying a TV to be cool", but it's really what we are doing!  Once you admit it to yourself, you can stop.  Then it actually becomes comical to look at all your past purchases, and you can laugh to yourself when someone starts talking about the new such-and-such that they are buying.  It almost becomes the joke about a man buying a sports car. :)

As I move forward in my quest to reduce my footprint, I feel empowered knowing that it's not impossible.  My grandma did it.  I can do it too.  Maybe she didn't recycle, but it's probably because she reduced and re-used everything.  If you are religious, look to your church for help and strength.  These are values that they preach.  God is a cornerstone of environmentalism!

Ultimately, though I don't know what tactics I'll use yet, this is a battle I can win.  Maybe I'll call grandma tonight to get some tips!

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