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Use Your Head when Going Green or Risk Hurting the Environment more than You Help It.
I like to consider myself a green person. I mean every time I leave the house I ask myself if my destination can be reached without a car, which is why I find myself riding a bicycle/subway/bus often. However I always come across others who are gung-ho about nascent eco-trends (drives a Prius, shops only at Whole Foods), who are so caught up in Green Commercialism that they never stop to evaluate its benefit for themselves. You're not positively contributing to the environment just because you drink Fiji water! Oh, and as a side note, the transport of one bottle of Fiji water to your local grocery store burns 1 kilo of fossil fuel, 27 kilos of water, and generates 1.2 pounds of greenhouse gases.
A green conscience itself is not bad for the environment. And a green mind is what I think we definitely need and have in Los Angeles. I can't outright say that something IS bad for the environment, only what CAN be bad for the environment -- which is the point I am trying to make here.
1. The benefits of Hybrid Cars are not clear.
The technology behind the hybrid engine is that it cycles idle power through a massive battery in its engine. News flash: this massive battery dies eventually like every other battery. In this case, this battery dies after 80,000 miles of use on the road, which in SoCal translates to 5 years of driving (based on AAA 15k miles/year). Batteries cannot simply be dumped in a landfill because they are biohazardous. The United States and the UK already are having major issues with creating enough infrastructure to reprocess used batteries, a very costly but necessary expense. Car company executives have been touting "Don't worry, we guarantee that all hybrid car batteries will be recycled." But if we do not have the infrastructure in place to recycle them, where do you think they'll end up? The Third World maybe?
And the inaccurate mileage ratings for hybrid cars? They aren't exactly as efficient as we are lead to believe. The EPA had car companies update their mileage estimates in their car catalogs this year based on new ratings. The Toyota Prius actually gets 45 mpg, The Honda Civic Hybrid gets 45. By the way, the "old-fashioned" gas-run civic still gets 36 mpg.
And what about all of the additional infrastructure being put in place to build hybrid cars, a technology that probably won't make it out of the next decade? Aren't there environmental impacts from all of the new manufacturing plants being erected?
2. Energy-Saving Light Bulbs
Yes, they do save at least 2/3's of the energy that normal light bulbs consume, however they do pose major environmental hazards. Most importantly, they have mercury inside of them. Instead of tossing these in hazardous waste containers like you're supposed to, most people throw them in the trash. Hey assholes, mercury escapes landfills and penetrates the groundwater, which is implicit in a myriad of environmental problems. Their "longer lifespan" ratings on the side of the box are also only achieved if you run the lights for an extended period of time -- which uses energy! In places like Australia and the EU, there is talk of banning conventional light bulbs. How about before we jump on that, we educate people on the environmental risks they pose when not disposed of properly?
Oh and by the way, did you know that energy saving light bulbs can also trigger epilepsy, and cause inflammation in the skin of those who have lupus or eczema?
I've heard that recycling is bullshit. Is that true?
Showtime recently ran an episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! saying that Recycling is bullshit; that it's a self-serving myth, that it actually generates a lot of pollution itself, is costly, and is insanely government subsidized. Well I'm going to go ahead and say that they themselves are full of bullshit. They are not scientists, they are fucking magicians. A good rebuttal to their "debunking" show can be found here.
But they do however bring up an important point: recycling is not black and white. There is a middle-ground and we must always struggle with it. Most of the paper that we send off for "recycling" is not actually recycled, but sent to foreign countries to be reused -- like to wipe asses (you think I'm kidding). In addition, endless amounts of energy are used to run recycling plants, not to mention all of the fuel burned to transport cans and bottles to and from the plants. And yes, recycling programs are government subsidized. But what is the alternative? There is simply not enough viable space to create landfills. Sure, there is out in the boonies but it would be costly (even energetically) to ship garbage outside of urban areas to dump it. Not to mention the political shitstorm that ensues every time a city asks another if it can get their trash all up in their shit.
SO WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?
It's only fair that I provide some, right? I hate people who bear bad news then leave you with your thumb up your ass. If I did that myself I would have to hate myself, and I can't do that because we sleep in the same bed. Here's some advice from a guy who doesn't saw midgets in half on Vegas stage:
1. REDUCE. The best solution for decreasing the amount of environmental waste is to not create it in the first place. Recycling is a gray area. Remember the 3 R's with the arrows?
2. Do you need your paper that white? White paper is bleached. The bleaching process uses a lot of water which impacts the environment. The chemicals themselves that are used for bleaching impact the environment also. That's a double-whamie. Use yellow lined paper maybe? And make sure when you buy paper that is labeled chlorine-free (PCF, etc).
3. Don't throw your energy-saving light bulbs in the trash!
4. Drink locally-bottled spring water like Arrowhead. Let the French drink French water, and let the Fijians drink Fiji water!
And finally, use your common sense. Especially when watching Showtime.
Photo by mohawk via Flickr.