Thursday, February 8, 2007

Environmentalism and Me

I'm the first to admit that I don't do everything I can to be environmentally friendly. To be honest convenience wins out (easily) over environmentalism with me. I know that the environment is the hot topic out there these days (kinda reminiscent of the whole Acid Rain scare when I was in high school - but when was the last time you heard that term?) but for me to 'get all green', there has to be convenient ways for me to make the socially responsible choice. Here are some examples of where I make good and bad environmental decisions:

Good: I've chosen to put 30% of my RRSP portfolio in a socially responsible fund. (Acuity's Clean Environment Equity Fund). This is so easy to do - I can't believe more people don't do it.

Bad: My family owns two cars, and I drive to work every day. With two small kids, it's just too inconvenient not to drive all over the place. Maybe if we lived in a climate that was a little more friendly year round it would be easier for me to get rid of a car...there's always global warming. Note: I don't own a van or an SUV...just sedans.

Good: I keep my house at relatively low temperatures (19C when occupied and not sleeping), have a high efficiency gas furnace, turn lights off when not in use, and I'm replacing the regular incandescent bulbs with the energy efficient fluorescent bulbs as they burn out.

Bad: My kids wear disposable diapers. Not all bad - as I'm not doing as much laundry as I would be with cloth diapers. But there's no other choice I'd consider - sorry, Mother Nature.

Good: I recycle and I'm pretty adamant about splitting out the recyclable stuff from the regular garbage. This is inconvenient to do, but once you're in a routine, it's not that bad. I'm not sure how much it actually helps though. I have a feeling it all ends up in the same place despite my best cleaning and separation efforts

Good: I only use organic fertilizer and no pesticides on my lawn. I switched last year primarily for health reasons - don't want my kids rolling around in chemicals. But it's better for the environment too. Plus the lawn care company I use offers an organic program at the same cost as the traditional program.

Bad: I don't feel bad about the environment and what I do to it. I don't advocate environmental choices and, at this point, I don't see myself preaching it as that important to my kids. I guess I feel that entrepreneurs out there will figure out a way of turning this crisis into a business opportunity, will make tonnes of cash, plus save the world with or without my extra efforts.


Kimota94 aka Matt said...

Definitely an interesting post. I completely see where you're coming from, and agree with you that it'll only ever happen on a large scale if it's convenient for people to do.

Where we differ, I suspect, is that I think there's perhaps a higher bar of personal responsibility that people should live up to. Convenience is always going to factor into it - virtually no one today would be willing to go back to 16th century living conditions in order to "save the planet", after all! -
but I still think a responsible individual owes it to the world around them to shoulder at least some inconvenience for the good of everyone else, including generations not born yet.

Here's a trivial example: suppose you were out walking with your family, and you were 15 mins from home when you decided to buy ice cream sandwiches for all. Now, you finish eating the bars but there aren't any garbage cans in sight. Do you just drop them on the ground, because it'd be inconvenient to have to carry them all the way home, or do you carry them? It's certainly more convenient to just drop them on the ground, and I've seen more than my share of people do this - often, but not always, kids - and it boggles my mind every time I see it that they're not willing to carry an almost insubstantial 'load' for a few minutes in order to not treat their neighbourhood like one big garbage dump. But they're taking the "I'll always pick whatever's most convenient for me" approach to an extreme. And that seems socially irresponsible to me.

I also think there's something to be said for setting an example, specifically by trying to do what's right, rather than what's easy. If you're not setting a positive example with your life, at least in some ways, then to my way of thinking you're just a waste of flesh. And putting the good of others ahead of your own convenience, at least some of the time, is one way to set a positive example. It's not like it's even a question of putting the "welfare of others over your own", which admittedly would be unusual beyond perhaps the parent/child relationship; it's the welfare of others over your own convenience! If doing that, even a little, was too much to ask of me, then I'd have to say I wasn't much of a human. That's why small sacrifices seem like a good thing to do, and have for most of my life. Not to mention that they build character! :-)

But that's just my warped view...

cjg said...

Picking up where Kimota94 left off, it was said that "necessity is the mother of invention". I've heard that countered with "sloth and greed are the mothers of invention", and being a greedy, lazy slob I agree with the second description. It is unlikely that I would want to give up some of the automation and benefits that currently are the norm in our society, so I think there is room for people to find a way to help themselves and pollute less. We simply haven't been trying.

Excellent post.