Everyone has on opinion about what constitutes "green". Many people know about global warming and have decided, without much thought or research, who they want to blame and what they think can fix it. Many people say that only private business can turn things around. They believe that corporations were the major contributors to the problem and have the deep pockets and the technical know-how to find solutions. Others believe that business cannot be trusted and only the government has the resources to look for solutions to the problem. Other folks mistrust the government AND business, and believe only a citizen-led revolution can change the course we're on.
I believe that all of these players must cooperate. It will take concerted effort by business, the government, and citizens. Individuals can make a difference in so many ways. First and foremost by changing our own individual habits and lifestyle to be far more green. Next, we must work with thoughtful business leaders to encourage and even demand change in the corporate mentality to begin solving our environmental problems. In fact, this is actually happening at an accelerated rate in many places all over the world.
Of course we also need to work with our political leaders, especially those running for office, to demand that our government become a world leader in fighting global warming and environmental degradation. So far we haven't made much progress there but we must continue to persevere. Last, we should work with citizen activists to make change at the local level as well as in the global arena.
There are decades of research and writing about ecology, environmental activism, population control, economics, planning, and ethics. All of these play an important role in understanding the scope of what sustainability might look like.
Most of us today, in a world newly charged by the "inconvenient truth" of global warming and all that this implies, are looking for ways to change our lifestyle. We want to discover ways to lessen our "footprint" on the earth. That's all well and good, but we also need to know that there is an entire world of information and study devoted to the issue of saving our planet. I can't begin to talk about all of that, but I feel compelled to try. Knowing how to make choices that have the least impact on energy use and resources, as well as choosing what is healthiest for you and your family, is important. But if you have no historic context, then it's just one more shopping decision.
If you will indulge me, I'd like to speak from my own experience and try to use that to discuss at least some of what has come before our current "green" revolution. I only know what I've personally learned, but I'm happy to share that knowledge if it can help you. It's just the tip of the iceberg, but it's a start. There are wonderful experienced mentors in your community and I urge you to seek them out to learn more.
To begin, I believe that becoming "green" is not just buying fluorescent light bulbs or reading the right books. It's changing who you are, how you think, and how you conduct even the smallest detail of your daily life.
Do I do it perfectly? Hardly. I have many "sins" that leave me far from my goal of keeping a low carbon footprint. But I constantly work on keeping a constant respect for the planet at the forefront of my thinking.
Let me give you a simple example of what I'm talking about. I'm in a very paper intensive business; real estate. We buy reams and reams of paper every year. As better choices in products have become available, we've come to the following formula: first, we buy only 100% post consumer recycled paper. Next, we reuse every piece of paper at least once. We make copies on the back of already printed pages, and then use the rest for scratch paper. Last, we recycle all of our paper back once again to be further recycled. As technology has changed we can now download material onto disks for storage which saves using paper in the first place.
This may sounds burdensome, but we got into it gradually and now it's simply a part of how we work throughout the day. How we decide what we buy, how we dispose of waste, and how we educate our clients about these things are a part of it too. Any business can do this; it just takes the will and the commitment. It's not hard to make the office coffee with shade grown organic coffee. It's not hard to be sure everyone in an office recycles. It's not hard to encourage everyone to use alternative transportation or at least drive a bio diesel or hybrid car.
Another example that speaks to how we think concerns automobiles. A friend gave me this story and I must share it. She owns two cars. One is a small, two seat, sporty car that looks efficient and cute. The other is a large van. She explained that she gets nods and smiles of approval when she's driving alone in her little car which actually only gets 25 miles to the gallon. But, she gets scowls of disapproval when she's driving the van even though it actually gets better mileage. The other critical piece is that in the van she is carrying seven people who are not driving their own cars! Do you see my point? We need to think and analyze, not just react.