By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Many policy experts say we won’t be on track with a new energy economy in this country until we get competitive about it. Not just with other countries, but with each other.
We Americans, they say, must compete to be the best conservators of natural resources, instead of the biggest collectors of big screen TVs.
This shift won’t happen easily. Symbols of wealth carry great allure in America. So does, as Woody Allen might say, the reality of wealth. It’s nice to watch TV on a big screen. Obviously, we’re in for some significant re-prioritizing.
As it stands today, we Americans might applaud the family who, say, reduces their trash output or beats everyone in the neighborhood with the cleverest ways to reduce their energy bill. Or, we might not notice. Reducing trash probably won’t ever be as exciting as shopping for stuff. Solar panels are a little more exciting. They are both shiny and new, and conserving and climate-friendly. But you’ve still got homeowner’s associations nitpicking over them.
And yet, the seeds of change are within us. We Americans don’t only dream of bigger salaries, houses and wardrobes; we also value community closeness, charitable outreach, self-improvement and education (our execution in this area is patchy). We’re getting smarter about food, and we’re big on self-sufficiency. We appreciate how farmers sustain themselves and marvel over cooks who can craft gourmet meals from their gardens (often on our big screen TVs). We honor people who innovate and replenish the planet. We know what makes sense. Have you seen the 80 percent approval ratings for wind power? For passenger trains? The rising arc of interest in hybrid cars?
Somewhere in all that are the beginnings of an American green movement.
How do we ignite it? The competitive theory holds that the catalyst will be, as it seemingly must be in America, a contest.
You couldn’t have an American Idol of composting, exactly. Look who’s got the best mix of brown and green! Yea! But you could imagine people competing to be the best vegetable gardeners or greenest drivers or the first on their block to get off the grid. Who among us with a large car hasn’t already experienced a twinge of envy watching someone fill up their Prius?
Already there are many contests in the realm of recycling. One of the biggest , perhaps the biggest, has spurred a craze over recycling on college campuses. More than 600 college groups competed in Recyclemania this year, recycling or composting more than 84 million pounds of material during the ten week competition. Check out the winners here. (Congratulations to grand prize winner California State University – San Marcos.)
Now the EPA has seized on this concept and is challenging college football fans to clean up their act. The 2010 Game Day Challenge asks colleges across the country to compete to see who can reduce, reuse and recycle the most waste during October football games.
This is the perfect fit for football season. Instead of scattering squashed beer cans and cola cups everywhere fans can use time outs to tidy up. Whoever collects the most paper, drink bottles, cardboard and food (that can be donated or composted) will be declared the winner in these categories:
- Least waste generated per attendee
- Greatest greenhouse gas emissions reductions
- Highest recycling rate
- Highest organics reduction rate (most food donated and composted – a tricky category because a goal would be to NOT have leftover food.)
- Highest combined recycling and composting rate
The winning teams will be posted on the EPA website.
There’s no cash prize. But winning would give a school bragging rights, which should mean something. Go team!
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