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We say we’re green, but…

 Posted by on July 20, 2009
Jul 202009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Last week’s news really illustrated the push and pull between green ideals and the realities of life here on Planet X.

The Obama Administration put logging jobs ahead of forest preservation with its decision to allow a road into an undisturbed forest in the Tongass National Forest outside of Ketchikan, Alaska. The forest, a watershed and recreation area, had been left alone under a Clinton-era rule that protects “roadless” forests.

Now, the U.S. Forestry Service will allow two miles of road to be built so a local logging company can access timber. It will help local loggers weather tough times. But conservationists say its a bad call. There’s talk this might be a one-time exception. But then, the road to hell is paved with exceptions. Or is it intentions? In any case, this exception-al road will be bordered with clear-cut timberland. (See more in the Juneau Empire.)

Speaking of blowing up pristine lands, the debate over shearing off mountaintops to obtain coal continues unabated. You’ll recall a few weeks ago climate scientist James  Hansen and Darryl Hannah made headlines while protesting a coal operation in West Virginia.

Another mess, another bank, a different issue

This week, the Rainforest Action Network announced a new tactic in their guerrilla operation to save Appalachia: Go for the money. A newsletter to supporters asks them to call Chase Bank in New York City because the bank is a key financier of these coal operations. They’re not wasting time with some aggravating 800-number either, they’ve got names and numbers of employees and a script to follow. Cute.

So while people chip away at forests and mountains, eco-groups chip back. But what’s missing from these dialogues is, well, you. Consumers are end users of wood products. We don’t know exactly if you’ll be wiping your bottom with the trees from Ketchikan, or settling your lovely tushie on a new chair from Ketchikan. Maybe they have some high-level use in mind for these trees. Hope so.

In the meantime, there are a few small things that you can do to offset the destructive practices in any number of forests where the chain saws roar right now. Buy 100 percent recycled paper with the highest post-consumer content possible. Do this whether you are shopping for printer paper or TP.

Look for these brands, for example:

  • Seventh Generation – (their TP is 100 percent recycled, minimum of 80 percent post-consumer fiber)
  • Marcal – Their new “small steps” brand is 100 percent recycled “premium paper” (translation: Your tush will be safe)

As for that Appalachian coal. That’s problematic. You can’t ask people to turn off the electricity. But everyone who’s paying an electric bill should check out their power options. In many states you can choose your provider, and often you can choose a clean energy or cleaner energy plan. When you opt for wind or solar you’re keeping the pressure up on the fossil fuel industry.

(Want to know more about coal? Visit the Reality campaign, where they will share tidbits like this one from the US government: “CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America.”)

March, take aim and… get great prices on organic yogurt?

Finally, on the green frontlines, was the Wal-Mart story. Bless their ginormous eco-heart, they have done a lot to bring sustainable practices to the mainstream. They’re selling Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt, organic teas, cage-free eggs, and they carried Kleenex Naturals (until that experiment folded).

But they’re still treading heavily on the land with big box stores that make a big thud when they plop down. Check out the controversy over their plans to set up shop next to a historic woodlands and Civil War battlefield in Orange County, Va. Wal-Mart claims it’s not taking a strong offensive; but defenders of history and nature are united in their pique. They want the store moved farther down the road.

The timing of this firefight exposed Wal-Mart’s weak flank: It broke out a day after the world’s largest retailer announced plans to promote green transparency with a worldwide sustainable products index. Ummm.

The moral of the story: It is NOT easy being green. Whoever said that?

(Photo credit: US Forestry Service, Kip Tyler)

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