By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
There’s been a lot of talk about “shared sacrifice” as American lawmakers try to button down the spending that many blame for the nation’s problems.
Personally, I don’t understand why the discussion seems to be entirely about entitlement programs, with no talk about the defense spending. I am perpetually perplexed about our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, which seems to be as much of a moving target as the terrorists we’re chasing, while the money flies out of the Treasury as if a giant vacuum were sucking off the conveyor belt (Want a visual? Check out CostofWar.com‘s ticker.)
I get it that many government programs could stand some tweaking and scrutinizing. But Congress seems to be taking a hedge clippers to the lawn ornamentation, while a tornado bears down on the horizon.
Why would we give the EPA’s budget a buzz cut while we stand on the brink of climate disaster?
When it comes to things like this, I have to conclude, as I sometimes do in my household populated by teenagers, that we’ve landed in “upside-down world”, where our priorities have been flipped – by special interests, the heedless drive for profits, myopia, short-term thinking – and so we pursue our own selfish goals at any cost. At least that’s how it works at my house. And at the House of Representatives.
While we’re in upside-down world, we’re failing to find the path of common sense.
I’d like to suggest a way back. Go to a green festival this week. It’s Earth Day (April 22) and there’s almost certainly something going on near you.
There, I promise, you’ll find a wealth of common sense. It’s intrinsic. It’s practically the definition of sustainability. Some think green living is about more…groan… shared sacrifice. But don’t believe these naysayers. It is about choosing a promising and clean path to a future that conserves energy and resources, ultimately making our lives easier, not more difficult.
OK, I’ll say it. Give Green a Chance.
At the festival (hopefully it’s got good organizers), you’ll likely rediscover ways of growing food organically that have worked for millennia, and are critical to restoring the land today. You’ll find out about energy sources that don’t wipe out ecosystems when there’s an accident; about living in comfort without needless chemicals; about ditching the pesticides that are killing our soil, rivers and ourselves; and about finding harmony with other living creatures and healing our natural environment.
I’ll concede that moving to a new energy system for our homes – one based on renewables like wind, solar and geothermal energy – will have costs. But already utilities are offering wind power plans that are competitive with traditional plans. Solar power prices are coming down, and even geothermal is finding more investors. Secretary Steven Chu predicts that renewables could reach price parity with dirty fuels within a decade, even without subsidies.
These new ways of powering our homes, offices and in some cases, cars, are all regenerating. So they’ll pay us back over time, if we just make the upfront investment. Some would say we can’t afford not to.
Take a look around you at your local green festival and you will find many retailers, advocates and service people who are already operating sustainably, and innovating like crazy. They’ll offer you many ways to inch, step or leap toward greener ways.
We were blown away by the many earth-friendly alternative approaches to clothing, cosmetics, lawn and garden care and even office work at the Green Festival in San Francisco earlier this month. (Admittedly, we were happily sated at the time with fragrant Fair Trade coffee, curries, falafel and other veg fare being served in the food area, putting us in an excellent frame of mind.)
Call me easily impressed, but I was fascinated by several new (or new to me) items that people can take advantage of in their everyday life. In other words, those things that we can do right now (while we’re saving up for solar panels) to live more lightly, and sensibly, on the planet, like:
- Do-it-Yourself refillable printer ink cartridges by Silo Ink. Instead of buying $50+ set of ink cartridges every time your printer runs out of ink, you buy one reusable cartridge and an accompanying set of bottled inks. So you refill your own cartridges several times, reducing needless trash, and saving yourself a lot of money. Tik Yip, an officer of Silo Ink, showed us an album of photos printed using the Silo inks alongside photos that used conventional retail store cartridges. We couldn’t tell the difference.
- Another no-brainer idea that gave us paws, was a product called Swheat Scoop. At this booth, representatives showed us how clean wheat chaff can help usher kitty’s litter box into a new age, one without clumping chemicals and artificial fragrances. Swheat Scoop can absorb odors and clumps together without any additives, which means it’s pure enough to flushed or can be composted once it’s “scooped out”.
- The Earth Swag store helps solve a different problem, the proliferation of snack and sandwich baggies, by replacing them with reusable, washable cloth baggies and sandwich wraps. These reusable bags, in cute kid patterns, cost more upfront, a lot more, than a $2 box of snack or sandwich bags. But they pay for themselves within a couple months. In fact, if you use these products in just one person’s lunchbox for a year, you’ll save money; and you won’t contribute to the Pacific Garbage Patch, or its little sister in the Atlantic.
Win-win-win ideas were pretty much richocheting off the walls at the festival. As you might imagine, if you consider that authentically green products are designed to be healthier and less environmentally harmful.
I could cite many more examples.
And I will. In the coming days, I will share with you many ideas and products that we explored at the San Francisco Green Festival and expect to unearth at Earth Day Dallas, which brings together green living practitioners, retailers, energy experts and activists this coming Friday and Saturday.
If you live in the Dallas area, be sure to attend this event in the downtown arts district on April 22-23. And if you missed the San Francisco Green Festival on April 8 & 9, watch for the one in the same location in the fall. In the meantime, the Green Festivals will travel to Chicago (May 14-15), Seattle (May 21-22) and next fall in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. You don’t have to confine your green living forays to this week.
Happy Earth Day!
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