One thing that has slowed the environmental movement, besides the merger of big oil and the White House, is the recurring feeling that environmental issues are always overwhelming. That “I’m just one person” feeling that you get when you read that there are so many problems in answering America’s energy needs. By the way, is it warm in here or is it just me? Can somebody hit that AC? Who wants a “Hot Pocket”? You just ‘nuke’ ‘em and they taste like pizza…
There you go. Turns out it’s our needs that shape the reality of environmental issues. So it does, in fact, come down to one person: You. True, you probably haven’t contributed directly to the death of a whale unless you’re a harpoon salesman and very few go into that business because of the size of the sample case. But you’re not getting off simply by writing a check. Although that helps and my pitch on that would be the National Resources Defense Council, an organization that cuts through red tape by taking environmental despoilers to court.
But to help bring green issues home, I’m offering a list of “planet savers” that anyone could act on right this minute. Clip and save this and put it on your “fridge” with an existing magnet. Don’t buy a new magnet. If you all go out and get new magnets, I’ve only created another environmental disaster. Okay, then…
Plastic water bottles. Do you seriously believe each and every one of them gets recycled? And even if they did, isn’t there a larger problem of encouraging a world that has turned an element of human survival into a retail commodity? Get a water filter, and drink out of glass. Discourage restaurants from finding their profit margins in bottled water by asking for tap. An hour later, you’ll have more credibility when the conversation turns to saving the world and you’re the only one not drinking Italian mineral water.
Just say “No” to those plastic bags we get in retail exchanges. Plastic bags overtook paper because they’re cheap, easier to store, and you can deploy all kinds of color advertising on them. Don’t argue with the sweet kid working the cash register about it; just don’t take the thing. That goes double for colossal plastic cups at fast food outlets and the movies. You want a rich afternoon? Take time to carefully explain to your child that the “Ice Age” 90-ounce plastic drink cup actually works toward harming the environment of the delightful creatures in the film.
Family game night. I’m not kidding. Sure, it’s retro as all get out but by turning off your television and playing board games you save electricity, pull your children off the electronic toy/zombie obedience track, and promote contact within your family. I concede that a round of “Monopoly” spent smothering toy properties with houses and hotels sends a somewhat anti-public lands message. But “Clue” teaches them how to get away with murder, something they’ll learn anyhow in their teens.
Think more and more often about whether you need it. And by “it” I mean, just about everything. My family attempts to avoid any Christmas gift with a power cord attached. There’s never before been such a wide assortment of kitchen tools that burn energy. Try getting the hand-powered version, and failing that, pull the plugs out of the wall when you’re not using the thing. But before any of that, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” knowing that he was a carpenter who worked without electricity. Maybe it’s shiny and looks like a time saver. And maybe you don’t need it.
“Save the Planet” used to be a bumper sticker and a patch for your backpack, but it means even more today now that we’re adding so much lead to the environment by way of bullets. I believe thinking “green” means standing away from yourself and making sure you’re not doing something that looks like you don’t care. Or that you’re not contributing to a culture of self that is going nowhere. When you apply that, just about everything becomes “environmental.”