I HAVE TO SAY, I'm very pleased and excited about the recent green movement I have witnessed here in Savannah and throughout the country for that matter.
Whether you would like to discuss sustainability with a like-minded individual over “green drinks” or flip the channel over to Discovery Channel’s new Planet Green, there is information and inspiration available to any interested individual.
People seem ready to jump on the green bandwagon, but some may be a little too eager. Maybe before we all run out and buy new Energy Star Appliances, organic cotton sheets and compact fluorescent bulbs we should stop and think about the consequences for a second.
Don’t get me wrong, I will always be the first to say that we must reduce our energy consumption, our dependency on oil or improve the quality of our living and working conditions. However, let’s make sure that is what we are doing.
Remember the three “R’s”? If you went to elementary school within the last 30 years you should remember them. If not, they are: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Let’s talk about the first one, reduce. Granted, if you go home and replace every incandescent bulb in your home with brand new fluorescent blubs, your electric bill will be reduced. Which in turn, means your energy consumption has been reduced, right?
Think about the amount of energy that went into producing that perfectly good incandescent blub you just tossed in the trash. Consider the energy that it took to pull the raw materials from the Earth to create the metal, glass, filament and packaging; the energy to transport these materials to the manufacturer; the energy to transport the bulb to your favorite retailer; the energy the retailer used to entice you to purchase the bulb; the energy to get you to the retailer’s store to buy the bulb and then go back home.
A majority of that energy was just tossed in the trash. Your bulb was not used to its full potential. This holds true for a lot of the items we may be replacing with greener technology.
That brings me to the second “R”, reusing. From what I have seen on Planet Green and HGTV, it is in fashion to go to your local antique dealer or flea market and purchase early 20th century milk crates that have been transformed into nightstands.
This is a wonderful idea if you don’t have perfectly good nightstands sitting at home already. If the nightstands are already there, what is wrong with them and what do you plan to do with them when you get the new (or is it old) nightstands?
Let me provide an example. I recently took my wife’s neglected bike in for repairs. I first went online and searched for the closest bike shop to my home (keep the money local and reduce my fuel costs for transportation).
The bike was purchased several years ago and was not great quality to begin with. After a few years of sitting in the backyard, it was in serious disrepair and useless.
When the bike was presented to the salesperson he was quick to respond with dismay. He “reluctantly” reported to us that the bike was in significant disrepair and that it would take, at the very least, $200 to repair the bike and we could purchase a new one for around $300.
I had trouble with this concept. If the old bike is going to be in good shape for around $200, isn’t it more cost effective and better for the environment to reuse it as opposed to throwing it out?
Then there is recycling. I think all of us know that we should think about anything that goes in our trash can; but what about those big ticket items? These green renovation shows would have you donate your old appliances to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.
Again, this is a wonderful thing to do if you must get rid of your old stove; however, if you would like to make a real contribution to Habitat for Humanity, send them a check. Think about the abuse your appliance will take during removal, transportation and reinstallation. It would have likely had a much longer life sitting where it was.
What was so wrong with it in the first place if you were willing to push it on another family? What about those countertops, cabinets, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, tile wallboard, etc? Can you recycle all of that? Certainly not all of it.
The point I am trying to make is that we need to go back to the basics when making the decision to go green. The three “R’s” are sustainability at its purest.
Reduce your consumption, reuse and continue to use whatever you can, and recycle whenever you can. If you want to buy a new item, make sure its creator had sustainability in mind, make sure that you are making green decisions when throwing out the old, and don’t throw out that incandescent blub until it has fulfilled its purpose.
That would be the green thing to do. cs