I just read yet another tiresome article by someone dismissing corporate efforts at sustainability. After all, they weren’t addressing climate change or global warming!
Some companies are redesigning their entire transportation system to save fuel. Some companies are working to achieve zero waste to the landfill. Hello. Doesn’t less fuel mean less emission of greenhouse gases? Doesn’t zero waste to landfill mean that the company is no longer contributing to the greenhouse gases that arise from there?
Oh, but I forgot. These corporations are engaging in sustainability to increase their profits. Oh, the evil, wicked corporations and their greed! They don’t act on noble motives. So their work on behalf of the environment doesn’t count because of their tainted motives.
What motivates green?
I have seen some poll results lately about who makes up the environmentally conscious part of the American population. It seems that little more than 15% of the population is motivated by such issues as global warming or what’s good for wild animals.
That doesn’t mean only 15% care. It means that only that many make lifestyle decisions based on factors like that. Another 15% or so are green deniers, people who for whatever reason reject the entire notion of acting for the good of the environment.
The rest of the population occupies a vast middle ground. It stands to reason that a group that comprises about 70% of the population would not all be of a single mind. Some are more altruistic. Some are more interested in personal payoff. Some act in order to feel good, others out of a sense of obligation or duty.
Why should any of that come as a surprise?
Sustainable Green Homes is certainly not the only blog that shows people how to go green in order to save money. I might add that landfills are expensive to maintain. Some jurisdictions must haul trash out of the area because there are no nearby landfills. If enough people and companies take action to minimize their contributions to the landfill, we should eventually get a tax break! Now there’s motivation!
Unfortunately, a lot of people find guilt a powerful motivator. Polls indicate that the greenest Americans are also the most guilt-ridden about the environment. In other words, they suggest that the people who are most diligent about being friendly to the environment feel the most guilty about whatever it is they are not doing. That’s not emotionally healthy.
Green action beats ideological purity
There is a common stereotype of the “greenie” (a young woman, a Democrat with money) who looks down her nose at anyone who doesn’t drive a Prius. She works for environmental street cred by campaigning for political candidates who will vote for expensive and intrusive government programs.
A little reflection and common sense should say that it’s just a caricature that doesn’t describe any actual people. Be sure that the people who make themselves most visible and audible in their calls to action on climate change are making more sacrificial green lifestyle decisions than less dedicated people can ever imagine.
On the other hand, consider the climate change skeptics who perhaps use cloth bags and reusable water bottles instead of plastic. Why? Because they hate litter, and besides, some stores give them a discount of a nickel for every cloth bag they use for their purchases.
Don’t laugh. They’re doing their part to reduce not only litter, but the demand for new plastic bags and bottles. Speaking of climate change skeptics, did you know that the Tea Party has joined the chorus of people who want Georgia Power to increase its use of solar power?
I have yet to hear any action that some say is necessary to combat climate change that is not also necessary for some other environmental reason. Many of these actions have personal benefits that have nothing to do with the environment.
People who specifically care about the environment should be glad when anyone takes environmentally friendly activities for any reason whatsoever. And encourage more of the same.
I recently made a similar point in a discussion forum, and someone brought up I concept I hadn’t heard of: Jevons’ Paradox. It states that as technological efficiency increases in the use of a resource, total consumption of that resource may not decrease, as expected, but increase.
In other words, it does no lasting environmental good to use, say, gasoline more efficiently if that means driving the price down and encouraging consumption and therefore production of more of it.
But I have to wonder? What does that have to do with climate change? Enough already!