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The ‘Guilty Green’ (gasp!) don’t always recycle

Janet Kornblum, USA TODAY
They drive SUVs, throw perfectly recyclable bottles and cans in the trash, clean their bathrooms with – gasp – bleach and think nothing of sometimes blasting the air conditioner or taking wickedly wasteful long, hot showers.

You think you know the type: the ones who think global warming is a hoax and scarf up natural resources like candy.

Think again.

All of the above are true confessions from the Guilty Green – the same people who say they worry about the planet becoming a giant hot tub.

Most of the time, they do the best they can. They dutifully recycle. They try to reduce their driving. They flush less frequently.

But sometimes they slip. They throw out that mayonnaise jar instead of rinsing and recycling. They buy bottled water instead of bringing their own filtered water in reusable containers. They even answer “plastic” to the age-old “Paper or plastic?” question at the grocery store, when they really should be pulling out an unbleached, environmentally safe, reusable cloth bag. Then they feel pangs of guilt, sometimes inflicted by others. How bad is it?

•A survey by the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. in Atlanta recently found that 20% of Americans experienced so-called green guilt. Most felt they should do more, especially recycling.

•A Catholic priest in England is reportedly taking green confessions at environmental festivals.

•And a website recently sprouted solely for the purpose of letting the green guilty confess – anonymously.

…In the meantime, what should people do with their guilt? “What I try to tell people is don’t sweat the small stuff,” says Chip Giller, founder of Grist. “An individual can have more impact if they focus on bigger purchasing decisions.” Buying a hybrid car or a water- and energy-saving washer and dryer has more impact than worrying about paper or plastic, he says.

In the long run, he’s hoping to effect change at the government and corporate levels. And for individuals, his hope is that being environmentally friendly will become routine. “Right now, green is trendy. But we want it to become second nature – like it is to put on a seat belt.”
(17 September 2007)
As my Puritan-minded mother used to say, “Shame and guilt are underrated!” -BA

Want not, waste not is the next green step

Scott Learn, Portland Oregonia
Oregon looks at a garbage-reduction strategy to stop trash before it happens by curbing the urge to consume

Now that Oregonians are good at recycling, state officials are edging toward a far tougher Step 2: Stop buying so much stuff in the first place.

People are buying and throwing out more than ever — roughly a ton and a half for every Oregonian each year — and even Oregon’s much touted recycling rates can’t keep up. Add the state’s expanding population, and you get a pileup.

And you get potential failure to meet Oregon’s freshly minted goals for curbing greenhouse gases.

To cut consumption and waste, and the manufacturing emissions at the front end, regulators are writing a strategy that suggests people consider smaller houses, avoid cramming their homes with junk, try drinking water from the tap instead of plastic bottles, buy used instead of new, repair things that break, downsize that big-ticket remodeling project.

The payoff from tamping down consumer cravings could be big, reducing global warming, saving forests. But tinkering with lifestyles — and the consumer economy — is risky business.
(17 September 2007)

Vatican Penance: Forgive Us Our Carbon Output

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times
TISZAKESZI, Hungary – This summer the cardinals at the Vatican accepted an unusual donation from a Hungarian start-up called Klimafa: The company said it would plant trees to restore an ancient forest on a denuded stretch of land by the Tisza River to offset the Vatican’s carbon emissions.

The trees, on a 37-acre tract of land that will be renamed the Vatican climate forest, will in theory absorb as much carbon dioxide as the Vatican will produce in 2007: driving cars, heating offices, lighting St. Peter’s Basilica at night.

In so doing, the Vatican announced, it would become the world’s first carbon-neutral state.

“As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently stated, the international community needs to respect and encourage a ‘green culture,’ ” said Cardinal Paul Poupard, leader of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who took part in a ceremony marking the event at the Vatican. “The Book of Genesis tells us of a beginning in which God placed man as guardian over the earth to make it fruitful.”

In many respects, the program seems like a win-win-win proposition. The Vatican, which has recently made an effort to go green on its own by installing solar panels, sought to set an example by offsetting its carbon emission

…After the Vatican agreement was announced, Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca Alameda, an official at the Council for Culture at the Vatican, told the Catholic News Service that buying credits was like doing penance. “One can emit less CO2 by not using heating and not driving a car, or one can do penance by intervening to offset emissions, in this case by planting trees,” he said.
(17 September 2007)
There’s an ongoing debate at Gristmill about whether carbon offsets are like buying indulgences – the problem being that it is a way to continue a bad behavior. -BA

Yunus calls for lifestyle ‘traffic rule’ to fight warming

SEOUL – The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus called for a worldwide lifestyle change, saying global warming is “a matter of life and death” for low-lying nations like his own country Bangladesh.

In a keynote speech to a symposium on climate change, Yunus suggested a “traffic rule” under which products bear red, yellow or green markings to indicate the extent to which they come from renewable sources.

Yunus, honoured for his creation of the Grameen Bank which grants microcredit to the poor, said his country is bearing the brunt of climate change, with 40 percent of its land mass less than one metre (3.3 feet) above sea level.

Sea levels are rising an average three millimetres a year, he said, and Bangladesh’s 150 million people are already confined to living on around 144,000 square kilometres (55,598 square miles).
(13 September 2007)