Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Environmental Luxury

The more I try reach back to my tree hugger roots (see picture), the more I come to realize that being environmentally friendly can be quite expensive. I figure this is because most of the things we do that use a lot of energy revolve around two primary things: cars and our homes.

I live in an apartment. Even if I could afford it, I would not be able to put solar panels on the roof, double pane my windows (which desperately need it. When the wind blows the blinds move...and that's when they're closed), or purchase washing machine that uses silver ions instead of detergent (no chemicals) and cold water (less energy) to make the organic clothes I don't own 99% germ free.

As far as cars go, Japan has the right idea with hybrids as demonstrated in the Prius, the Insight and the Civic Hybrid. The U.S. auto manufacturers are a bit stupid as most of their hybrids are in large trucks and SUVs, resulting in minimal fuel/emissions savings. What's the point? And they wonder why they keep losing money...

Unfortunately (or, depending on how you look at it, fortunately) I am not in the market for a car right now. So no 60 mpg for me.

The problem with the recent resurgence in environmental awareness is that it's not mainstream. It's trendy at best, and being championed by either celebrities with money to spare or people perceived as environmental nut jobs who don't use deodorant and live in shipping containers or these things.

It goes back to the theory some have that one dominant green innovation isn't going to come along and dominate life as we know it. (Although I would argue that the guy with the supposed hydrogen maker would have a pretty good shot at doing just that.) Instead, it's going to be a combination of new technologies that, when combined, make a big impact. That, however, is part of the problem: there are a lot of obscure things out there, but not one thing people can latch onto, rally around, and take mainstream.


Of course, you don't have to build a house out of hay and beer cans or own a Prius to be environmentally friendly. As Andrea knows, I recycle a lot of my office paper. I have been driving more conservatively and I always turn off the lights when I leave a room. That's well and good, but at risk of sounding like a hemp-wearing smelly tree hugger, all that stuff is kind of "sissy" in my perspective. It all has the "duh" factor. Of course I do that. That stuff is a given. I want to do more.

You have to understand, I grew up in Oregon. My family of four threw out two paper grocery sacks of garbage a WEEK--everything else was recycled. In the evenings, we had one lamp on in the entire house. During the hot summer months, my mom would make us walk in through he garage to keep the house cool (no AC). The reult? It pains me to throw away a milk carton. I pause before sending a tin can into the trash. SUVs that serve only as status symbols tick me off.

Now you know where I'm coming from.

While I think living in almost complete darkness is a bit much, I think I should be doing more (along with everybody else out there). But what? How? At the moment, I don't think I can afford the luxury of being environmentally savvy.