Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Being Green

Happy Earth Day everyone! I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the cause of environmentalism lately. This is probably because I work in Portland, where paper straws and cloth shopping bags prevail. Where is not only hip to “be green” it’s a prerequisite for living. Portland (actually Maine in general) is filled with “Environmentalists”, who, as the name implies are “nuts about the earth” (interpret that however you’d like).

I’ve observed that there are two major types of environmentalists: type I - who like to “be green” because it’s perceived as cool (like listening to jazz, or sending IMs from the line at Starbucks), and type II - who are willing to forego modern convenience and live sacrificially for the cause of the environment (like Audra, for who’s sake I cover the plastic and cardboard that I throw away in the trash can under my desk with crumpled papers). I have to confess that whenever I throw away a plastic bottle in downtown Portland I actually feel like I’m giving back to the community; it’s like putting a nickel into the hands of a homeless person.

I would like to care more about the environment, really I would. As a Christian I do enjoy the environment and I love that God created this amazingly beautiful and spectacular ball of dirt for our pleasure (not my husband, a different dirt ball). I also feel that I should be a good steward over what God has entrusted me with (kids, finances, earth).

Here’s my problem: I haven’t bought into the philosophy that my throwing away a plastic bottle is going to devastate the environment. I have asked people to explain this to me, but I have not gotten a sufficient answer. I need someone to make a case for recycling/energy conservation/etc to me so I can buy into the cause. Oh, and I should mention the case need not mention “millions of years from now” because I go numb when people start talking about the earth in terms of “millions of years”. (refrain, refrain, refraining – yay, I did it).

I received a brochure today informing me that a plastic grocery bag takes more than 1000 years to break down in a landfill. How do they know that? Plus, I’m hoping Jesus comes before then, and he has a whole renovation planned for the earth anyway.

The formal challenge: if you can convince me that environmental causes are important and I can buy into your logic, I will change my uncaring ways, I will purchase and use polypropylene grocery totes, a SIGG water container, and all the other environmental paraphernalia that I need to support the cause, AND just to up the anti, I will purchase and wear a cheezy environmental t-shirt (preferably one that's made out of organic hemp or recycled newspapers) to publicly declare that I am committed to the cause of “being green”.


K-Sea said...

It's not up to us to show you. You must find the way yourself.

K-Sea said...

The reason we have ditched the Hard Plastic water bottles for the SIGG's is primarily because the plastic water bottles are made with a hormone-mimicking chemical. A lot of retailers are pulling from their shelves.

Frankly a lot of reasons you would "go green" comes down to science. You are pretty clear on where you stand on that topic.

T5M said...

Oh yeah...you don't want to store your water in those toxic hard plastic containers, right!

...I'm sure those are much different from the large 5 gallon plastic Poland Springs container in your kitchen that dispenses water into your 1 liter metal SIGG container.

K-Sea said...

In fact they are made from different plastic but if you feel as though you want to criticize go for it after all your not looking into it yourself you are waiting for someone to tell you.

K-Sea said...

ROCHESTER, New York - Hard-plastic Nalgene water bottles made with bisphenol A will be pulled from stores over the next few months because of growing consumer concern over whether the chemical poses a health risk.

Nalge Nunc International, a division of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., said Friday it will substitute its Nalgene Outdoor line of polycarbonate plastic containers with BPA-free alternatives.

"By eliminating containers containing BPA from our consumer product mix, our customers can have confidence that their needs are being met," Steven Silverman, general manager of the Nalgene business, said in a statement.

T5M said...

I'm not sure what you're all fired up about, last time I checked, you didn't purport to be an environmentalist (type I or type II).

You seem to find it bothersome that I'm asking my friends and blog commrads to provide information about the environment. I'm not sure why this is upsetting to you? If I had information about a particular topic and a friend wanted to know about that topic, I'd be more than happy to share my information with them.

Sure I can look online, but honestly, I'm short on time, AND more importantly, I don't trust a lot of what I read online.

Then you take a shot at me not "believing in science" - which has nothing to do with the topic at hand. The inference that Christians don't believe in science is offensive and small minded. Nancy makes her living as a scientist, I'm sure she would disagree with you.

Thanks for providing the info on the toxic plastic, but I still think you should switch to a 5 gal SIGG container for your water dispenser, just to be safe!

MOM said...

I heard on the radio that we are only recycling 1/3 of what we could be recycling. Think of the job market. Recycling creates jobs..........and it also creates a cleaner environment!

~Seth & Nancy~ said...

i'm very suspicious when it comes to the whole recycling thing. i'm pretty diligent about keeping the paper,plastic and cans separate from the rest of the trash, but i really wonder if it all just gets dumped at the same place!
the other day i was thinking about big businesses...how much MORE stuff gets wasted there. like all those stinkin' credit card offers = wasted paper. i don't really know where i stand on the whole issue...i guess i just try to do my best to be "friendly" to the environment, but like you said erin, something better's coming in the end!

T5M said...

Funny you say that Nancy, I used to work for an environmental consulting firm (back in my youth) and we had the little blue recycling bins for paper, one night I was in the office late and saw the cleaning people dumping the contents of all those blue recycling bins into the same trash bag as the trash! What a joke!

K-Sea said...

My comments are tied strictly to this post. You openly question the science of how they know a plastic bag takes 1000 years to decompose as to say " ya right" so stop thinking that everything I say is anti Christian.
So to answer that question I am guessing that they bury a bag for a year and figure what percent of the bag decomposed and from there they can figure out how long it will take the rest of the bag.
And again you take a shot at my water bottle. We drink 25 gallons of water a month. We fill portable bottles and bring them on our travels. The type of plastic used in the 5 gallon jugs first of all are different than the hard plastic in question. And we don't have to use 200 individual plastic bottles a month.

Jermaine said...

I think that the earth is a wonderful place. It is a testimony to glory of the One who created it. I also believe that we have a responsibility to take care of it and maintain it. I have nothing against "going green". I think it is a noble idea.

If you are going to embrace it, then fully embrace it. I think most people do what is convenient. "Going green" goes out the window when a significant amount of sacrifice is involved. There are people who do this, but there are many who do not. Those same people get indignant when someone doesn't support their cause even though they barely support it themselves. I can't say that I am an environmentalist because we have 3 cars (including a non-fuel efficient V8 truck), a boat, and a John Deere mower. Not to call you out Shaun, but you have the same things including a snowmobile. Do you not smell the oil released in the air when you ride the sled? Do you not see the oil slick in the river when we start up the boat? Where is the conviction then? Science seems to go out of the window. It is like cleaning the outside of the cup.

I guess I could say that I am doing my part because I recycle every week, and at least I don't drive my truck to work, but I am honest with myself in saying I do what is convenient. We can all do better. I guess it is just farther down on my list of priorities than other people.

Jermaine said...

BTW - Tap water is also an option. Take the plastic out of the equation entirely. That is probably the most envoronmentally sound decision.

K-Sea said...

since I have been called out please show me where I proclaim to be an enviormentalist! I made mention of changing the type of water bottle I use AGAIN BECAUSE OF THE CHEMICALS USED IN ITS PRODUCTION AND FOR NO OTHER REASON INCLUDING ENVIORNMENTAL!!!!! So calling out my emission creating machines serves no point as I never criticized anyones enviormental agenda other than erins challenge to have us tell her why it matters

So jermaine. What's your point?

T5M said...

The science of your plastic bag experiment makes a lot of assumptions, which to me, doesn't make it very "scientific". How do we know what the earth will be like in 500 years? ...what about if the bag decomposes faster in geography than another? We can't take a single point in time and assign all of those attributes to thousands of years forward (or billions of years backward, for that matter). We know that environmental factors change over time, we know that the environment today is vastly different than it was prior to the industrial revolution, we even know that the environment in Maine is much different than in NYC (which is why we choose to live in Maine).

Also, as a side note, what you save in plastic water bottles, you use in plastic coffee containers.

Dirt: I don't think Shaun is trying to say he's "green", I think he's just trying to be combative towards his sister. It has to do with reprisal for me sending back hamburgers throughout our childhood (which he found very embarrassing)

Jermaine said...


Your first two posts implied that you were concerned about the environment. When you say that it is not up to "us" to show you, and their are a lot of scientific reasons to "go green" (and make a very broad generalization because someone has a different viewpoint than you on a certain scientific principle). When you say you do not use 200 plastics bottles a month, my assumption was it is because of the environment. I figured you were in that camp. My apologies if I was mistaken. My point was very clear, whether it applies to you or not. If you care about it, then care about it. Some people say it yet don't live it.

Jermaine said...

BTW - I am sorry Shaun. I should've attacked you personally. I could have made my point without mentioning your name.

I think the science comment got me riled up.

Jermaine said...

That should be "shouldn't have". I have to learn to read my comments before posting.

K-Sea said...

the 200 bottles was a unintenional benefit
even if you didn't use my name it would have been pretty obvious who you were talking to just like the walmart reference in the past when you called me out for wearing Nike shoes. It seems that from your perspective you are either ALL in or a hypocrit. Erin made her point in the blog, she feels its all hogwash. Who cares what the earth looks like in 1000 years. That's her perspective and that is fine but to think any if us can change her mind is nieve. Case in point look at her last post on my bag theory. Sorry for the spelling my iPhone isnt

Jermaine said...

I disagree about Erin. Doesn't the whole basis of her post go against someone who isn't interested in being convinced? She asked for comments. Someone asking for arguments from the other side wouldn't fall into the "there is no way I will change" category. If you asked me to convince you that Christianity is the truth, would I be wrong in assuming that you are at least open to hearing what I have to say?

It is healthy to have doubts. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be convinced. None of us are scientist (except Nancy), so regardless of what we believe scientifically, we are taking someone else's word for it. Science is not "exact". A study is released one day with certain results, and the next with totally contradicting conclusions. There are actually scientist that say global warming is a non-issue and the Earth is experiencing a natuaral cycle in climate change. I don't believe that, but they are out there (with the same data from the other side).

Again, I am sorry for attacking you. That was wrong. Chalk it up to me standing up for my wife. I will do that every time. BTW - I don't think I attacked you in the Walmart blog though (although it was clear that I disagreed with you and people of your ilk). Just kidding. You know I love you. I just enjoy healthy debates.

And yes. I believe if you are going to stand up for an issue, you should be all in. I am a Christian. I believe in Christian priciples. I can't say one thing and do another. That happens too often. It would do more damage to the cause than help.

T5M said...

I am following you, I am right with you, the only thing I don't understand is why my POST (not the comments) is upsetting to you? I am asking for people who care about the earth to educate me and turn me from my uncaring ways. Educating others is a key component to the whole environmental movement - because one person can't make an impact alone, many people need to "give a hoot". Why is this a bad thing?

MaineMomKC5 said...

It's getting hot in here...

Okay, so in defense of my dear husband, he was definitely not saying he's "green." I think he was wondering why you are looking for others to change your "uncaring ways." It’s so easy to see that we live in a culture of disposability – just look at the amount of trash you accumulate in your house alone. We change our trash bag almost once a day!

My resolve just recently has been to purchase those cloth shopping bags - I feel sick whenever I throw 30 plastic bags away after a grocery trip.

I think you're right Erin about how one can study a plastic bag's deterioration – the Earth is in a state of constant flux. But it doesn't change the fact that today, right now, they are filling up land fills, killing marine life and are extremely hard to recycle.

I don't think I fall into your two types of environmentalists - I just think I can do my part and it makes sense. We are a throw-away society and it's only getting worse with technology increasing at a rampant rate.

Here is a good article which sheds some light on the ugliness of plastic bags:

MaineMomKC5 said...

BTW, where is Audra in all of this?

K-Sea said...

"Also, as a side note, what you save in plastic water bottles, you use in plastic coffee containers."

Another attack. So far you guys have attacked my water habits..my use of gas...now my use of a Keurig coffee machine...what next? What about the electricity I use on my TV? Did you forget that or is that next?

One more time:


~Seth & Nancy~ said...

speaking of science...we just went to see "expelled" last weekend. i'd highly recommend it...eye opening when it comes to the idea of science and how some scientists are black-listed because they're asking some questions that aren't allowed...something that goes against what science is all about...asking questions!

~Seth & Nancy~ said...

wendy...you can send your plastic shopping bags our way! i actually try to double bag sometimes...i need them for our dogs "deposits"!!

Jermaine said...

Shaun. Admit it! You are an environmentalist!

K-Sea said...

My personal feeling is that the tone and matter in which the post was written is looking for a challenge not an education. MY OPINION! I made ONE point about the plastic bag and you immediately poo pooed it. So with your permission I would like to bury all of my plastic in your yard.

Secondly, I completely disagree with Dirt's "ALL IN" comment. This is twice now you have labeled my a hypocrite . I believe in baby steps. You even said that "you were doing your part" by recycling every week at the dump. So I suppose that makes you a hypocrite because you have 3 cars, a mower a boat etc. etc. etc. After all you not ALL in. So why even be in at all. Or are you even in? Would you recycle if there wasn't a $500.00 fine? I think to criticize one for trying to take positive steps in certain areas where thay can or even where it is convenient is a very sticky wicket.

I love a debate too. I just wish we could stick to the topics.

K-Sea said...

Jermaine you got me! I am an environmentalist. I will be at a combo rally tonight at the Portsmouth center. It's an anti-war rally but we are going to use hemp to make signs and use our blood for paint.

I also just bought a human feces converter for the boat. Its going to smell bad but it won't leave an oil slick.


K-Sea said...


Jermaine said...

BTW Shaun - Wasn't it you who threw the first stone? When you publicly criticize someone's position, you open yourself up to be criticized as well (there is that saying about living in a glass house...). It seems that your first two comments set the tone of the whole post. When I first read them I thought steroids was a part of your new workout regimen.

Don't take that personally...it was joke. We do all still have a sense of humor right?

Jermaine said...

I don't mean to label you personally a hypocrite. That is why I should have not used you as an example. I think that some of the people that spew this stuff are. I can't say that I am a Red Sox fan, then wear a Yankee cap all day. It doesn't fit. Yes, you would then be a hypocrite. No, I am not a hypocrite unless I am telling people that I care about the environment while I still have the three cars.

We should do our part for whatever it is worth. And yes, I admit that the $500 fine keeps me in line more than the thought of "mother earth" herself.

That is why I am not en environmentalist like you.

T5M said...

We all do. We are so nuts - people must be reading this thinking that we are a bunch of wackos - hee hee hee (diabolical laugh)

I love us! Where the heck is Audra?

Jermaine said...

This blog is moving too fast!

T5M said...

you people are quick, I can't even get a word in edgewise, by the time I post a response, someone else has already commented! Oiy!

I think we can all agree on one thing: it's far too beautiful outside today to get any real work accomplished. Clearly we all lack focus.

MaineMomKC5 said...

Nancy, as long as your dog droppings weigh down the bags, I'll send them your way.

I just read about this para-glider whose constant companion up in the sky is plastic bags!


K-Sea said...

Of course we have a sense of humor!

Read the first two posts again. Where they really critical?
"It's not up to us to show you. You must find the way yourself." Where is that critical?

"Frankly a lot of reasons you would "go green" comes down to science. You are pretty clear on where you stand on that topic." Maybe slightly critical but I am just observing what was said on the post. She isn't buying the 1000 year theory.

Since they I have been defending our consumer habits.

As for all of the attacks on me...where is the basis? When did I attack or criticize what you buy, your coffee, or your water or your cars etc. etc. etc.

Don't write a blog if you don't want someone to disagree with you on some level. But don't come after me for the groceries we buy, the sneakers we wear or the cars we drive.

Jermaine said...

Yes. I do think your comments were being critical (especially the science comment). But so what. Who cares.

MAN UP! Don't post a comment if you do not want someone to disagree with you on some level. When you posted your position on Walmart, did we all have to agree with you? You seem to be stuck on this personal attack thing. We were talking about Walmart! I am not attacking your character, just your position. There is nothing personal about it. I welcome anyone to disagree with my position. I don't mind defending what I believe.

Your "stuff" came in to play because it was relevant to the debate. Nothing more. You environmentalists sure are sensitive!

K-Sea said...

Please...I don't think everyone should agree with me. And I am stuck on the personal attack because that is what you and your wife have launched:

***Erin:"Oh yeah...you don't want to store your water in those toxic hard plastic containers, right!

"...I'm sure those are much different from the large 5 gallon plastic Poland Springs container in your kitchen that dispenses water into your 1 liter metal SIGG container."

***Another smartass comment from Erin "Thanks for providing the info on the toxic plastic, but I still think you should switch to a 5 gal SIGG container for your water dispenser, just to be safe!"

***Jermaine :" Shaun, but you have the same things including a snowmobile. Do you not smell the oil released in the air when you ride the sled? Do you not see the oil slick in the river when we start up the boat?"

**Erin "Also, as a side note, what you save in plastic water bottles, you use in plastic coffee containers."

This is all stemming from the fact that I ditched my Nalgene water bottle because on NBC last week they said there was pretty credible proof they cause cancer.

How does that open me up for all of these smartass comments? If you would have attacked me on my scientific shot or my comment that sometimes you need to make decisions on your own. Then I will "MAN UP"

And as far as Wal Mart goes-That was a debate-two opposing views. This has not been a debate. Its been an attack. I have spent the day defending my owning a water bubbler and trying to debunk the label of "hypocrite" which has now been dropped on me a few times.

K-Sea said...

btw-i'll concede that I MAY have been trying to stir the pot to start this whole thing.

Audra said...

So, I don't have time to read all these comments because I am kinda busy today - but I know all of you and I know how "environmental" you are. Two of you in this group drive a pickup truck for a boat you don't need... I can't go down that path.
The issue here is not plastic bottles or if you believe in God or god or what is going to happen to the earth in 1000 years. Its about today, and how you treat the earth today. I push people to recycle because it is often the first step to making them more conscience about caring for the earth. Again - not talking about saving the planet for 100 years from now I am talking about taking care of the earth you have day to day. So if I can get someone to recycle I can it is often the first step on their path to do other things to curb their earth unfriendly ways. I do not think we need science to understand why littering is bad, or why filling our planet with landfills that are filled with plastics and chemicals are bad, or why eating food filled with red #5 is bad - we just need common sense - think - do you honestly think it’s a good idea to eat genetically engineered food? Go take a look in your cupboards and take stock of how much of that you have. How much of the food in your pantry would your grandmother recognize since that was the last time people ate food that wasn't genetically engineered. Common sense tells you its not good to not take care of what has been given to you - isn't that what all of you teach your kids? Why should your kids be held to a different standard than you? You need to take care of what you have been charged with and in this case it’s the planet. Honestly think that if everyone on this post would spend the energy they just spent in arguing this topic on recycling or doing one thing in their daily life that is taking better care of the earth then we would all be taking our first step.

Wendy said...

Audra, I just hugged a tree.

K-Sea said...

But Audra aren't you a hypocrite because you drive a car? Albeit a hybrid... but it still uses some gas right? Here they believe that unless you are ALL in then you are a hypocrite. You ARE the voice of reason!

T5M said...

Thank you for your voice of reason. This is precisely what I am talking about in my post. (I don't know how this thread went so terribly array!)Can you give me some pragmatic things to do (or not do), along with a sensible rationale for doing them?

Maybe I'm too black and white, but I need to understand why what I am doing (or not doing) is important. I guess its in my nature to question things, which can make me a difficult sell. I don't usually take things at face value. (Ask Seth, you should've been there when he first tried pitching Christianity to me - ha!) I do come around though, if things make sense.

It's not enough for you to make a broad statement about not eating Red #5 - I need to know why. It's not enough for you to tell me to take care of what I am given, because in my mind, I do (the plastic water bottles go in the trash (sometimes the recycling bin) and I think this is responsible. How about a simple list of 10 things to do/not do and why?

T5M said...

Look Shaun, we agreed on another thing (Audra = voice of reason).

You still have not answered the question I have posed to you twice about why you are upset that I've asked for clarity via the blog?

It seems to me that the post itself got you all stirred up.

Wen - screw hugging the trees, I think we all need a group hug!

Audra said...

Shaun - I am not sure that is what they are saying, because honestly among all the rhetoric spewn out here today I am not sure what any of you are saying. I suggest everyone take a deep breath and we convene for a round of the Newlywed game and an in person talk about the environment - if you think I am hard core you need to meet my other half.
I think that you should forgo modern conveniences in order to save the environment. Having something that is wasteful just because its cool or convenient doesn't work for me - your Kreuig coffee maker for example is a prime example of an unnecessary waste creator. But I also recognize that I live in 2008 and I need to live on this planet in this time as do we all. So until such time as I work from home( and we know I am working on that) then I have to drive to work. Matt and I commute in together and even on days when we have opposite schedules we forgo the convenience of taking 2 cars to use less gas and save the environment. I think about the impact I am making on the environment every single day in 100% of the choices I make. I don't say I always make the right choice - I still drink Dunkin Donuts for example - but I run through the thought process in my mind with each choice I make. I have no TV, no cable television, I have a small house that uses very little oil b/c I don't need more and I drive a hybrid. I am getting there but I am far from perfect in terms of how I can work on being a better environmentalist. This year Matt and I will attempt to grow all of our own vegetables and do our part that way.
You don't have to be all in or all out but you do need to think about the choices you make and if you are just making them b/c they are easy.

K-Sea said...

Audra NOW YOU? Taking a swipe at my coffee machine then in the same post saying you go to DD who use expanded polystyrene foam cups?

T5M said...

I am appauled that you call yourself an environmentalist, yet when someone (a friend no less) asks you for understanding so that they can too, can be earth-friendly, you tell them "to research it themselves".


Audra said...

Erin Moore I know you- and you like a good fight. Honestly if you had come to me and said "Audra I am interested in learning more about the environment, can you help me" i would have been more than happy - but on more than one occasion, this blog for instance, you pose it as "proof to me why I should care and I will do it" - its adversarial and I don't play that. I prefer to spend my time educating people who are interesting in learning not people who say "show me or I won't do anything"

And Shaun - I could have picked any of a 1/2 of dozen other conveniences you have that aren't environmentally friendly - I just picked the coffee - and I own the DD but I am miles ahead of you guys in what I do.

K-Sea said...

It's great how the author of the blog writes a post about having the readership have to prove to her that being environmentally conscious is the right thing to do only to have the readership turn around and point out what the Casey's are doing to pollute mother earth. Next time I will try ignorance, its seems to garner a free pass.

T5M said...

For the record, I have asked you, Audra, several times to make a case for the environment for me, in fact, the last time you replied, "I'm working on it". I even asked your Matt and he at least tried to break oil consumption down to me, (but alas, I'm not sure I had the required baseline of knowledge to fully grasp what he was saying).

MaineMomKC5 said...

Erin, I found another good article regarding the "science" behind dating the life span of plastic bags:


barbarakuhn said...

51 Comments! So may I ask why we don't use glass anymore. As a kid I earned my spending $$ dragging bottles back to the candy store. Also, at one time, Owens-Illinois employed 3/4 of my neighbors. (Erin-you have quite a blog family.)