Why My Swiffer is the Least of Our Worries: Prioritization Matters


Image credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five, used under Creative Commons license.

The other day I was cleaning our floors with a Swiffer, musing on how it probably wasn't the greenest option out there, and beating myself up for choosing convenience over ecology. Then I told myself to shut the **** up and get over it.

Swiffers are the least of our concerns.

I've written before about the lost eco-art of cutting yourself some slack, arguing that the eco-guilt that many aspiring environmentalists feel is counterproductive as it saps our energy and discourages us from even trying.

But my Swiffer-related angst is about something a little more than that. It's about prioritization and personal motivations. The fact is that while No Impact Man and the Moneyless Man may go to laudable extremes to cut their own carbon footprint, the majority of the world (myself included) are only going to have so much brain capacity, time and motivational energy to devote to personal green lifestyle choices.

So I would suggest prioritizing them according to two simple criteria:

  • Which has the most impact?
  • And which do we personally find the most rewarding and/or least disruptive?

I happen to hate mopping with a passion (it always felt like pushing dirty water around a room), and I have a strong suspicion that my choice of floor cleaner is not among my most egregious eco-sins. So I've made the proud decision to keep Swiffing and not even worry about the consequences.

Yes, I look forward to a day when the convenience of a Swiffer is matched by an eco-friendly, waste-free option. (If you know of one already, please share.) And yes, I probably should listen to my colleagues at Planet Green who tell me I could hack my Swiffer to be green by knitting my own reusable Swiffer covers.

But honestly, I'd be better off dedicating my energies to reducing the meat and dairy in my diet, using my car even less, or involving myself in my local community green initiatives. Oh, and campaigning for laws and incentives that make truly sustainable design commonplace—even for those folks who are too lazy or busy to do the right thing.

To win, the green movement needs to understand leverage, not just footprints. And we need to learn to prioritize our energies. And that includes anyone who spends their time reading me the riot act in the comments below for my heinous anti-green heresy.

More on Individual Environmental Impact
Colin Bevan On His Year as No Impact Man
Living Without Cash for a Year: Hipocrisy or Heroism
How to Hack Your Swiffer
To Win, We Must Understand Leverage, Not Just Footprints

Tags: Consumerism | Ethical | United States

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