Its Okay to be Green, Just Not Too Green

Motorists Yelling Photo

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A blind, elderly New Jersey resident recently found himself in front of a judge. His crime: ::New Jersey Star Ledger">composting. The problem: residents with a vision of what a "clean" neighborhood should look like are not thrilled with the smell and mess of a compost pile and yard garden, reports the New Jersey Star Ledger. When cities are trying to reach their Kyoto-like emission reduction goals, how do they balance deed-restrictions and voter happiness, with sustainability projects (housing, composting, traffic), that don't fit under normal codes.

Solar panels routinely run up against HOAs, artificial lawns don't fit in and non-traditional housing structures are a pipe dream in many areas and don't even mention dumpster diving. Even on a national scale, offshore wind-turbines are having trouble because of the perception that they will tarnish a perfect view. As activities become more mainstream and are embraced by the media, its easier to win approval. But, if we need to act, and act now to turn this sinking ship around, can we wait for public approval or do we just act now, ask questions later?"The irony is that these are the people trying to do the right thing, and the people criticizing them are probably getting (chemicals) which put more toxins on their lawn into the environment than a golf course," says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

So, how do we balance having an odor free yard with setting differences aside for the common good? How do we balance one neighbor not wanting to "look at solar panels" versus our need for energy independence and someone willing to front the money to buy that independence through solar? One of the worst parts is that it pits neighbor against neighbor, involving hefty court fees and delaying solutions. Does giving neighbors a head-up about future plans help to grease the wheels?

Cities like Philadelphia and Detroit are embracing ideas like community gardens, as they struggle to reinvent themselves after the closure of many factories and mills leaving the city with thousands of abandoned properties. Another way is to ensure that if citizens are going green, then the products they use are at least doing what they are supposed to. Canadian courts now are cracking down on companies that make green claims, but don't follow through in practice. This way, when products are used, and maybe make the neighborhood a little "different", they at least provide the advertised benefits.

Does installing community gardens provide a stronger support network for the community? If installing them makes the neighborhood messy, will the stronger sense of community keep the area from being run-down? Will we just have to get over what we think a community is "supposed to look like" and some day look back on all of this and wonder why we ever worried in the first place, kind of like letting women wear pants to work?

::New Jersey Star Ledger
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