Printing a nice message on a piece of plastic wrap and putting it in the bin does not make it green, nor does it do much for the environment, but it does make one feel better about using it and probably sells some extra plastic. Much of recycling is like that- a feel-good way of shifting producer responsibility for their own waste to the taxpayer, who pays to have it picked up and recycled.
And while we at TreeHugger stress the positive effects of small steps, thinking that they lead to bigger steps and to political change, UK environmental writer Keith Farnish serves some food for thought over at the Sietch.
How many times have you seen this picture?
He writes about how we are encouraged to take small steps, but that what we are really doing is domestic greenwashing, "the kind of greenwashing that we each carry out on a regular basis (some people more than others) in order to make ourselves feel better about our intrinsically damaging behaviour."
A few examples: One could feel good about
- Turning your air conditioning thermostat up 1 degree
- Swapping a conventional lightbulb for a CFL
- Properly inflating the tyres on your car
- Recycling your plastic bottles
or you could perhaps make a bigger difference by:
- Dumping your air conditioning, installing shutters and shade plants, using natural ventilation and wearing appropriate clothing
- Only using lighting when absolutely necessary
- Not driving
- Not buying goods that produce waste, and minimising the overall amount of things you buy.
He suggests that "we have been brainwashed with the idea that all we need to do to make things better is to make small changes in our lifestyles." He thinks it is a plot to keep us shopping, to convince us that " technology will save the day, and that we need corporations, we need governments and we need cities, roads, cars, airplanes, televisions, air conditioning units, Playstations and shopping malls."
So put your waste in the bin instead of deciding not to buy things or make them yourself or civilization as we know it will collapse. Looking around at what is happening when banks stop lending and people stop buying, I think he may well have a point. More at the Sietch Blog.
TreeHugger on Small Steps
McKinsey Study Shows Small Steps Do Matter, After All
Small Steps Matter
Weathercocks, Signposts, and Compact Fluorescents
365 Small Steps Cover a Lot of Ground