Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Green Lantern

As a companion to the post I made the other day about Earth Day, I'd like to refer everyone to a column on Slate.com called the Green Lantern. In some ways, I like this column, because they get down to the bare details about the environmental impact of common household items and activities. For example, they discuss whether plastic wrap or aluminum foil are better for the environment, or how green pet food is, or whether canned or bagged beans are the more socially conscious choice.

I tend to appreciate their analysis, because they incorporate factors that few environmental activists do, things such as opportunity cost or the substitution effect. This sometimes comes out to some rather surprising results, and more often than one would think the so-called "greener" option isn't all that beneficial, or that the impact is so close for all options any slight change in price or technology will change the result.

While I find it fascinating reading, the authors also admit that making a positive impact for the environment really isn't all about buying green mattresses or making an eco-friendly web page. It's making huge lifestyle choices that really matter--and these are choices that aren't just choosing the right packaging for your groceries. It involves never driving your car again, forswearing against flying, and taking a wire clamp to your power lines. Most people will buy recycled packaging and go to the farmer's market once a month, and feel good about themselves while they fly to Cancun or buy a big-screen TV.

As P.J. O'Rourke stated, "Everyone wants to save the world. No one wants to help mom do the dishes."

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