Friday, June 6, 2008

The Green Elite

While watching television the other day, I stumbled onto a reality TV show that immediately caught my attention. The star, which will remain unnamed, was in search of an electric car that she described as being "the new it-thing in Hollywood". I was aware that the "go green" movement turned into a somewhat exclusive phenomenon since pricy stores like Whole Foods positioned themselves into expensive neighborhoods, but I never imagined that environmental awareness would become one more element of the Joneses syndrome, demoted to a trend similar to when tiny, neglected pooches poked their heads out of Prada purses. Is that all this is becoming?

The electric car isn't all the talk in vehicular transition to "green" living. Greencarcongress reported that US sales of hybrid cars had climbed 10% in March 2008 year-on-year to 38,214 units. Hybrids are vehicles that use two or more alternate power sources to run, popularly ranging from either air, stored energy, or ethanol fuel. The cars are less burdensome to the wallet at the gas pump, and do not cause harm to the air. The catch is that with the popularization of all that is green, auto companies are asking up to $4,000 above the asking price to match demands that fill waiting lists for months. According to, Toyota Prius (the most popular hybrid) customers are to expect "long waiting lists for the Prius, and in some cases, big dealer premiums, for the rest of 2008." Sadly, if that's truly the case, then customers won't realize gas savings for years. The increasing prices also marginalize an already exclusive clientele of tiny pooch, I mean "green" buyers, leaving a mass majority (if aware), to wallow in what harm they are supposedly causing to the environment by not being able to afford air-friendly cars.

Whole Foods, is also benefiting (largely)from the demands of the green elite. The trendy health food store's stock was up 28% in March, catering to a young, (assumingly) aware, mostly vegan clientele of upper-middle-class young professionals. Unfortunately, the lines only open in busy areas of big cities and wealthy suburbs.

I also contemplate countries like China and India, who continue to build new coal-powered stations in their increasingly growing industries. South Africa and Nigeria are also to be considered in booming economies that are not likely to slow down or open wind farms for the sake of a better environment, especially since these economies are contributing heavily to foreign investment in Africa, investments that are both needed and long overdue. I'm not saying that America's green movement is pointless, only that perhaps more focus should be placed on international environmental awareness than national "green" trends.

I don't believe that everyone that makes attempts to eat nutritionally and improve the quality of our air is following trends.I, however, don't encourage perpetrating greenness, or whatever you wish to call it, without making yourself aware of why you are doing it. Otherwise, the movement is likely to go out of style when celebrities stop talking about it. What will happen then?

When I think of "green", I think of my Aunty Ree, who for as long as I can remember, washed styrofoam and plastic cups to re-use after family events, disregarding jokes and teasing from my uncles and family.

I also think of my 8th grade science teacher Mr. Rutledge, who rode his bike to and from school every day. He wore old clothes and drank fresh lemonade out of recycled water bottles. Mr. Rutledge, likely a hippy during the wonder years, was my first introduction to ecological awareness, and a person I felt sincerely cared for the improvement of humanity and the world. I hope that their kind of consciousness never goes out of style.

Here's some advice to contribute to the wellness of the environment (on a budget). SOURCE

1. Save energy to save money.

* Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
*Unplug appliances when you're not using them. Or, use a "smart" power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts "phantom" or "vampire" energy use.
*Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
*Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying. If you must use a dryer, consider adding dryer balls to cut drying time.

2)Save water to save money.

*Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and heating bills too.
*Install a low-flow showerhead. They don't cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
*Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.

3)Less gas = more money (and better health!).

*Walk or bike to work. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
*Consider telecommuting if you live far from your work. Or move closer. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
*Lobby your local government to increase spending on sidewalks and bike lanes. With little cost, these improvements can pay huge dividends in bettering your health and reducing traffic.

4)Eat smart.

*If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it's even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs.
*Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can.
*Whatever your diet, eat low on the food chain. This is especially true for seafood.

4)Skip the bottled water.

*Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.
*Bring a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic, with you when traveling or at work.

5)Think before you buy.

*Go online to find new or gently used secondhand products. Whether you've just moved or are looking to redecorate, consider a service like craigslist or FreeSharing to track down furniture, appliances, and other items cheaply or for free.
*Check out garage sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops for clothing and other everyday items.

6)Borrow instead of buying.

*Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
*Share power tools and other appliances. Get to know your neighbors while cutting down on the number of things cluttering your closet or garage.

-Wayetu Moore

No comments: