Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represented something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall – when Mother Nature and the Canadian markets both said: ‘No more’. You don’t need to be a money saving expert to figure out that there may be more to this than meets the eye.
Where did these green money saving tips come from?
I have a friend who was a hippy. A real honest to goodness, dope smokin’ tune out to tune in, sex, love and rock and roll, 1960’s era hippy. Then she grew up. And got sober. Most of those original hippies did grow up, get sober (at least mostly), finish college and join the establishment in one form or another.
However, many of them hung on to certain principles that were popular at the time and helped found what is today known as the “green movement.” Along with them came the animal rights movement, environmental activism, vegan ism, and other sometimes seen as far left ‘isms, frequently depicted by “the right” as crazy, way out on the fringe, “treehuggin’ whack jobs. Usually with the help of some extremist whack jobs doing something crazy that makes headlines.
You can sometimes recognize the original hippies when you see them in public, the retro fashion preferences and Birkenstocks or the ponytails behind receding hairlines are dead giveaways. These are the folks that, even though they may have achieved varying levels of professional and financial success are into organic food, natural fibers, sustainable gardens, bio-dynamics, green building and other ideas designed to lower resource consumption for the benefit of a healthier planet and a sounder economy.
These however aren’t the people we need to key into
Unfortunately, these aren’t the people who need to be sold on “green.” It’s people like myself. A normal, middle of the road sort of consumer, who will not sacrifice my entire lifestyle to spend 10 times as much money on a meal that doesn’t taste good just because all of the ingredients are organic and come from sustainable farms owned by the cutest, kindest, mom and pop farmers in the world. That is just the reality of the situation.
What’s more, I am likely to become quite the cynic about “green washing” in advertising once I recognize the insincere patterns in terms like “all natural.” For creeps sake, arsenic is “all natural” but that doesn’t make it good for me.
We ARE getting better, but we still have a ways to go
We have proven in recent years that we are willing to spend a bit more for choices that are healthier for us and our children. It’s unfortunate that in pursuit of profits, advertising spin will continue to make it difficult to determine which things are healthier and thus worthwhile expenditures for us, our planet and future generations.
Those folks that are on the opposite side of the fence, that refuse to see that conventional economic wisdom was unsustainable in spite of all the evidence like the current global recession, will do their best to muddy the waters even further. There will continue to be those that refer to environmental concerns and sustainable solutions as “tree hugging” in that derisive snort that implies some kind of pinko-commie plot from the cold war era and belongs in the insult category of all the notorious narrow minded terms of yesteryear that have, with time and common decency, fallen out of favor with mainstream human beings.
As individuals, it makes perfect sense to lesson our individual footprint, from both a global perspective and a personal finance view. For instance:
- Using public transportation when available costs less and is more efficient than driving alone in your car. Carpooling is another example. Buying a used car that gets great mileage is a third.
- Walking or riding a bike when possible, rather than driving a car at all, saves money, lowers pollution and benefits your personal health.
- Buying produce from a farmer’s market or participating in a community supported agriculture program can mean healthier food on your table, is often less expensive and usually lasts better than food that is loaded with pesticides and preservatives to help it travel the 3k miles across the country to your supermarket, lowers carbon emissions from long distance transport and helps support local business which helps your local economy. It helps to remember that you are putting this stuff in your mouth. It might be worth it to buy the kind that isn’t covered in poison.
- Limiting purchases of electronic gizmos to those you will use in business and/or add some significant meaning or benefit to your life, rather than buying a bunch of stuff that collects dust in a closet after a few weeks will save you money. And perhaps lower the demand for cheap plastic and electronic things made in China, whose factories contribute to pollution effecting the air everyone is trying to breathe.
- Composting for your own garden will save you money for fertilizer, recycle waste from your kitchen, save irrigation water (again saving money) and help provide beauty to your surroundings. Beauty that has meaning for many people and offers benefits to the local ecosystem, as well.
- Shopping for furnishings, décor and other items at thrift stores and from Craigslist will save you money, offer unique, high quality purchases and reuse perfectly good, sometimes quite valuable, already produced goodies that don’t need to end up in a landfill as another example of consumer waste.
- Donating the stuff you no longer use or need can benefit those less fortunate, keep it out of the local landfill, contribute to community recycling efforts and as a result benefit the environment.
- And last, but probably most…getting a handle on your personal spending, by monitoring your finances daily, living below your means and maintaining a budget will not only help you to save money, it will teach you to lower your own level of waste and recognize the areas where you have practiced your own brand of conspicuous consumerism. For my part, when I was faced with this reality, my own carbon footprint lowered exponentially, but not because of my passion for the environment (though that helps.) Nope, it was because my habits had proven over and over again to be as unsustainable as our collective global approach to economics and resource management has been and since I can’t change the world, I opted to change my little piece of it.
Maybe, if enough of us choose sustainability, it will become mainstream in a real sense rather than as just another marketing tool and our world can become a nicer place to live for everyone.