Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drowning In Eco-Guilt

Yesterday I got an email from non-profit organization, Earth Day Network, to try out its new ecological footprint calculator, which measures how much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available. Over the past year, I've made a concerted effort to reduce, reuse and recycle, so I was anxious to see how those efforts affected my score.

The answer was extremely depressing. Even though I hang my clothes to dry, grow a garden, compost, buy mostly used clothes and household goods, and recycle every bit of paper, cardboard, and plastic that I can, it still would take FOUR planet earths to provide enough resources to maintain my lifestyle. But the worst part of the quiz was the suggestions it made to help me reduce my footprint more, like installing solar panels on my home and giving up my car. Yeah, I would love to install solar panels, but I don't have an extra $20,000 in my checking account to pay for it. And public transportation in Colorado is so sparse, there is no way I'm going to drag my two boys from one bus to another to get from home, to school, to the store, etc.

Instead of feeling inspired, I felt angry and frustrated after completing this quiz. All my current efforts to protect the environment are just a drop in the bucket, so WHY BOTHER?? It would a hell of a lot easier, for example, to throw my wet clothes in the dryer instead of a hanging them up to dry.

But I still believe in baby steps are better than nothing. Environmental activism is such a non-issue for the the majority of the population, the folks at Earth Day Network shouldn't be scaring people to death with gloom and doom scenarios. Instead, they should be encouraging small, reasonable changes people can make to improve the environment, and build upon it.

If you're a glutton for punishment, click here to take Ecological Footprint quiz.


the mama bird diaries said...

This is a great post. You are doing so much and you're right, making you feel like you are driving an gigantic SUV and leaving it running outside your home all night... doesn't help. No way I'm taking that quiz. :)

Rebecca said...

I actually just took that quiz, too. It said I would need 2.25 planets to support my lifestyle. (This was only because I cheated and made myself appear greener than I really am!) The thing that reduces my score is air travel. My parents and my husband's parents (plus my grandparents) are spread out all over the country in four different states. I could vow to never visit--or take 30-hour train rides--but that seems sad. It's just the way our lives in the United States have been set up. (I wrote a big post about my travel guilt over on the Green Baby Guide.)

There were a few things on that quiz that I could do better without as much sacrifice, so I decided to start with those. One of them was buying carbon offset coupons. I figure this is a good way to do something to counteract the non-green things I'm not willing to stop, like visiting relatives. I could also plant a vegetable garden, which I didn't do at all this year because we moved to our new house too late in the season.

It sounds like you're doing a great job with the composting, clothes-hanging, gardening, recycling, etc.! If every American did all that, we'd be much better off--so I don't see those actions as useless or depressing at all. Plus, you have a blog, so you are inpiring others by living the way you do.

In a few years solar panels and electric cars will be more available and affordable--then your score will be much better. (And as for me, I know they're working on improving the efficiency of air travel.)

Okay, this is officially the longest comment I have ever posted!