By Margaret Brinson
It is no news that the upstanding American citizen now pledges allegiance to a fourth color after red, white and blue. The push for green living has been sweeping the nation now for years.
What may have begun as a fad for the elite, mostly revolving around celebrities and wealthier members of society, has since trickled down to the households of the average American.
Under the current administration, these trends are being shaped into something more concrete, as environmentally friendly practices increasingly become associated with government reward — and those that are unfriendly, with reprimand.
Myself, I have always played it moderately safe, adhering to the most common and easy to implement practices like recycling, turning off the lights and avoiding plastic bags, but not really going that extra, pesticide-free mile.
When green trends first began gaining momentum and media coverage turned its eye to plastic bag pollution, I decided to make the switch from plastic to reusable canvas bags. Staggering statistics such as those found in California — that 400 plastic bags are used in the state each second, and most of those are trashed, not recycled, and in the city of San Francisco alone plastic-bag cleanup costs city officials an estimated $8.5 million each year — inspired me to look for opportunities for change.
Before long, I was searching every shop for my own reusable bag, and I quickly found one. The only problem was, when the time came for me to actually implement my eco-friendly tote, I almost always forgot it. As time passed, the bag gradually was used for more convenient purposes: a laundry tote, a weekend duffle, even a replacement for a cardboard box when they become sparse packing and repacking belongings for school and summer. With little commitment comes little reliability.
Being only minimally committed, when green practices increasingly impose upon my day-to-day routine, I started to wonder where people should draw the line between eco-friendly and inconvenient.
My frustration was triggered this summer when I discovered the recycled straws used by a local coffee shop were, in fact, almost entirely useless. If the slightest amount of pressure was applied to the straw, it splintered, simultaneously ruining its ability to be useful and stabbing me in the mouth.
My other eco-dilemma was the question of reducing air conditioning use to increase my Kia’s miles-per-gallon. In the middle of a Deep-South summer, cutting off the air conditioner is no small sacrifice. And with the question still unanswered of whether windows-rolled-down actually creates more mileage-reducing tension than air conditioning use to begin with, my motivation to spend car rides baking was seriously lacking.
Where do we draw the line? When it comes down to a question of comfort versus commitment, which side is the right side?
Research done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that per vehicle 65.4 gallons of gas are used annually in running and carrying the weight of the car’s air conditioning system. With today’s gas prices ranging in the $2.60 area, that’s nearing $15 a month in fuel — fuel that could be conserved.
If I am on the way to an appointment and the heat index is averaging above 90, I may make the call to choose comfort over conservation. Showing up sweaty never did anybody any good. But in general, I think I have decided to err on the other, greener side of things. When the option of crackly straws is coupled with the greater good, the sacrifice does not seem so big anymore.
A few easy, and even not-so-easy eco-friendly practices everybody should be implementing?
Recycle. Union picks up students’ recycling every Monday, free of charge. Where I’m from, you have to drive at least 10 minutes to get your recycling taken care of. Take advantage of our easy eco-system while you can.
Buy a bike to head off those days when you are tempted to drive to class. This can be especially important for those with 8 a.m.’s.
Unplug electronics at night. Besides wasting energy, leaving your devices plugged in past being charged will hamper battery performance — a double negative.
Wash, do not toss, Ziplock bags. This is a trick I picked up from my oh-so thrifty parents growing up. Not only does it save money by reducing the number of times you will have to restock your supply, but it will help to eliminate plastic waste.
Buy a reusable to-go box from The Lex or Brewer Dining Hall. For $3 you can reuse it not only for on-campus meals, but next time you hit up your favorite joint for Chinese take-out.