Monday, January 09, 2006

IDEA: Green? My Choices Don't Matter, I'm Just One Person, Right?

What's the point of all this fussing over green living? Does it really matter which coffee filter I use or where I get my electricity?

Yes it does. And there are at least three major reasons why this is true.

But note first, these are not reasons to be a greenie in the first instance; you already know some of those, from global warming to poisoning yourself with non-organic food. Rather, here are three basic reasons why making small personal changes yourself really does make a difference:

1. Many Small Changes Add Up

Small changes get easier, and easier, and build up within your life; one day you wake up and realize you have made a lot of changes in your life, and have reduced your personal threat to the survival of your family and others by a great deal.

This "slippery green slope" was the basic premise for this blog, as one little green thing after another lead to a significantly healthier, more sustainable lifestyle -- painlessly.

2. Many Small Changes Add Up, II

Many individuals making the same small change can add up to a larger cultural change. Folks that pushed for organic foods in the 70s probably never foresaw the day of FDA Organic Certification or that Organic Pop-Tarts (ok, generic "Toaster Pastries") would actually exist.

There is a large enough vocal demand for organic -- and what I call casual demand, where people will buy it if it is available and not much more expensive than the other options but won't go out of their way for it -- that stores like Ralph's have whole Organic sections and Trader Joe's has an organic choice (or several) in almost every category.

Organic baby food, which used to be twice or three times the cost of old-style baby food (when it finally became available) is now 2 cents per jar more at Target than the old style from poison-covered food.

3. Cultural Change Can Effect Political Change

Which can, in-turn, effect more cultural change. By caring enough to use reusable shopping bags, or giving your car the weekend off, and telling people about it, we begin to create a cultural phenom. This, in turn, creates political pressure to be more green in how let the government regulate our society, which in turn can create broader understanding and appeal of how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Not everyone will "get" it; not all of us will make every change we could, but as the social and political culture shift it will get easier and easier to be green.

In the final analysis, then, every easy green thing you do does make a significant difference. You may only see it in your own life at first, but individual choices do affect the rest of the world.