2007-07-08

Prius owners and Biofuel users beware!

I'm sorry to say that driving a Prius or making your own biofuel doesn't make you "green". These things might make you feel good, and they might reduce the world's energy consumption by a few BTUs.

But you can be very "green" by spending NO money at all.

I'm not anti-Prius, and I'm not against biofuel. In fact, I think they're both cool. And I'm certainly not an environmental wacko. I'm just a pragmatist.

In the end, reducing your purchases, investing money wisely (say, in a new fridge or in CFL bulbs), and recouping money on your prior expenditures is, in the end, a very green strategy that can help minimize your negative impact on the environment.

And now, the six most important environmental tips you've been waiting for!...
  1. Buy less new stuff. The stuff you buy requires substantial energy and materials to produce, package, and ship. The less crap you buy, the better for the environment. Remember that factories require a lot of energy and materials, and produce a lot of waste. Almost everything you buy comes from some sort of a factory.
  2. Need something? Then buy used stuff on eBay or Craigslist or at the neighborhood tag sale. In a sense, used stuff costs nothing to produce. Sell or give away all of the stuff you don't use any more - the reuse of your old stuff slows down the amount of new stuff other people have to buy. Sell that old iPod that's in the drawer, make a kid happy, and make some money.
  3. Share your stuff. Share gardening tools with neighbors. Give your magazines to your friends at work. Use the public library. Minimize the amount of idle stuff in "storage". Airlines are experts at making the most efficient use of the airplanes they have so that they can minimize the number of airplanes they need to buy. Imagine doing that with your stuff within your neighborhood.
  4. Fix "broken" stuff. Fix it yourself, or give it to someone who can.
  5. Live in a smaller building. Or, live in a multi-family building. If you have extra room in your house, think about renting it out for storage or whatever. If you have a spare garage bay, rent it to the neighbor for his MG (or whatever) - it's money in your pocket, and it means that your neighbor won't have to build a new garage bay that requires a lot of energy and materials to make.
  6. Try not to throw out stuff. Donate away things you don't need. Everything that goes in the trash or down the drain is basically environmental waste. The easiest way to reduce your waste is to not buy junk, or to give the stuff you don't want to those who can use it. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other places that accept your used stuff.
Of course, I still consume energy and throw stuff out. But my goal is to minimize.

In the end, being green isn't always easy to see. A good kitchen dishwasher can be more green than washing dishes by hand. The purchase of a brand new fridge is more green than keeping a 15 year old fridge. 50 households hiring a lawn service can be more green than 50 households with 50 lawn mowers.

To the Prius owners and Biofuel fiends - you've made an investment in a great technology. Just remember that there is much more to being green than driving an efficient car or burning waste oil.

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