Being eco friendly is more than just changing your light bulbs and buying a new car, or even installing solar panels. While it can include those things, it doesn’t have to. Moreover, it encompasses a more fundamental shift in mindset than can be accomplished with minor tweaks like that. Eco friendly is about being mindful of the impact all your actions have on the earth.
A perfect example of this can be found in a simple trip to the grocery store. A man, we’ll call him Mike, buys a new Prius. It gets great gas mileage, so he must be eco friendly right? Maybe… but we’ll have more on that later. Mike gets in his new Prius and drives three blocks to the grocery store. While there, he buys a box of cereal, some pre-packaged chicken from the butcher block, and a bag of frozen vegetables. He checks out, collects the bags, and drives home.
So, what did Mike do wrong? We will start with the drive. It’s unnecessary to drive a vehicle three blocks unless you live in Anchorage and it’s the middle of winter. No matter how efficient the gas mileage on your car is, you don’t need it to drive that kind of distance, walking is far better for the environment. Barring that, most public transportation systems are still a better option than even the most efficient car.
Next we’ll look at the things Mike bought at the store. A box of cereal contains not one, but two packages, one of which, plastic, is made as a derivative of fossil fuels. Mike should have bought the bulk cereal, you know; the stuff that only has one package? If Mike did that, he’d be lessening his impact on the earth. Same deal with his pre-packaged chicken. If Mike were to get chicken from the butcher instead of off the shelf, his chicken would be packaged in a paper wrapper, instead of Styrofoam and plastic. Not only is paper a renewable resource; but Styrofoam takes centuries to fully break down in a land fill. That works out to a double negative!
Lastly we come to the frozen vegetables; there’s a laundry list for these too. Frozen vegetables had to be factory processed and cut to size by industrial machinery. They were then flash frozen and packaged… in plastic. A fresh vegetable cuts out the energy costs of freezing and processing the vegetables, and the packaging is much lighter than the frozen variety. And then there was the checkout! Mike collected his bags rather than bringing reusable bags with him to the store; wasting yet more plastic, or paper. Either way, the list of things Mike, an ostentatiously environmentally conscious person, did that were not eco friendly is long and sordid.
If you truly want to become an environmentally conscious person, you need to do more than the flashy, noticeable things right. You need to do the little things that most people will never notice correctly. After all, this isn’t about you, it’s not about making sure everyone knows how good of a person you are. This is about the earth; and doing what is right for the earth as someone dependent on its resources for life.