“You Think You Know Green… But You Have NO Idea” or “How I Stopped Worrying, and Learned to Love the CO2”


Well, since Stephen went ahead and wrote about the hockey story I was going to write about this week, I guess it’s my job to now write about being Eco-Friendly.

It’s my belief that not everyone can be 100% perfect at anything, but as long as they’re trying they deserve some acknowledgment. That goes for many aspects in life, but especially when it comes to looking after Mother Nature. It’s so easy, and I’d even say cowardly, to brand someone a hypocrite for not doing every possible thing. For example, encouraging people to recycle while at the same time driving a car to work instead of taking public transit may seem like conflicting ideals, but the point is that it’s about helping in as many ways as possible, doing the best you can. It’s not about being perfect.

I try to consciously make an effort to produce less waste, and consume less, but when I come across an article like I did today: “Top 10 Green Living Myths“, it makes me question if I’m doing anything good at all.

The author lists ten different ways people think they’re helping the environment, when in actuality their eco-friendly actions could be causing more harm than good.

Here’s one as an example:

2. What they tell you: Buy a greener car

What they don’t tell you: If you definitely need a new car, it makes perfect sense to buy a small, super-efficient model with low CO2 emissions. However, making a new car – including mining and processing the metals and manufacturing and assembling the components – takes a huge amount of energy. According to an expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, the production of a typical modern car causes around 8 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to driving 23,000 miles. Because of this, unless you currently drive a lot in a highly inefficient car, it will often be greener to stick to your existing vehicle than to sell it and buy a new one.

As mentioned, the caveat there is that if you were going to buy a new car anyway, it’s still better to look for better mileage. I’ve also heard though that battery powered cars like the Prius actually cause more damage to the environment when the car’s battery needs to be disposed of, than all the CO2 emissions a regular engine would have produced. So many conflicting opinions (notice I didn’t write facts), are spoken in casual conversation it’s difficult to determine what’s true, and what might actually just be propaganda spread by corporations.

Another point the author listed really hit home for me. I’m a vegetarian (fish / chicken = no, eggs / dairy = yes), and have been for 10 years. One of the main reasons I still do it is because I thought that I was contributing less to a heavily wasteful industry. The amount of grain it takes to feed livestock, and the waste that they produce is one of the main contributors to the rise in carbon pollution. Way more so than the produce fit for human consumption. The article states that pound for pound, stuff like cheeses (and it’s not mentioned, but I’ve also heard some tofus) are so heavily processed that they have a bigger footprint than chicken. He goes on to say that if you really want to reduce your footprint you should become as close to vegan as possible.

And that’s where I draw the line, haha. I tried being a vegan, and it wasn’t for me. So, I guess I’ll have to look for another way to combat my waste levels.

These examples in the article of conflicting information seem to come from a scientific basis, as there are many links to studies within the article. It’s sort of like the cliche of eggs being bad for you, but then a new study shows they’re good for you, and then, oh, that study was based on flawed data, so they’re good for you again, ad naseum.

I just hope people don’t read this and figure “Why bother?”. It is important that we try to do as much as possible so that future generations have a healthy environment to live in.

Some sure fire ways to help (at least, until I hear otherwise):

– Carpool, bike, walk, or take public transit as much as possible
– Cut down on the amount of red meat you eat per week
– Write your local congressperson, or MP, or whatever your country has and encourage them to support greener initiatives
– Buy used instead of new

  • Nic O.

    i know right? I WAS gonna write the hockey story.

  • Haha, gotta be faster boys! Great article Topher, I couldn’t have said it better myself 😉 You can drive yourself crazy breaking apart every single minute detail of your life and looking and product life cycles, etc. I like your conclusion at the end to keep it simple: Eat less red meat, public transit/bike/walk where you can, and the 3 R’s.

    If you want to write more about green things in an upcoming post (because you’re obviously good at it), I’ve always been interested in how bike-friendly Amsterdam is and how that shapes people’s day-to-day lives in the city. As a current resident, please give us your opinion? What works well, what doesn’t? What can North American cities learn?

    Hope you’re doing well over there!