Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why token greenism fails

My lovely wife shared an article with me recently about dish washing machines vs. washing by hand. The exchange was due to the fact that I make snide little comments about how I don't like using the dishwasher when I see one or two dishes in there (having to wait to use it for days), but like everything, I used the article as a springboard for a larger point.

Here's some tips from the article, at ecostreet.com on how we can make our lives better with a few little tricks - not painful at all:

Healthy teeth healthy rivers: Remember to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth-a running tap wastes over 6 litres per minute. If the entire adult population of England and Wales remembered to do this, we could save 180 mega litres a day-enough to supply nearly 500,000 homes.

Fill up those dishwashers: Hand-washing dishes typically uses about 63 litres per session; if those dishes are rinsed off under a running tap the total water used averages 150 litres-in comparison, a modern dishwasher can use as little as 15 litres of water per cycle. But make sure you fill the dishwasher or you’ll be wasting even more than if you were to wash up by hand. And if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, look for the energy efficiency ‘A’ rated machines since these usually waste the least amount of water. If you take a closer look at the energy label, it actually does tell you how much water the machine uses.

Be sprinkler savvy: We all love our gardens, but sprinklers can use as much as 1,000 litres of water per hour-that’s more than a family of four can use in a whole day. Using your sprinkler early in the morning or late in the evening will mean less water will evaporate from your garden and more will get to the roots, where you actually want it to go.

Interestingly enough, this article was listed under the "sustainable lifestyle" section of the website. Which is exactly why I'm calling "BS" here.

Our lives are not sustainable. Using a machine which is supposedly efficient (how about the oil it uses to heat up the water, same as your tap? how about the electricity it uses to run?) doesn't change anything. Neither does using a hose instead of in-ground sprinkler systems to water the palatial estates we feel the need to maintain in our society, complete with unnaturally-shiny green grass. Want some tips on how to save water? Here's some of mine:
  • Use mulch on your lawn instead of grass. No need to water it, no worries about it becoming ugly, because it already is.
  • Re-use glasses and plates, or just rinse them off with a quick squirt of the hose attachment, instead of dropping every water glass and bread-crumb littered plate into the dishwasher to "fix".
  • Buy an outhouse and don't use your toilet anymore. The new Port-A-Potty models are spectacular, I hear
  • Don't shower three times a day

Of course, most people can't imagine a lifestyle without skyscrapers, indoor plumbing, and vast supermarkets (which is a huge waste of water and electricity; anything you do in your home to waste water pales in comparison to today's megamarts/malls/shops). This lack of imagination and lack of living in conjunction with nature instead of shutting it out from our lives is exactly the reason we feel modern guilt wrapping around our necks like a noose, thinking we can loosen it up a bit by making painless tweaks here and there. "I fixed the faucet; that's one more kid in China that gets clean water today". Well, not really, Mr. Gore. All you did was what any responsible adult should do in one's home; your water comes from a local reservoir, and those reservoirs get drained more and more each year by people who can't even be bothered to reschedule their automated in-ground sprinkler systems during a rainstorm.

Token gestures don't help. Changing our lifestyle and community setup would, but unfortunately, most people can't be bothered with such mundane things - they're too busy figuring out how many liters of water they can save by buying that new toilet at Home Depot.

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