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The Green Wave Reaches the NYT
Alex Steffen, 15 May 06

We were delighted to read in today's Times about the home-greening efforts of Worldchanging friends David and Kim Brotherton (though it was strange that the caption to this photo of the couple began "They're made from recycled paper..." -- you'd never guess it in person), but we were even happier to see that reporter Alex Williams found a way of discussing the growing popularity of lite green consumerism, while still hitting the point that there are bigger eco-payoffs to be had making more fundamental shifts:

That message appears to be hitting home for many people who considered it enough to simply turn out the lights whenever they left a room, said Mr. Pope of the Sierra Club. Mr. Pope cites Palo Alto, Calif., as evidence of growing popular altruism. In that city, 14 percent of the households have signed up for the local utility's "green power" option — electricity generated by renewable sources like wind, not fossil fuels — even though it costs about $10 extra a month and provides the consumer no direct benefit.
Mr. Pope says it is time for environmental groups to spread not just anxiety, but useful information about how consumers should set priorities for their environmental efforts. He said, for example, that the Sierra Club continues to receive many inquiries from people who are confused about debates over issues like diaper services versus disposable diapers, or paper grocery bags versus plastic. These issues are less important than those involving "big-ticket" energy-consuming items, he said, like the size of the house you live in, and how well it is insulated, or the type of car you drive.

As we've said before, it's not about the paper vs. plastic debate, it's about innovation, creativity and collaborative approaches helping us invent the systems, technologies and approaches which can deliver us lives of equal or higher quality, without destroying the planet.

Bright green, not lite green. 'Nuf said.

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What I find amazing is that people wait until they own a 4000 sq ft home until they have their "epiphany".

Posted by: David Lucas on 15 May 06

Light green, bright green. Tomato, tomahto. As one of the subjects in Alex Williams' story, I was happy to see his inclusion of Mr. Pope's comments. Thanks for calling them out, Alex.

Clearly, the choice of materials for our kitchen remodel is not where the climate change battle will be won or lost. There are many far more important choices that individuals, communities, and nations need to be making. But let's remember that this was a NYT Style story. And the message was simply to suggest that there are baby steps worth taking -- even in the consumer realm.

As for the weird photo caption, I can confirm that neither I, nor my wife, are made out of recycled paper. The truth is that the caption was truncated from the print edition, which read: "Like the counter tops? They're made from recycled paper..."

Posted by: David Brotherton on 16 May 06

That plan to buy green electricity at $10 extra a month is a bit suspect too. Why not for companies to buy a certain percentage of their supply from renewable sources? Or enforce carbon emission limits? That's a choice between laying down the responsibility on consumers instead of the institutions that pollute.

The good news is that if more and more people are contacting environmental groups for help on how to be greener, a lot of good can be done by having good answers to provide.

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 16 May 06

"And the message was simply to suggest that there are baby steps worth taking -- even in the consumer realm." Indeed. And delivered in this sort of context -- there are small, enjoyable babay steps, and they can lead to larger, cost-effective systemic changes -- I'm all for that message.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 16 May 06

The trick is to take baby steps every day - and keep going. Every day, some progress. Don't stop. You're helping make a Bright Green World, a creative act that can engage you the rest of your life.

Posted by: David Foley on 17 May 06



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