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Friday Question: Failed Green Living Products?
Alex Steffen, 25 Sep 09

We'd love to hear your ideas on this question: what green living products from the last decade now look faded, perhaps even bad ideas or failures? Why?

(And for extra credit: what can we learn from their failures?)

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Comments

Ooo! I know!

Everything "green" that's meant to be thrown away, like biodegradable plastic that's going to go to a landfill where there isn't any oxygen for it to biodegrade with, and no use for the resulting nutrients if it did break down. That's pollution, no matter what it says on the box.


Posted by: Kate on 25 Sep 09

Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs, probably. They last longer and use less power, but disposing of them turned out to be a headache.

We can definitely learn a lot from them, though. First, that you could swap out a current technology with a new one (no new fixtures!) was great, making it easier for people to switch. Second, in the future we'll be more careful of crade-to-grave (or cradle-to-cradle) considerations. Third, per a nice New York Times article, we can see that government can help guide innovation towards a more sustainable product.


Posted by: Daniel on 25 Sep 09

Phillips T8 Alto fluorescent light bulb.It passes the CA test....but still contains (1.7mg)of mercury????


Posted by: Chris on 25 Sep 09

Wasn't there a study that showed that b/c of the large amount of mercury emitted while burning coal, and the percentage of both US and European grids powered by coal, CFLs actually *reduced* total mercury? I think we wrote about it. When I have a minute I'll see if I can find it.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 25 Sep 09

The hybrid car, makes the buyer feel good about having a clean drive, so they drive even more! A classic case of Jevon's Paradox.(Look it up on Wikipedia) Not to mention the amount of energy and resources that go into car production and disposal.


Posted by: Paul Hackl on 25 Sep 09

Ok, this one will stir a hornet's nest.

What about electricity; that miracle material like magic simplifies the housewife's life, all amenities at the flip of a switch,...now there is some Javon's paradox for ya!

Seriously have a look at 'current' conversion efficiencies charts to see what i mean: http://bit.ly/pCbH8

I know this doesn't count as "from the last decade" but maybe the point can be made that with the logarithmic growth in our use of, and products that need electricity it is more relevant to question its continued pre-eminence today than when it was a fledgling technology.

+5 pts. Every technology has something to offer; knowing what that something is, and is not, is the key.


Posted by: Derek on 26 Sep 09

"Green products" are a marketing tool to lull people into thinking that it is ok to maintain their current lifestyle ( hybrid SUV's, "green cellphone" that last 2 years or become trash when dropped ).

I think that the simple household cleaning products have lost their luster ( vinegar, baking soda & elbow grease ).

Defining green is a challenge and marketers are manipulating what green is. Green is about simplifying processes to their base requirement for peoples needs. It is about changing how you live, not remodelling your home ( unrequired consumption ) with green products. It is about products that can last ( mechanical systems ) for decades and can be repaired easily.

I specialize in these designs and it is a challenge to tell protential clients that their product can never be green, but, they can be greener.

I wish that a "Green Standard" is established and people learn it and live by it. I have no car, no cell phone and use things that require the least energy intensive products. It is a challenge, but, I am always learning more.

Don't think that buying green is green. Being green is more important.


Posted by: Graham Chivers on 26 Sep 09

1. This one's actually the decade before last:
Replacing all those horrible plastic fast food disposable utensils with recyclable paper products.

Unfortunately, it turned out that those more recyclable products were far more damaging in terms of cost, power and pollution.

Lesson? Know the back story (check)

2. The mantra (in order of importance) 'reduce, re-use, recycle'
I can see it looked good as a numbered list on a power point presentation but, in fact, chanting it enforces the *last* item in the list since it is the last thing heard.
(...well, it's one theory as to why we recycle rather than reduce!)


Posted by: Tony Fisk on 27 Sep 09

The most obvious mistake in my view has been "healthier" bottled water. We've created tons more trash with the massive amounts of individual plastic bottles. The lesson learned? Use of home water filters and re-usable bottles seem to be a better solution. I'm so much more aware of my water use due to involvement in my local watershed association. I now see it's not so much whether there is enough water, but the amount of water in the ecosystem and how, after a modest rain and thanks to the non-permeable surfaces preventing the re-charging of ground water, the combined sewer system is overwhelmed by a deluge of water which then overflows, mixing with waste water and ends up polluting the ecosystem rather than going to the waste water treatment plant where it belongs. Use less water!


Posted by: John Moyer on 28 Sep 09

You win this one, Alex! Allow me to get ahead of you and note that there was a Worldchanging article last year on reduced-mercury CFL's: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008081.html

I'll note that I still think that switching the burden of mercury disposal, even small amounts, onto consumers isn't the ideal solution. I look forward to our next lighting solution.


Posted by: Daniel on 29 Sep 09

until we have public composting facilities, any compostable plastic that's only compostable in industrial processes...


Posted by: edgertor on 12 Oct 09

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