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It Ain't Easy Being GreenPosted Thursday, September 24, 2009, at 8:43 AM
Earlier this week, about 100 world leaders met at the United Nations to talk about climate change. President Obama is there, and thankfully, unlike the previous administration, he has recognized that energy independence and sustainable living are both necessary and worthwhile goals.
Although I have been a dedicated recycler since a young age, it is only more recently that I have become concerned with the environmental impact of the foods I eat and the clothes I wear, to name a few things. For instance, yesterday I ordered a cute fall dress online at www.forever21.com. It cost me about $20, including shipping and handling. But in all likelihood, the dress was made in some faraway developing country with reckless environmental practices and then shipped to a warehouse in the U.S. Now it will be mailed to me here in Marshall and delivered by the postman ... I sure hope my well-traveled dress is cute.
As far as food is concerned, I may be a food snob about taste and texture, but I am usually content to buy off-brand and discount items. I have decided, though, that the less prepared and the less packaged the food is, the better. Think about a frozen dinner. It usually has a meat dish and a couple of sides. So perhaps the chicken is farmed in one state and the vegetables in another. Then they must be transported to processing plants, and perhaps are assembled into the dinner package at yet another location. That's a lot of driving, and I don't think the carbon footprint is offset much by my personal convenience. And after you eat it, all that plastic and cardboard goes into the landfill.
A confession: When my mom (who is not a hippie) began buying free-range eggs and milk, bottled in glass, from a local Springfield dairy, I might have mocked her slightly. I thought it was silly to pay more money for products that didn't really taste any different. But now, I am convinced it is worth it. The food is fresher if it's locally grown, the purchase directly supports the local economy, and the environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions must certainly be less. I know that we all want to save money, especially during the recession, but saving the Earth is important, too.
At this Web site, you can calculate your own personal carbon footprint. It is quite revealing. I get a rather above-average (and not in a good way) score. Part of that is my frequent jet-setting during the past few years -- international travel is not so environmentally friendly when you fly in multiple planes for long distances. But also, I now live in a house by myself, so it is being heated/cooled and lighted just for me.
Most of us have gone from being self-sufficient producers to almost completely dependent consumers. We are dissociated from the manufacturing of all the things we buy, so we don't even think about the energy required to make or transport something. I'm not saying we need to walk everywhere and only eat food grown in our backyards, but I do think we need to be aware of the environmental consequences of our actions. Maybe I don't really "need" to buy the imported Australian strawberry licorice I love every time I'm at Target.
Here's a few easy things I've already started doing to conserve energy: using reusable shopping bags at the grocery store; setting the cruise control; turning off lights when I'm not in the room; unplugging appliances that are not being used; covering my windows with insulating plastic. Why don't you give it a try?!
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Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.