Monday, July 28, 2014

Are there exceptions to green living?

Earlier this month, we asked if there are times when you ignore your green living rules. Here are the answers:

Survey Results

Are there exceptions to green living?

Individual Responses

  • When dealing with hospitals, which is what we do all to frequently,We are given plastic plates covered in cling film with plastic cups etc but we are not allowed to take in food and drink from home. Also all the medical gear and cloths are disposable. All tablets come in blister packs , in the EEC this or disposable weekly trays are all that are allowed. Also unfortunately we can not afford organic food but we try to grow as much as we can.
  • there are certain convenience items, like feminine products, that I refuse to give up. I try to make up for it by reducing my carbon footprint in other areas.
  • Peer pressure when I'm at an event
  • Traveling by plane I buy bottled water, but bring my own snacks. - Occasionally use compostable paper plates for large parties as water is a valuable resource in the PNW
  • I do take flights when we go for holidays
  • During home clearouts due to a death or during housemoves, things mostly gets binned rather than sorted for recycling or charity shops.
  • When I'm tired I get lazy with taking my bags into the grocery store and just use their plastic ones. Then when I'm feeling energized I take the plastic bags over the road to the kindergarten


The results are interesting! I felt that three exceptions to living green presented themselves: 1) The use of Eco-UNfriendly items which are either mandated by laws and/or company policies or convenient, 2) air travel, and 3) emotions. Let's take a closer look.

Mandated and/or Convenience Items. Plastic is hard to avoid. Sometimes, we have no other choice but to use this material. For example, in my area the county mandates that recyclables be placed in a clear or blue plastic bag. Independent trash collectors require the same.

Convenience items can be much easier to deal with than green alternatives. Hygiene products are especially difficult because of the "ick" factor. Reusable toilet paper, menstruation products, diapers, and handkerchiefs fall into this category.

While our green ethics can be compromised in these areas, they do present us with an opportunity. Often, official policies can be changed when an individual suggests an appropriate solution. Thinking creatively can result in a method which removes the "ick" factor in using certain reusable products.

Air Travel. My family lives across the country from where I live.
Are there exceptions to green living?
Driving, taking a bus, or riding the train would be more environmentally friendly but it would also take more time ... time which, with work schedules, is limited. So, like many folks, I fly.

In addition to the fuel used, air travel generates a lot of waste. Refreshments are served in single-use containers, and things like pillows and earphones are wrapped in plastic.

To mitigate the large Eco-footprint of air travel, patrons can buy carbon offsets ... it's not ideal but it does help. Travelers can also bring their own refreshments, pillows, and earphones. Here's a tip for bringing reusable water bottles onto a plane ... carry it empty through the security checkpoint and fill it once you're at the gate.

Emotions. I had a recent conversation with a person who was having a last will & testament drawn up. The lawyer doing the paperwork suggested that nothing personal be left to beneficiaries because, in most cases, personal affects are tossed into the trash. In thinking about that, I wondered if the emotions of losing a loved one are too intense to deal with "stuff". It's often easier not to have to look at personal items.

Sometimes our emotions "jade" our commitments. That little voice in our head says that it's okay to ignore or bend the rules. It might be because we're tired or upset. Or maybe it just seems like too much effort.

We are, at times, our own worst enemy.

Battling our emotions is both the easiest and hardest problem to solve. I find that not allowing the negative possibility to enter my head is the easiest way to battle the "devil on my shoulder". I simply refuse to think about the options and take "green" action before I can talk myself into doing otherwise.

Writing down our Eco-rules can be helpful. We can remind ourselves to do the right thing during times when it would be easier to do the opposite.

Talking with a friend may reinforce our ideals. They may point out that, in the time it takes to think things through, we could have taken appropriate action.


If we take a serious look at the obstacles to maintaining our green living ideals, we'll see that they are, in most cases, a matter of choice. Yes, there are situations where it is impossible to be environmental ... where someone else dictates the rules. Typically, however, we simply choose to take the non-green route. Whether it's a matter of convenience, time, money, or emotions, we choose our path. And that offers us a wonderful opportunity to find ways to make the right choice.

Living green may not always be the easiest route ... but it is the one which offers us the greatest benefits.

When you face a tough environmental choice, how do you put green first?