Earth Day 2008 – Spending money does not equal saving the Earth

Reduce Reuse Recycle and spend moneyIt’s Earth Day again… The day on which I feel I am compelled by internet peer pressure to post something (thank god they are not pressuring me to drink, I do enough of that already). Which makes me unhappy. I don’t like that gardening and environmentalism are supposedly tied hand in hand.

Gardening is a hobby and environmentalism is a cause. One should not be thought linked to a cause simply because one is participating in a hobby.

So, in honor of Earth Day and because it has been on my mind lately, I have a rant about environmentalism… again.

Since when did being environmentally friendly require attempting to max out your credit card?

Buy a Prius, buy a green house, buy bamboo shirts (never mind that cotton has been a renewable resource for centuries) and, for gods sake, buy organic foods. Ignore the fact that none of these really follows the old mantra of Reduce Reuse Recycle. Anytime you are buying something new, you are adding to the overall problem, no matter what you buy.

Buy something new (even environmentally friendly new) and the chances are really high that it still uses materials that were mined or created from dangerous chemicals or transported thousands of miles. If your old car/house/shirt was still perfectly serviceable and than it is still contributing to the “supposed” problem, whether still in use by another person or filling up a landfill. So what exactly got fixed? You did not fix anything but now you look cool, ‘cause you are just so damn green.

I guess I am just wondering when people got to be environmentally trendy instead of environmentally friendly. Actually, I sometimes wonder if they ever were anything but.

I suppose it goes hand and hand with last year’s rant about not feeling good enough for environmentalists. The mindset seems to be if are not spending, you are not supporting. What was I thinking? I could spend everything I have and go out and buy my self into environmental compliance. Gee, like country, like citizen.

I am not sure when the phrase went from being “Reduce Reuse Recycle” to “Buy Brag Buy More”, but it is time to stop shopping and start paying attention. The environmental movement is now officially killing people. Perhaps we would be much better off using fully what we already have made and making less of what will supposedly save the planet (but only if you buy today for the low, low price of $19.95.)

28 thoughts on “Earth Day 2008 – Spending money does not equal saving the Earth
  1. Well stated! We continue to define ourselves as consumers. When will we start producing more than we consume? The only things we seem capable of producing is waste and baby consumers.

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  2. Barbara Z in Florida on

    I agree… to be green to some is to go way beyond what the average person can afford and say… look at me, I am green!
    As for me… I finally got several plants in the ground where they belonged, out of the pots!!!!!
    Been using my rain barrels… not the $50+ ones, but my own Walmart specials. They worked too!

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  3. I think most gardeners are, for the most parts, un-consumers. For all that we occasionally max out at the garden centre, we trade seeds & cuttings, grow our own food, recycle our waste into compost, build our own solutions to things, and many of us are also bicycle-commuting, freecycling, reducing, reusing and recycling paragons of what ought to be known as environmentalism.

    Except that only ideas that involve money, and buying, ever get advertising dollars or column space, so ‘environmentalism’ has changed to mean ‘buy more stuff, only spend more and make it ‘green”. I would argue that this version of ‘environmentalism’ makes most actual greenies roll their eyes, turn off the television, and go soothe themselves with a few hours in the garden, but nobody knows, because real environmentalists (the ones who aren’t into buying more new stuff) make a crap target market, so nobody tries to sell stuff to them, so nobody bothers to check what they think. The rest, the bright-lights prime time target-marketed ‘environmentalism’, that’s just greenwash produced by marketing firms who know all about the financial returns of the manipulation of consumer guilt.

    Good thing we have the web, and blogs, to connect with other people who know that it’s possible to be a gardener (hobby) with a concern in reducing our consumption of the earth’s resources (movement) and know that the best way to do so is by sharing wisdom (community).

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  4. An excellent commentary! I found the story discussing how biofuel production is limiting food production very interesting—especially since I work at a university very interested in the whole biofuels issue.

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  5. peggy on

    I really like Ali’s comment about ‘real environmentalists’ making a ‘crap-target market’. I’d like to be a crap target market–it feels empowering. And I did plant this year’s veggies specifically thinking, hm, what is pricey at the grocery store and what do I like to eat? Sadly, couldn’t find M&M seeds.

    I agree that trendy-environmentalism is getting annoying and seems fadish. And that fads come and tend to go when they get too challenging. I do hope that some lasting change will come out of the spot light that’s on being environmentally friendly–for example, in 6-7 years when my Civic expires, I hope that there will be quality used hybrids around.

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  6. Great rant, right on!
    I’m surprised that educated folks are getting onto the “corn as fuel” bandwagon. Any little bit of research points out a dozen different reasons why corn is the wrong choice.

    Peggy—”M&M seeds” LOL!! How about Peanut M&M seeds?

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  7. Ha! I want those M&M seeds if someone finds them…

    seriously I agree with everyone – and chime in – I, too, want more people to be “green” (ie sustainable, as I think most of us gardeners are, the hobby that gives us useful stuff – like food!) but now that it has finally become “okay” to be green (i.e., not strictly associated with an extreme left political thing), it seems to have leapfrogged right on past the idea of “it’s common sense not to buy so much stuff, throw away so much stuff, and then have to deal with the packaging of so much stuff, because now our taxes go to dealing with disposing of that stuff in a landfill/incinerator/etc.” straight into the trendy consumerist version of “environmentalism” – emphasis on the quotation marks there. Peggy and Ali you’re right – real “greens” don’t make a good target market compared to the acquisitive trendy people, and Hanna you have a great point – the last thing any of us needs in this country is more credit card debt.
    On the other hand, maybe this weird phenomenon is how the economy gradually might shift towards more sustainable practices – make it popular to design and make stuff from the beginning that’s not so wasteful. Or at least that’s what I keep hoping when I see all the Earth Day silliness. Eternal optimist, what?

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  8. Go Hanna go. Earth Day is dead to me now- it’s become just another Sales and Marketing arrow in capitalism’s quiver.

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  9. It bugs me that Madison Avenue has co-opted environmentalism. I consider myself an environmentalist, and the endless ads to buy more stuff don’t represent me. Yes, I do drive a Prius; when it came time to replace my 18-year old Honda, it was far and away the best mileage I could find in a used car. And yes, I am buying a fireplace insert which will let me heat efficiently with wood. But half my purchases these days are from resale and 75% of my food comes from within 50-100 miles of my home.

    I do think all the advertising has raised awareness – but a sound bite can only teach so much. So instead of distancing myself from the co-opted movement, I’m trying to live the *real* environmentalist lifestyle out loud and visible, to help folks learn what it really will take to quit screwing up the planet.

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  10. I amn loving your rant…and all the opinions that followed! :)

    Funny thing though…for me, I discovered Earth Day, right around the same time that I became ‘aware’. That is to say, during my early to mid 20′s when I figured out that there were people in the world that mattered as much as I thought I did LOL. All the way back then, Earth Day (in my mind)was a day set aside to get out and do something kind for Ma Earth ie. plant a plant in your yard, pick up a piece of trash on your walk around the ‘hood, recycle something you normally would trash into a treasure.You know, little things , that could all add up.
    As I got older and my kids got older, it became a day to get involved in a community event like adopting a park and cleaning it. Not a bad way to spend a day with your kids ;)

    All of a sudden Earth Day has become synonymous with spending.

    Hmm…maybe it’s time for me to become ‘unaware’ again, and keep being happy planting my swapped for seeds in my recycled pudding and yogurt cups…and opt out of being a cool, green , and environmentally ‘aware’ mega consumer.

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  11. Renee on

    Hello!

    Great Post! Debt Free is the Way to Be:) I enjoy Earth Day it is one day a year everyone sees Green:)

    ~Renee

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  12. CaliGardenGirl on

    You are SO right sista.

    I am so sick of “green” being fashionable*, when in reality it is about being frugal. Consume less = less stress on the planet.

    * = And this applies to those celebrities who love to preach about environmentalism but own a private jet and consume more oil in an hour than I will in a lifetime.

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  13. Hanna, I share your concern that Earth day is becomming to commercialized. Next year, on Earth day, if you feel pressured to write something, I suggest you write a post celebrating plants and all the excellent products they provide us with. Start with the Vitus genus and discuss the benefits of cabernet, then move onto the beautiful Agave plant and how it benefits both the latin farmers and the spring breakers. I bet if you put your mind to it you could come up with a multitude of positive benefits to write about as you celebrate Earth day
    Rees Cowden

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  14. Hanna on

    Annie at The Transplantable Rose sent me her funny parody song about people who spend way too much money on “green” products. If you have not seen it yet, pop on over and take a peek. Greened House Song

    I am glad that this discussion brought out those who agree with me. I am greatly bothered by popular enviromentalism sometimes.

    Rees – While I appreciate your sentiment, I can tell you right now that I will probably never post a positive thing on Earth Day. It is kind of the point. I am enviromentally aware, but I think that the pop culture version of enviromentalism (which Earth Day is part of) is annoying, period. I don’t “celebrate” Earth Day. I am a gardener and that does not automatically mean that I wish to align myself with the “saving” the Earth. That is kind of the point of my Earth Day rants.

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  15. Go Hanna Go!
    and what I’ve always wondered about earth day is…has it ever occurred to any of the trendy-trendies that we’re not saving the earth; the earth’s survived a few massive comets that triggered even more massive extinctions.
    Save ourselves!! (duh.) Stop us from polluting our own nest! (again, duh.)
    oh well.
    I’m gonna go back to my garden & dig now. see y’all.

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  16. I was just ranting on how everything has become a marketing ploy to a friend the other day. This buy now and save the planet junk really burns me up. But as long as the general public continues to be mindless consumers it’s all we can expect. There’s money to be made and the masses don’t seem to mind throwing it away.

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  17. Nothing new to add, only to say tis a lovely lovely post and oh so true in many ways. Huzzah to rants such as these!

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  18. Excellent blog! I have a solution, or at least more powerful steps to being more earth conscious:

    Eat local
    Buy used
    Barter

    Geez, it’s not brain surgery. In my opinion, any time we are making a big hoopla out of something-like Earth Day, it is the exact moment that we lose sight of the whole darn thing.

    Amy

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  19. Amen sista! I agree completely, although I am trying to eat organic, purely for health, not to go green and by organic I mean I grew it.

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  20. I am with you on minimizing purchases. I do want to make a comment on your comment on cotton as a renewable resource. Apparently, cotton has a very big environmental footprint. Conventionally grown cotton uses more pesticides than any single crop (http://www.panna.org/files/conventionalCotton.dv.html). Therefore, cloth made from bamboo is a great alternative because of its low need for pesticides and insecticides.

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  21. Oh…one more thing. I live in California and saw a someone had written in the dust on the windows of his car
    “Because my car is dirty, our ocean is clean!” Now I am no longer embarassed to be seen in my car when it is dirty…I’m just doing the right thing environmentally!

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  22. There’s a great South Park episode about this topic. FEAR THE SMUG CLOUD!

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  23. sharonB on

    So – I hit your blog just because I was trying to see if putting Epsom Salts on my yard would help. I saw your politics link and had to take a look…did I hit a “green” person’s blog who believes all the CRAP about us destroying the earth? No – I found a gardener who is questioning/complaining about the load of CRAP the govt & hollyweird is shoving down our throats. I have recycled for the past 15yrs – throwing away bottles, glass, newspapers, etc. I never littered out of my car window & sorta had an understanding of the good & bad I was doing to the earth because I remember those commercials from the 1970s about cleaning up our rivers & streams – remember the Indian crying by the river?

    Well, now I have to have the govt tell me what type of toilet to use which is a low water flush toilet. So-when I have to flush 2 of 3 times to get the poo & paper down the hole exactly how much water am I saving?

    Next they will want us to start rationing our poo days. Ok, southerns can poo on even address days and Northerns can poo on odd address days.

    I’m starting to believe that if only Gore would have won the election in 2000 that it might have shut him and his rants about Global warming up. I think our history will show him as one who just needed to be needed rather than a great political figure.

    Oh yeah – will Epsom’s salt be ok for my Bermuda grass?

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  24. gailybird on

    Thank God you are NOT A WEENIE! I was so worried when I clicked on your “political” link. I thought to myself “okay, this is probably where I am not going to like her anymore…” I was so wrong and PLEASANTLY SURPRISED. Yeah! Someone with a brain!!! You are right on! Everything you stated is exactly correct. The real message people need to hear is, “Stop buying so much damn shit – especially cheap plastic shit from China!”

    Preach on Sista!

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  25. thanks, gailybird! I had lost this blog, and wanted to add it to my blogroll. Your post brought me back!

    :->

    Amy

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  26. sharonb on

    “Stop buying so much damn shit – especially cheap plastic shit from China!”

    yeah – I heard a stat a few months ago that went something like What is the most requested feature in a home for those families making $40K a year? They requested STORAGE. They needed a place to store their JUNK.

    that’s right – quit buying so much STUFF.

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