The Climate Change Greatest Hits

Since I publish a sustainability tip in my company newsletter, I couldn’t let Blog Action Day go by without chiming in. The good thing about cranking out a tip every couple weeks is that a lot of good stuff comes across my desk. So I thought I’d share some of it.

In 2004, the Worldwatch Institute published a 35-page PDF called the Good Stuff guide, an outstanding primer on the environmental and social impacts of all kinds of … well, stuff.

One of the things the guide contains is a consumption manifesto, which contain some great principles:

Principle One. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This brilliant triad says it all. Reduce: Avoid buying what you don’t need—and when you do get that dishwasher/lawnmower/toilet, spend the money up front for an efficient model. Re-use: Buy used stuff, and wring the last drop of usefulness out of most everything you own. Recycle: Do it, but know that it’s the last and least effective leg of the triad. (Ultimately, recycling simply results in the manufacture of more things.)

Principle Two. Stay close to home.Work close to home to shorten your commute; eat food grown nearby; patronize local businesses; join local organizations. All of these will improve the look, shape, smell, and feel of your community.

Principle Three. Internal combustion engines are polluting, and their use should be minimized. Period.

Principle Four. Watch what you eat. Whenever possible, avoid food grown with pesticides, in feedlots, or by agribusiness. It’s an easy way to use your dollars to vote against the spread of toxins in our bodies, land, and water.

Principle Five. Private industries have very little incentive to improve their environmental practices. Our consumption choices must encourage and support good behavior; our political choices must support government regulation.

Principle Seven. Prioritize. Think hardest when buying large objects; don’t drive yourself mad fretting over the small ones. It’s easy to be distracted by the paper bag puzzle, but an energysucking refrigerator is much more worthy of your attention. (Small electronics are an exception.)

Principle Eight. Vote. Political engagement enables the spread of environmentally conscious policies.Without public action, thoughtful individuals are swimming upstream.

Principle Nine. Don’t feel guilty. It only makes you sad.

On the heels of principle nine is a remarkable interview with Peter Senge, a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who dislikes the term sustainability. He says it “motivates out of fear, but it only motivates for as long as people feel the issues are pressing on them. Soon as the fear recedes, so does the motivation.”

He floats a substitute for ‘sustainability’: ‘All about the future.’ You just ask, what’s the world of your children or grandchildren going to be like? What would you like to see it be like? Do you have a sense of giving them a world that’s in better shape than your parents and grandparents gave you?”

If you’re looking for a reason to take action on climate change, that seems the strongest argument of all.

PS – Last but not least: three fairly easy ways to cut your carbon footprint in half.