Living

Reduce your smug emissions

Why has the effort to go green gone so slowly?

There’s no real argument against it, and yet people still throw away recyclables, use Styrofoam and drive monster trucks alone on well-paved roads without carrying cargo.

Sure, economics play into our consumer decisions. You don’t want to drive somewhere to take those recyclables. That cheap take-out place is just too good and cheap to care about its use of Styrofoam. The truck comes in handy sometimes and I’m not buying a second car. What am I, Rockefeller?

But the Earth is more important than a few dollars in savings! Think about the Earth you’re leaving to your children! And your children’s children! Save the whales!

Activists point to overconsumption and corporate greed.

They cite alarming statistics telling you how wasteful you are — you fat, dirty Earth killer.

They go clean oil-slicked fauna and then tell you about it as they fight back tears. You know, if everybody biked and used public transport like them, this sort of stuff wouldn’t happen.

It’s all true, of course, but I say it’s their smug, self-satisfied attitude that turns people away from greener living, kind of like how those obnoxious anti-tobacco Truth ads have seriously prolonged my battle with quitting. Every time I saw pretentious Derrick Beckles acting like he was the bee’s knees for taking a tough stance on tobacco, I couldn’t help but light up.

As if that wasn’t enough, going green has become the new marketing gimmick for major corporations — each putting their greenest foot forward and telling us it isn’t gangrene.

So instead of giving you tips on how to live greener, I’m going to make a couple of gentle suggestions on how to reduce your smug emissions.

1) The next time you see somebody throw away something recyclable, don’t quote a statistic about how long they could power a lightbulb with the energy saved by recycling said item. Instead, tell them that the simple act of placing the item in the proper recycling bin will get them laid. If you’re a female talking to the opposite sex, throw out a playful wink. If you’re a male, don’t ever wink.

Ever.

2) Instead of bragging about how much money you’re saving on gas with your new Prius, brag about how sweet the dashboard displays are and how they make you feel like you’re driving into the future. Resist the urge to comment about the inevitable Mad Max-like future if everybody doesn’t follow your lead and they just might.

3) Reusable grocery bags are great because they reduce the number of plastic bags used and you can knock 3 to 5 cents off your grocery tab. However, don’t buy the ones that say “Saving the Earth One Bag at a Time” or other hyperbolic slogan. It’s a small step toward that goal and nobody likes to witness your solo ego fellatio.

Ultimately, it comes down to doing what’s right because it’s right, not because you want to feel superior to others. Certainly, some people will need convincing, but fear, guilt and self-satisfaction aren’t the tools for the job. Education and realistic expectations of change are. The vast majority of people don’t pollute because they’re inherently evil or sadistic. They don’t do it because they hate their unborn grandchildren’s noisy music and outlandish fashion. They do it because of cost, habit and convenience.

OK, sometimes laziness too, but when’s the last time you successfully guilted someone into anything more significant than staying for another drink?

-- Kai-Huei Yau is a Herald staff photographer and blames Kermit the Frog for climate change.

  Comments