Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reprogramming the Default: Common Sense Environmentalism

At our last board meeting, one important topic we discussed was the idea of "common sense environmentalism." Many of the everyday actions associated with being "green" are products of basic common sense. Although, as an active environmentalist myself, I do care about the protection of wildlife, the oceans, the sky, our future, etc., it is difficult to get some people to care about abstractions. However, caring about your own wallet is a lot easier. Click for some examples of reprogramming the default in order to save some green...

1) Double-sided printing: We have all had classes for which we have had to read long government or scientific documents, which were posted on Blackboard. We press print wait forever, and when the printing is finally done, we have this unwieldy mass of paper which is awkward to carry because it won't staple and which is awkward to read as well. Why not just print double-sided? It saves printing costs (in terms of reduced paper consumption), and saves you a lot of hassle. Common sense to save some cents.

2) Turning off the lights: You realize the significance of this a lot more when you are paying your own bills. Keeping the light on will inevitably raise your electric bill, thus costing you money for something from which you accrue no tangible benefit. And if you aren't paying your own bills yet because you live in campus housing, then give the university a break in its bills. Wouldn't it be nice to see that money put elsewhere? Again, common sense for "common cents."

3) Walking: I know that not everyone is willing to walk up to 4 miles in the utterly walkable District; however, walking is the cheapest form of transportation. If you are traveling under one mile and the weather is good, there's no excuse not to walk. The metro will cost you $1.65 during peak times and $1.35 during off-peak. Buses cost around $1.25, and the Circulator is $1. How much is walking? $0.00. You save money and get some great exercise--what's not to love? (Biking is another good alternative, but walking is fully free.)

From the store owner's perspective:
1) Bag those plastic bags: We need to change society's default with regard to plastic bags. Do you need to take a bag for that Coke bottle and Clif bar when you are only going to walk back to your room? You have two hands that are fully functioning with which to carry them, and (often) you probably have a school bag with you to put stuff in. And, for larger purchases, you can have a canvas bag. Regardless, plastic bags do cost money for the store owner, who should be more wary about giving them out for practical reasons if none other. (However, for a more detailed analysis, see the post below.)

2) Recycle: Do you know that institutions can make money from recycling? That's right: white office paper, cardboard, and metals will all help to bring in revenue. (Plastics, on the other hand, do not.) Encouraging recycling means that your business or institution will bring tangible benefits, bringing in money to finance other projects. Common "cents" for common sense.

Anyone have any other suggestions for reprogramming our defaults? We'd love to hear them!

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