Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Thin Green Line

As the prime geek and I delve deeper and deeper into the world of the environmentally savvy… or at least the attempting to be moderately informed, I find myself coming a croppers with some of the more, shall we say, original ideas circulating the green sphere. Where will we draw our personal lines, what is the thin green line we just will not be able to cross? What, in fact, is too far for us to handle?

I’m not sure about all my lines yet, but boy howdy have I found my first stumbling block in my natural nerd saunter.

An excellent blogger who I try to read through at least twice a week is the Crunchy Chicken – read just one of her reasons for beginning a new environmental challenge here - Now, she is an excellent writer who I usually find myself agreeing with, more often wishing I was as deeply involved as she is….. but her new battle cry, one that is taking over large sections of the green blogsphere…. Just proves I must be lacking as a Natural Nerd. What is she espousing that makes me shudder to the soles of my sensible shoes?

Replacing my Charmin with cloth reusable wipes. Is it just me, or did the room start to swim a tad there? I can wrap my head around all the positives, honest. Saves paper, (ie trees) saves money, (always a yay) less trash, less pollution…. These are all the goals I am aiming for.

But…. but…. it’s….

Fine. I’ll say it. Its just gross. Sorry for the sophomoric attitude, I understand I must suck as a person. The blockage in my head isn’t even rational, I’m for cloth diapers – a short gig as a nanny taught me the hassles really aren’t that bad. At least if its just one baby at a time to deal with. So, why does this make me wanna hide under the bed? Cloth for junior, why not for senior?

Simply put? Because I just can’t. Okay? No rational discourse, no calmly weighing the pros and cons. Just a straight out Nope. Sorry. Can’t cross that particular line. My brain just doesn’t go there.

So, what is your thin green line? We all have them. You want to save the planet… but while you happily toss that banana peel in the composter and strap your roller blades on when heading out for errands, what is YOUR particular Waterloo? Can’t bring yourself to pass on the veal at your favorite restaurant? HAVE to have the newest sneakers, even when you have a closet full of shoes? Know you should be carpooling, but you just can’t give up your private morning sing-along with Pink or the Chieftains?

Tell me I’m not the only one who is having a hard time evolving as an adult!

Excuse me. All this thinking about someone coming after my Charmin stash has me feeling poorly. I think I’m gonna go hide under the covers with my new Pratchett.

While this Natural Nerd falls across her first stumbling block, please do me a favor if/when you wander towards the Crunchy Chicken’s site. Her husband has been diagnosed with cancer this week. If you read her site, take the time to comment and give her all the good thoughts and prayers you can share.


Melanie Rimmer said...

Perhaps the reason for your reaction is that you've been successfully brainwashed by the marketers. I have a theory that marketers regularly try to sell us new products which are in every way worse than the old one. Paper tissues are a good example - they're more expensive, they damage the environment in their manufacture, they damage the environment in their packaging and transport, they're thin and flimsy, thay take up a lot of space in your shopping bag, they take up a lot of space in your kitchen, they just don't do the job terribly well. So how can the marketers persuade us to buy this inferior product? They always use the same technique in these circumstances - they tell us "It's more hygienic". It seems to me people will buy almost anything if you can convince them their old, better product is "gross". Watch the TV ads for a few days and see if you can spot which ones use this approach.

I like your blog by the way. I'm a nerd myself - I started out studying astrophysics and computer science, but after I graduated I took a Bachelors and a Masters in Psychology. So I have a special interest in the ways marketers try to hack our brains. I find that when you are aware of it, it's much easier to break free of your own programming. What do you think?

ThePrimeGeek said...

Programming aside, because I do agree with a lot of your general missive, that marketing is little more than mass programming, and while I do strive to (and usually succeed at) breaking away from that, this... this is something I can't get my head around.

Oh, I'm OK with cloth diapers, I can see how you can sanitize and reuse them. No problem. That's a limited application over a limited time frame. To completely and permanently change over an entire household, that's a whole new level of commitment, and I question the sanity of those who endeavor to attempt.

The only people I hear tout this new theory are environmental extremists. I'd always thought that there philosophy was to conserve, and to minimize environmental impact. Believe me, I'm all in favor of that. In our house, there are exactly 4 light bulbs (out of 52) that are not CFL's – because CFL's don't handle well in extreme temperatures. As soon as I find adequate LED's being made somewhere, those will be gone too. I capture and use solar energy wherever I can, both in the form of thermal and photovoltaic. We're in the process of getting a wood stove to replace our gas furnace, and we have some 700 acres of land to cull wood from a short drive away, and to reseed as we go. I'm even looking at adding a wind generator to our roof (in the city, no less!) I can pull eco-geek cred with anyone out there. But this, this is not a well-thought out idea.

Firstly, there is the question of sanitization. In any porous material, there is the potential for fecal coliform build up. You can boil them in bleach, and you won't get all of it out. Simple fact. Over time, that build up would become noticeable, and before that, a problem. Then you toss in the fact that you want an entire household to do this, and you have cross-contamination. Joy! Then you have the fun job of explaining how you're doing this to all your house guests. Good luck there. I'm not tying to have that talk with my father in law. (Mental flashes of the three seashells idea from Stallone's Demolition Man movie keep popping up...) Lastly, has anyone really considered the total picture here? In washing all those (which is ultimately an exercise in futility, please remember) you're going to need more water, more energy to heat that water, and more detergent/bleach/whatever you want. Then you have all that dirty water to dispose of. And then you realize that you'll have to replace these as they wear out, probably in under yearly intervals, thusly negating any environmental benefit, nay generating more of an impact than you had with the paper.

Besides. IT”S JUST ICKY!!!!

Anonymous said...

There's a new Pratchett!

New as in new to you, or new as in a newly published book? I have all his other books and would love something new to read.

Details please.