I hate the term “Going Green.” It’s incredibly simple, almost condescendingly so. We have this huge challenge in front of us. We need to become energy independent. We need to solve the climate change crisis. And these immense challenges have been simplified to not just a single word, but a color: GREEN. I know were a sound bite nation and so the less time it takes to explain something the better. But I do worry about grouping these complex problems under a single word. I worry that “going green” will become a cliche, if it isn’t already, and that people will grow tired of the term and consequently go back to ignoring the problems.
As it is we already have a “Planet Green” network. And let me tell you nothing makes me want to drive a Hummer, switch all my light bulbs back to incandescents, and leave my refrigerator door open all day more than the Planet Green network. Aside from one show, the documentary “Greensburg”, the entire network could not be more condescending if it tried. In my case, they’re preaching to the converted and every show still makes me want to smack the host in the face.
So, my goal here is to avoid being condescending when discussing what I think we should all be trying to do about this crisis. In fact, this post is less about “Going Green” and more about using common sense. After months and months of trying to convince every person I know they should vote for Barack Obama, he won, and I was left asking myself, “well, what now?” That’s when I started to look around the library I worked at and saw how energy inefficient we were. I had a new cause: green up the library (it helped I was reading Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded” at the time).
These are some of the problems I found:
1. Air conditioning the children’s section in January. Is there anything that causes an electric bill to rise like air conditioning? At my house, we carefully monitor how often we use the AC because it is such an energy suck. Well, the library still had the AC on in the children’s section in November! And it was not a little cool, it was frigid. There were days in November when it was warmer outside than it was at the children’s desk.
2. Playaways using AAA batteries. Playaways are basically MP3 players that have an audio book uploaded on them. Every time one comes back we take out the AAA battery inside and put in a new one. I’m just picturing a landfill somewhere filled with all our wasted batteries. I’m suspicious that our library director may even have a Scrooge McDuck-like vault somewhere in which she swims around in all those discarded batteries. I suggested we switch to rechargables.
3. No recycling bins. This one really baffled me. I swear when I was in middle school we had a recycling bin in every classroom. I’m now 28. So that was around 15 years ago. The library has NO recycling bins out for the public to use. We have printers, copiers, and scrap paper available for use, but no recycling bins for the discarded papers. It’s ridiculous. And it’s not like they need to put out one of those clunky green bins. A normal trash bin can be marked for recyclable paper.
4. Computers left on every night. I don’t know if this is a convenience thing or if there’s a legitimate reason computers in the library are left on every night except one. But I do know we had one employee go on maternity leave and her computer was left on for those entire four months! That is an unnecessary energy suck if there ever was one. And, if there isn’t a legitimate reason for leaving the computers on every night, then that’s another huge waste of electricity.
Have I bored you yet? I’ll admit going green is actually really, really boring. But, ultimately, the point I’m trying to make here is there are little things everyone can do at their own homes and offices to make a difference. Is that alone going to be enough? Of course not. But we have to wait until at least January 20th for our new President to give us our marching orders on his green initiatives, and until then I feel we should all try to do what we can. We’ve finally elected a President who cares about energy independence, the climate change crisis, and energy efficiency. But the election was just the start of the change, now we all need to step up and do our part.