18 February 2008

$9 window cleaner? Give me a break!

The same magazine I mentioned yesterday, Domino (http://www.dominomag.com/), has a feature this month on environmentally-friendly cleaning products and it has me thinking.

Everyone seems to be jumping on the "green" bandwagon all of the sudden and it's about time. I think it's important to use resources wisely but a lot of times; the quest for new, "green" products is nothing more than a reconfigured quest for money, the old-fashioned green. Environmental degradation is caused by consumerism and I don't think that the answer to it lies in more consumerism. A nine dollar bottle of non-toxic window cleaner won't really do anything but lighten wallets and make a lot of the purchasers feel better about themselves. I saw an ad today for canvas grocery bags that retail for $26. So what if the cotton they're made from is organic? $26 for a grocery bag? Wouldn't that money be better-spent on the groceries the bag is intended to carry?

Somebody who thinks nothing of plunking down $26 for a grocery bag is the same kind of person who can be counted on to drive a Hummer or a Suburban, and that's a whole other problem. The problem at hand there though is the irritating polyethylene grocery bags that clog waterways and don't decompose. So the answer is to stop using them. So either say "paper" when the kid at the check out asks you if you want paper or plastic. Or better yet, say "neither" and hand him a stack of your bags from the last time you were there. But I guess there's no glamour in that. No opportunity for sanctimony or martyrdom.

The solution is not to buy more crap. Similarly, the solution is not to suffer needlessly. Wouldn't it make more sense to clean your windows with a one dollar bottle of white vinegar and yesterday's newspaper rather than a nine dollar bottle of something touted as green? Isn't it better environmentally and fiscally to take the eight dollar difference and pop it into a savings account? The basic cleaners your grandmother swore by (Fels-Naptha soap, white vinegar, baking soda, etc.) are still around and still as effective as they ever were. Especially the Fels-Naptha, I swear by it. What they lack in cachet they make up for in effectiveness and sensibility. They're also environmentally responsible.

Current environmental challenges are real and confronting them is not something that can be brushed off or wished away. As an individual, I can use less stuff and think about the impact of the stuff I do use once I'm done using it. That kind of behavioral change is subtle and quiet. Further, it's in my best interest economically to make changes like that. Its very subtlety and enlightened self-interest makes it run counter to consumerism gone wild and that, I think, is the key.

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