The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Greenwashing

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 28, 2009 @ 06:31

Taken from the One Planet Living website - note recycling isn't even mentioned, and is only part of the "Zero Waste" strategy...

Taken from the One Planet Living website - note recycling isn't even mentioned, and is only part of the "Zero Waste" strategy...

My recent experience has taught me that, as far as recycling goes, maybe we place undue prominence on it.

The problem with recycling is that by the time it’s done the product already exists. It may have been shipped halfway around the world before then, using intensive agriculture methods or drilled up from the sea bed. The manufacturing process that creates plastics, metals – or even the humble tin of paint –  is by far the biggest battle that needs to be won.

Recycling is actually a tiny part of the battle for greenness. And no, recycling actually has nothing to do with climate change either. There is this rather small and increasingly ignored fact that oil won’t last forever. Nor will gas. These are absolute, guaranteed facts, whether you think the planet really is warming up or the whole thing is a load of leftie scientists making science fit their agenda.

The green battle has to start much earlier in the chain. As the mantra goes, “reduce” and “reuse” don’t really see much attention. Sure, we hear all about buying local. But, at the same time, why is the modern age requiring us to reinvent the wheel? Did we not, even as little as 20 years ago, all get milk delivered from the local milk co-op by an electric milk float in glass bottles that were washed and reused? Didn’t all “fizzy pop” (for want of a better phrase) used to be available in glass bottles that you could take back the shop once you’d finished and get 10p deposit back?

“Make do and mend” was the old mantra. It really ought to have come back into fashion during this recession… but it’s clear that it hasn’t been deep enough to truly make us change the way we live. To usher in a new era of austerity that clearly permeated Britain – if not most of the world – during World War II and short after.

No. In a few years time we’ll all be back to buying white goods which last no more than a few years, or any other consumer electronics which are deliberately designed to fail after such a short while. After all, there’s no profit if your radio works for 30 years solid. There would be no innovation either.

This is the battle that needs to be won. Someone needs to be honest and say that we simply cannot go on like this. But who is going to be the bravest to say that, “sorry, you really can’t holiday abroad any more”. Or, “I’m afraid strawberries will no longer be available in midwinter”. Or, “No, I’m afraid private car use is no longer possible”. Why should we throw away our comfortable modern existence?

What would we really do if someone told us, for example, that short-life, refrigerated milk is to be banned? Isn’t it crazy that there is a whole industry that requires the huge amounts of energy moving the product around the country and kept at the right temperature throughout? This goes the same for any chilled food that can’t be frozen. Though for all I know the extra energy required to freeze things may actually cost just as much despite the longer-life benefits.

This is the problem with focusing on recycling.

It is a distraction which makes us feel like we’re all doing something positive, but the real issues remain unresolved. Recycling is uncontroversial, which is why politicians love it. They can be superficially green. Underneath it all, they must be intelligent enough to realise that they are fighting the wrong battle.

They just don’t have the guts to admit it.

Sadly – this is the price of democracy.

(For more on the subject, visit the One Planet Living website)

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2 Responses to “Greenwashing”

  1. […] Greenwashing […]

  2. […] I’ve written about this before, how we are avoiding the really important issues by focusing on minor ‘green’ things like recycling. […]

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