Thursday, February 4, 2010

Saving the Planet

I have recently become moderately obsessed with becoming a "greener" person. I think I've posted about this a couple of times already. One thing I'm trying to do is reduce my use of plastic, specifically one-time use straws, or the plastic that wraps toilet paper (remember when Costco used to wrap their toilet paper in paper? Why did they change?).

I am frequently at odds with my own environmentalism. I can buy Seventh Generation toilet paper by the individual paper-wrapped roll at Henry's, or I can buy significantly less expensive plastic-wrapped toilet paper by the plastic-wrapped bundle at Costco. (I can apparently buy a cardboard case of Seventh Generation from, but hubby hasn't given the approval on the four rolls of Seventh Generation sitting under the bathroom sink.)

If you've been paying any attention to the news, you'll know that Americans are getting less healthy. Obesity aside, there are a number of other health issues that have been on the rise, more or less since the industrial revolution. Like asthma and cancer.

I have a lot of allergies. All to things like animal hair and pollen, thankfully, and none to food or medicines. I've often wondered how this happened. Based on my admittedly hazy understanding of natural selection, it would seem that someone with allergies, say 10,000 years ago, would have been a less desirable mate than someone without allergies. And following that unscientific logic to it's natural, but still unscientific conclusion, it would seem that allergies would thus be eliminated from the gene pool.

Unless they're not genetic. (I'm not going to try to figure that one out here, or in any future posts. You're on your own with that.)

Or, if allergies have grown as we've been introduced to increasing numbers of pollutants. The same would make sense of asthma or cancer (although I think 10,000 years ago, something else would have killed a person before the cancer could. Like a saber-tooth tiger.)

Am I more likely to get cancer than my great-great-great-grandmothers? Probably. How much of that is due to the fact that I'm also more likely to live longer and how much is due to the fact that there's a ton more pollution now than there was 200 or so years ago?

And this is seriously where I run into environmentally-minded conundrums. If I start buying Seventh Generation toilet paper, which has a smaller environmental impact than the toilet paper sold at Costco, somehow I doubt that this action alone is going to reduce the chance of me developing cancer (after all, I grew up drinking the tap water in New Jersey). This isn't karma we're talking about.

So I'm left to wonder, is it worth it? Is my health, and that of my husband, going to be significantly, or even moderately, improved if we make extra efforts to be green? Of course we're going to recycle. Of course we're not going to dump our extra paint into the sewers. But if other assholes out there are driving Hummers and leaving their lights on when they're not home, how much of a difference is it going to make if I use Dove or organic soap?

So as not to leave everyone in a doom-and-gloom state of mind (which would be awful of me, especially since one of my new year's resolutions is to be actively happier), I'm going to make a proposal. I'm not turning this into a eco-blog, but I will post green changes that I'm making, and perhaps they will inspire you to make the same changes. Or at least to think about your choices. And you can let me know of any green changes you're making in your life, and I'll write about those too. And maybe we can make the world a little bit of a healthier, better place.

And so, to start off, my newest change is to use old-fashion wooden pencils rather than plastic pens. Other than signing legal documents and writing on Ziploc freezer bags, I'm hard-pressed to think of a situation where I'd actually need to use a pen. And I might even have one or two "nice" pens that can be refilled rather than just thrown away (yes, I realize I still have to do something with the cartridge). Of course, you'll still find me writing in pen; I own a ton of them. I'm not going to not use something I already own, but I'm also not going to buy any new ones.

So that's my relatively easy change to help reduce the amount of plastic I throw away and help save the polar bears.

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