Sunday, February 15, 2009

Them's Fightin' Words

I read this article in the Washington Post Magazine titled "Can One Household Save the Planet?"

This picture is from the Washington Post Magazine. Yes, I stole it, but I'm giving them credit!

And it got me all fired up! So I wrote this:

Dear Mrs. Mundy,

I read your article in the Washington Post Magazine. I was excited by the title and I assumed this article would help me live a greener life. The article started out well; I related very much to it as I am a mom of a 1 year old and many of the green-living choices add to my already overwhelmingly busy life.

As you discuss CFL lights I began to realize this article was going to be upsetting to me. I have also purchased the 'natural light' CFLs and was very annoyed to find that they were blueish and hospital-like. You could have taken a little responsibility for the error and acknowledged to readers that if you had read the packaging more closely or done some online research prior to your purchases you would have come home with CFLs that could dim or the CFLs that claim to be most similar to incandescent bulbs in color. You also site that the labor saved by not changing your bulbs as frequently is cancelled out when you have to take a trip to Home Depot to recycle the CFLs because of the mercury. This is incorrect for two reasons 1- incandescent bulbs are also supposed to be recycled and 2- when the CFL bulbs do burn out where do you go to replace them? Home Depot? Because if you do, it's not really an extra trip to recycle the CFLs, now is it? You could have also recommended to your readers that collecting bulbs and making one large bulb-recycling trip may be the best way to save time and energy.

I also had a laptop that took forever to start because mine was 5 years old. I turned mine off and unplugged it every night and in the morning I would turn it on and then go make myself some tea so that in the 5 minutes it took my tea to steep hopefully (fingers crossed) my laptop would have started up. I am disappointed that you are telling readers that unplugging your new laptop is something you won't do because you're afraid of frying the hard drive. By shutting down your laptop when not in use your hard drive spins down as much as it is going to. Leaving it plugged in, does nothing. In fact, it's worse for you lithium ion battery to leave it plugged in because it is best for the shelf life of the battery to never reach full charge.

Regarding organic food, your article rightfully addressed the confusion consumers experience when deciding between organic food packaged in plastic and non-organic food packaged in other materials. The plastic packaging on nearly all foods is recyclable just like the plastic bag covering my morning Washington Post. There is certainly a pro/con discussion every family should have when choosing between cost (buy cheap not organic not local), health (buy organic even if it isn’t local) and the planet (buy organic and local whenever possible). Your article could have drawn attention to stores like MOMs, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Roots which all offer a cornucopia of local and/or organic food options which are often cheaper than organic foods sold at super stores. Roots, for example, sells local organic milk. MOMs sells local organic meats. My personal favorite is joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where membership will buy you local and organic (or at least low in pesticide and fertilizer) foods for a price that even cheap grocery stores cannot beat. You can also buy meats direct from local farms, there is a turkey farm near my home that I can call and pick up a fresh organic turkey the very same week for the same price a butterball would cost someone at Giant.

I made the choice to cloth diaper my son before he was born. For the first 2 months he wore disposables because as I said "I'm not trying to be a hero" I didn't want to wash diapers by hand in the middle of the night. When I made the switch it was terrible at first. I was so annoyed that I had promised myself that I would do this because it was so much more work and being a new mommy was overwhelming enough without the added stress of washing diapers by hand 8 times a day. After about 2 weeks of annoyance it just became part of the routine and it didn't seem to be a huge inconvenience anymore, it was just something I did. My point is change is never fun, especially when you're creating more work for yourself, but if you hold on through the adjustment period it's very rewarding to know I'm doing the right thing for the planet.

There are plenty of frustrations and inconveniences and added upfront expenses incurred when going green. As a reporter I'm disappointed that you seem less informed about green living. I'm also very discouraged that your article makes going green seem 'too difficult' to do for the average family. There were many opportunities to turn your frustration into an opportunity to educate your readers. For example: If you had complained about the frustrations with CFL lights and then said "My problems could have been curtailed by taking some extra time to read articles online or the packaging more carefully in the store." There are CFLs that work with dimmers and they are marked as such at local hardware stores.

Those of us who are doing the right thing by going green find it disheartening when an article that could have been informative about green living had too much whine and not enough cheese.


Emily Newton
Environmentally Conscious Busy Mommy


Kate said...

I went and read the article and wow, what a whiner! I particularly like the part where she complains about the smell when she has to clean out her non-functional freezer as though it has something to do with going green. She should have been glad her efforts to go green had her checking the freezer since apparently they use it so rarely the food had already been left to rot for months. Instead she makes some comment about how going green is supposed to smell good. Seriously, WTF?

Good for you for writing and I think I may be doing the same after I take a bit to calm down from the sheer ridiculousness of so much of what she had to say.

The Bliven Family said... could write for the newspaper from home! Don't be surprised if the Washington Post comes knocking on your door to give you a job this week! Well written! This English teacher gives you an A for conventions, organization, and word choice!

Emily said...

Thanks! Yay :-)

Anonymous said...

Hope you saved me the article to read when I get home! Cudos to you for taking the time to write such a good response--not just blasting her but giving all the information which if they publish it will give WP readers more positive information than her article must have! An if they don't publish it, maybe some editor will authorize another, more "green" article. (from Emily's proud mom!)