Sunday, July 22, 2007

Green Isn't Everything

There has been a lot of chatter among the Green blogs about the latest Harry Potter book. Some say it's the "greenest" book ever. Some say such a claim is "greenwashing". I say arguing either way misses the "green" point. If you want to make effective change in the world, you need to look at the bigger picture.

Is it not the bigger picture that drew us to green thinking to begin with? When we come up with rigid rules for what is socially acceptable to call something green, we are making that picture narrow again.

Having rules and guidelines is a great boon to our cause. People love the recognition of achieving a certain certification. Criticizing someone for not meeting those same guidelines does not inspire them to do better. It discourages everyone else from trying. Rules and guidelines are a great start, but they mean as much as the latest computer technology. They will soon be out of date, as we think of newer, better and more effective ways to be Green.

I am trying to speak generally here, so that my message can be applied to Green living in our homes. I want to use Harry Potter as an example of my point, and then I promise to tie it back in to the purpose of my blog at the end. This is all about the marketing, not the plot. You will get no spoilers from me. Unlike SOME people! (Katie, you're a brat for leaving that message on my cell phone when you finished the book before me! ;-p)

Early Friday evening, we all walked together as a family to our local bookstore to get in line at 6 pm. My eight-year-old dressed up as a witch and was excitedly looking at the other costumes in line. We jabbered away with others around us. There were people from the very young to the very old, the bookworms to the jock and cheerleader types, generations of locals to recent immigrants and all manner of religions. We all knew that it would be hours after midnight before we would get the book. We all knew that we could easily get a good night's rest and get the book without a long wait the next morning. We were there to celebrate.

Not everyone likes Harry Potter books, but the fact that so many of us do is quite an accomplishment. A great bard of our time had accomplished something worth celebrating, and we sought community to celebrate the accomplishment.

Our whole family gets together while I read aloud because the eight-year-old wants to be included, and the reading is a bit hard for her. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was that my children were disappointed in the movie renditions because the voices weren't right. It made all the glasses of water trying to sooth a sore throat worth the effort for making my Dobby voice.

Now, something here really blows my mind. We have had other great bards reach the majority of us in our lifetime. But this was usually in the form of a movie or television show. (Yes, we were dressed up and in line for Star Wars for similar reasons.) All this hype that we were willingly buying into was over a book this time. A book! Who ever heard of crowd control measures being used at book stores before? I found myself trying to tell my son to go play a video game and stop nagging me for his turn with a book! (Don't worry. I did come to my senses and let him read.)

Here we are, arguing over the percentage of post-consumer recycled content of the pages, when my whole family is clamoring for a turn with the precious object that will never be thrown away. If we are measuring the amount of energy put into producing the book, do we count the energy saved by those of us who walked to a bookstore instead of driving to a movie theater? Must we really turn our noses up at the blatant consumerism at a time when it is so difficult to get us all out of our suburban separation to come together as a community? Why are we criticizing the media churning the hype in the same breath we are bemoaning the loss of our children's literacy to the media?

It's a book! We have hysteria over a series of books! How long has it been since this happened? If we criticize the good because it could have been better, we are missing the point. If we applaud the good for reasons that did not make it good, we are missing the point. Not everything is about being Green.

Now, I say this within a blog about being Green. I am basing my profession on being Green within a very wasteful and thoughtless profession. This is because I hope that someday soon, this blog and my declaration of being a Green real estate agent will be obsolete. All real estate agents will care about the effect each home has on the world as a whole. No one will need simplistic advice on how to get solar panels just like no one needs simplistic advice on how to get a new roof now.

In the meantime we have terrific entities that give us guidelines on how to make our homes Greener. They give us certifications to aim for and look for as consumers. Those who get an EnergyStar symbol slapped on their circuit breaker are no better than their neighbors who just changed out their bedroom lights with CFLs.

Yes, both these measures will not save the world, but they are both steps in the right direction. If we argue over their relative effectiveness, we are missing the bigger picture. We need to keep moving even if we misstep. Help the stumbling around you get back up and save face, so they can take another step with pride. Just as everything we do effects the world we live in, everything we say to each other effects what we do.


Anonymous said...

Hi Holly... Sorry, I didnt mean to give you any spoilers, I just wanted to share...are you done yet?
PS-Maine is green

Holly G. said...

Lol Oh, you are forgiven, and you know it, Katie! Yes, I am done, but Aaron still isn't, and he keeps getting in trouble with his father because he keeps trying to talk to me about it and getting overheard. So, we all have to sit on our hands and bite our tongues still.

Yes, Maine is very green in more ways than one!