Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Lazy Environmentalist, part 2

Based on nothing more than my armchair observations, I think that in the last ten years, it has become easier to live a little more "green." From household cleaners to cars, both choice and information on more environmentally responsible product alternatives have become more available to consumers. Whether you are buying local, organic, hemp, hybrid, or nontoxic, the market has certainly delivered more products, and of higher quality, to satisfy the eco-conscious consumer, and in consistently more mainstream channels. This is undoubtedly a good thing.

Josh Dorfman's book and website (and presumably, radio show, which I have never listened to), The Lazy Environmentalist, are great entry points into making consumer choices that can make you a little more green -- covering the territory from just a little more eco-conscious, without sacrificing much in terms of status or style (i.e., shop at Bed Bath & Beyond, wear Timberland, drive a Lexus) , to more significant commitments to brands or products which push the green envelope even a bit further. For anyone looking to inject a green perspective in to an upcoming buying decision, I highly recommend both the book and the website.

And as evidenced by the brands and resources highlighted by The Lazy Environmentalist, some companies are making both an ethical commitment and seizing a market opportunity to serve consumers who want to green their lifestyles. The movement of green products from the fringe into the mainstream of style, status, cost, and availability is a trend that I hope can be sustained.

Dorfman's book, in each of his chapters, which are organized (helpfully) like an enormous environmental department story might be, also broaches questions on what it would take to live a lot more green. The challenge in moving from a little to a lot is that the choices often take us out of our comfort zone. They are no longer simple consumer choices -- do I buy product A or product B, but lifestyle choices. Where should I live? How large should my house be? How often should I travel? Should I eat meat? While Dorfman does an admirable job opening the dialogue on some of these questions, his book, with its orientation as a consumer resource, is not really well-equipped to challenge these core values deeply (nor should it be).

But, as we understand the scope of global environmental challenges, like climate change or sustainable development, the depth and dimensions of the choices we are making in "going green" must change, as well. We can't simply become more conscious consumers. We need to make much more deeply considered personal choices, with respect to our lifestyle's impact on the environment and resource use, and political choices, which can help drive policy and market constraints to make both the small consumer choices and the big lifestyle choices easier and more feasible for a lot of people to make.

A bit of an abstract argument, I apologize, but one which always creeps to the fore when I think about how easy it is to feel good as a green consumer, without necessarily making significant impact. But a start is a start, and The Lazy Environmentalist is a good start, particularly if, like me, you are lazy.

And while we're at it, a second, separate UK-based resource also dubbed "The Lazy Environmentalist," is worth a visit...

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