Nothing is Ever Black, White…or Green

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Published on December 12th, 2008  |  Discuss This Article  

We all want to know — paper or plastic?

We all want a green answer to the way we live our lives. But rarely is there one green answer — no silver bullet to saving our natural world. Nothing is ever black and white. Or green.

This really hit home with me when my daughter was born. I live in the arid western United States and had always assumed I would use cloth diapers (I am an environmentalist after all!) until I started thinking about all that water and how hot (lots of energy!) that water needs to be to wash those diapers.

And I realized that even this simple question — disposable or cloth — was not so black and white. As a freshwater conservationist, I could not reconcile with that much water being drawn out of our parched and overextended rivers to wash diapers. So I reluctantly started dumping them into the landfill.

Energy is the same way. We want that silver bullet that will not fundamentally alter our climate, dirty our air or destroy our rivers. But it doesn’t seem to exist. The energy that comes with flowing water was once that silver bullet, but now we are dealing with the repercussions of excessive and unsustainable dam building.

I wonder if it’s the lack of the black-or-white solution that has so many people just throwing their hands in the air and opting to do nothing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

I know that I want easy, clear, green solutions that work. We just want to be empowered to live responsibly without the burden of the choices that might be right and might be wrong.

There is usually a radical middle, though. And like any conservationist who is serious about getting things done, I try to find that. Whether its when my Nature Conservancy team is looking at sustainable water management that continues to meet needs of people and nature…or when it’s deciding on plastic or paper bags.

I just bring my own bag. It’s easier.

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Comments: Nothing is Ever Black, White…or Green

  •  Comment from Kristin Richards Betz

    From your freshwater perspective, I’d love your thoughts on the flushable/compostable G-diapers. Their website touts the advantages but I’d appreciate your take on their claims:
    http://www.gdiapers.com/gdiapers101/flush-compost-or-toss. Thanks!

    •  Comment from Diedre Paterno-Pai

      I cant actually endorse them but personally I think they are a great hybrid solution. They are not cheap which makes them unaccessible to a lot of people. I think when you come up with more sustainable products they aren’t going to be too effective unless the masses can access them.

      We mix them in and use them part of the time. They are very easy for travel!

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