Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good News / Bad News

It was bound to happen. From my soap box speeches about conservation over the years, I’ve always preached that ‘going green’ meant saving ‘green’ too. I held up my grandparents’ generation, those that endured the Great Depression, as the model to emulate. They were pressed to save money as their lives depended on it, so nothing was ever wasted. Nothing. Time and again, I cited examples of the things they did as environmentally friendly. They were way ahead of the concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle. I suspect that they didn’t really care about the impact of their actions on the planet so much as they cared about the impact of their actions on their wallets.

Just a year or so ago, I was pleading with my audiences to think ‘green’ and act ‘green’ to improve the health of our environment, and, oh by the way, they’d save a few bucks along the way too. Do right by the planet and your wallet will be a sidebar beneficiary.

Enter the bad news: the economic downturn. Suddenly, conspicuous consumption is being seen for exactly what it is: egotistical waste. Unaffordable waste. And the number of folks who can pony up has fallen faster than the Dow Jones average. (I believe much of it could never be afforded in the first place, but that’s a blog for another day.) Conversely, saving and scrimping are now the new chic to say nothing of being compulsory for an awful lot of folks.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. Turn down the thermostat and bundle up – save money (and energy); combine all your errands into one trip – save money (and energy); turn off the lights – save money (and energy); buy Energy Star appliances – save money (and energy); buy locally – save money (and energy)… you get the picture. With the economy in tatters, I believe folks are seeing the stuff they buy as just that: stuff. Stuff that, as often as not, simply ends up in our overcrowded landfills, so why buy it in the first place? Why, indeed.

Enter the good news: doing right by our wallets has allowed the environment to become the sidebar beneficiary. The lessons our grandparents learned have come full circle. History’s repeating itself as it always does. We’re saving energy and conserving on all fronts. It’s a shame the economy had to take such a beating before the conservation light bulb went on for most of us. I only wonder now how long it will stay lit.

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