Month: March 2011

Eco Insanity vs. Realistic Environmentalism and Real Solutions

Do you know any eco freaks? A Prius driving friend that is always trying to find the next stainless steal lunch box, recycled doodiddy, solar powered toaster? Fast to point fingers at companies or products that are unsustainable, and choose products that at least appear green. They don’t waste a single sheet of paper without scribbling on absolutely every blank space. Your friend is now even fully carbon offset as well. (*)

I must confess that looking back, I did have an eco insane phase in my life. I’ve been a person with an environmentalists mindset all of my life because I love nature, which manifested itself very early on in my life. During my “eco insane” phase, I did things that in hind sight seem over the top and ineffective. Some things I’m rather embarrassed about, some that I would and will still do today.

My observation is that in general most of the changes done in our live styles only touch the surface of the issue, or they might seem environmentally friendly, but are only a continuation of the same over-consumption and destructive pattern, just now with an “eco” label. Humanity destroys the environment, and leaves great devastation behind. In nature we could classify this as behavior as parasitism: a parasite that feeds of its host until the host dies (and with it, also the parasite). In nature on the other hand, growth is generally encouraged and desired. Growth promotes a more healthy environment.

So what is actually wrong?

Most so called “greenies” are not looking at the big picture. The changes that are being done just skim the surface. Many “green” products are either just “green washed” or they attack the issue at the wrong end and not at the root. Our lives need to become more like what they were 300 years ago. Garbage back then was biodegradable and not the kind of garbage that would stay around for hundreds of years.

An old concept + new technology

In nature, waste products become food for the next generation. When a plant dies, or the leaves fall on the ground, they become fertile soil for more plants. This is exactly how we have to look at our production cycles. The book “Cradle to Cradle” is all about this concept. Rather than being eco-efficient, which is just a slower way to pollute the earth, process’ need to be eco-effective and biologically regenerative. Once a product has reached the end of its life cycle, it needs to be either simply safely composted with no harm to the environment or fully put back into the industrial material cycle, and fully reused again.

Landfills would be a thing of the past. Giant compost heaps would be the only garbage that would exist. Giant Hybrids, which “Cradle to Cradle” describes as landfills which consist of valuable industrial materials mixed with compostable matter, would be a thing of the past.

If a product actually promotes healthy environment, then why not consume as much of it as we need? It would mean that you are actually doing good by consuming it.

Two Examples of Products that are eco-effective

Climatex: A Textile made by Gessner AG in Switzerland. The documentary “Waste = Food” uses this company as an example of what the concept it all about. When they switched their production of textiles, which traditionally uses an enormous amount of toxic materials, from environmentally unsustainable and polluting process’ to creating fully compostable textiles, the waste water that was coming out of the plant, became cleaner than on the input side.

Calera’s Concrete: This product actually sequesters CO2 from the atmosphere. Rather than using regular concrete which uses a lot of energy to produce, why not use this product which benefits the environment. I’m sure that having a forest rather than a concrete drive way would be a better solution, but unfortunately we can’t live without this product anymore, so why feel bad when using this?

I’d like to encourage everyone to watch this documentary (I’m sure I have posted the link to it before).

For more detailed information, I would also highly recommend the book “Cradle to Cradle”

(*) What does the company actually do with the money they are happy to take from your friend? What does the company actually do with the money? Have you ever asked them? Shouldn’t it be used to actively get CO2 out of the air?