Soapbox Monday: Is it easy being green?

Today I’m restarting the Soapbox Monday feature of my blog. Better yet, I’m co-blogging with Lauren E. Leonard, editor in chief of, a blog dedicated to urban sustainability in Philadelphia.

The first Monday of each month, we’ll have a blogging conversation and post it simultaneously on each of our sites. (So after today’s introductory post, we’ll start the schedule on Feb. 4.) For today, we’re pondering whether it’s easy to be green. And even if it isn’t easy, is it worthwhile?

On Feb. 4, to start a conversation about toxic chemicals and health, we’ll each take a look under our kitchen sinks and confess what’s under there, then assess whether that worries us.

We hope you’ll join in the discussion. Comment on either site.

So ...  on to today's discussion.

SANDY: Sometimes, I feel disingenuous saying that being green is easy. To me, what’s “easy” is buying the doggone plastic bottle of water, chugging it down and tossing it into a recycling bin. Compared to lugging my aluminum bottle, finding a fountain to fill it from, taking it back home and washing it, etc. But then again, changing a light bulb, or even just remembering to flip the light switch to off, isn’t exactly a burden.

LAUREN: If asked, I always say being green is easy, but you have to make it a habit. I know I should use my reusable thermos if buying tea on the way to work, but chances are it’s at the bottom of the sink in a pile of dirty dishes—probably smelling rather putrid from yesterday’s soy milk—so I cop out and buy a to go cup. But, just like you said with bulbs, if everyone remembered their thermos in the morning, we’d really make some positive changes.

SANDY:  I agree, Lauren. This has made me ponder why it’s important to live a green life. All those aggregations aside – for instance, I keep hearing that if everyone in the U.S. replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, we could shut down XX number of coal-fired power plants – I don’t want to give myself too much credit for just changing a few habits or practices. The world needs a whole lot more than that. So I’ve decided that I try to live a green life mostly because of who I am. Or who I want to be. It’s along the same lines of wanting to be honest and kind. I want to be green rather than someone who wastes resources or squanders water. And once I’m into that, well, heck, it’s kind of fun to beat the system. As I hang up the laundry on lines in the basement, what I think about isn’t how much time it’s taking, but how my electric bill will be lower that month than otherwise.

LAUREN: I like the idea of beating the system: I don’t need your cup, I have my own! Take that PECO, I’m saving energy and money! Of course, being honest and kind are great things, too. Ultimately, I think being green is about personal responsibly and about being a good steward of what we’ve inherited and leaving the world, or at least our little piece of it, a better (cleaner, greener) place. It may sound trite, but it's a very simple philosophy.

SANDY: “Personal responsibility” says it all for me. So is now the moment to segue into some tips? Switching out light bulbs really is pretty easy, although it requires some up-front expenditure. Taking a reusable bag to the store can become an easy habit, if you keep it in your car or briefcase or bike pouch. Turn off the water. Recycle. Don’t buy anything unless you really, REALLY need it – and how easy/timesaving/moneysaving is that?!

LAUREN: The last one you mentioned, not buying anything unless you really need it, is especially important and, I think, offers even more opportunities to be green. In the time it takes to ascertain whether or not what I'm buying (likely on impulse) is something I want or need I am also potentially reading the label and becoming a smarter, more responsible consumer. Now, based on what I read (toxic, toxic, toxic!), that wasteful impulse purchase isn't something I need or want! In the big scheme of things, smarter consumers create a demand for more responsible products, which leads to more sustainable businesses. I have to share that this conversation reminded me of how when growing up my parents made my brothers and I put everything we needed for school the next day in its corresponding bag (school, gym, etc.) by the front door before we went to bed so we wouldn't forget anything during the morning rush. It was a pretty successful system for getting out the door on time and ready to face the day. Maybe I need to start doing that with my bag and thermos? (Thanks Mom & Dad!) Anyway, going back to the original question, it is easy being green, but like nearly everything else that's worthwhile, it takes some thought and preparation.