The ‘Greenwash’

Back in December, I think, I was basically told that I was no longer welcome to comment on the “Our Green Year” blog. It seems that they did not like my comments and questioning of what they determined to be ‘green’ acts. They felt I was negative. My goal was to engage in some critical thinking around some of their supposed ‘green’ acts, ask questions and seek clarification. Apparently this was too much for them. In my opinion, I think this is lazy blogging. Part of the reason people allow comments on their blogs is so that readers can engage in a discussion about an issue. Comments give the blogger the chance to think about their points from a different perspective and to clarify their beliefs. Getting rid of the ‘challenging’ readers only demonstrates, to me anyway, that the blogger is lazy and is not interested in engaging in further discussion. If you only put comments up that show everyone agreeing with you or if you ban difficult commenters your blog lacks validity. I still read the blog but I have not been able to comment so I feel I must do so now before my head explodes.

I do not have a vendetta against Craig and Layla Baird. I believe that they believe they are trying to do something good. The green movement is like any other bandwagon issue that has come along. Everyone jumps on, proclaims they are good for doing it and everyone who asks questions or criticizes the movement is the enemy. The bandwagon effect turns people, who can normally think critically, into the slavish masses for the issue. In fact several times the only arguement they could come up with was to tell me that what they were doing was really hard and that I should do it too, which completely misses the point.

So, let’s begin:

Here is the latest post on being green while staying in a hotel:

Sometimes we all need to travel, and when we travel we usually stay in hotels, motels, or inns. In hotels, we use towels and they are washed after one use (although not in all hotels), we sleep once in beds and the linens are cleaned, and generally the overall process is quite wasteful. That is not even considering those little shampoos, soaps and more that are individually wrapped. As well, glasses are wrapped individually in plastic.

This is a big waste.

As a result, when Layla and I have to travel and stay in a hotel, we will not only bring our own towels, but we will bring our own toiletries. This way, we do not use what the hotel provides, we do not waste plastic, and we use what we already have and which is environmentally friendly because we try and buy only green toiletries.

First off, they ignore (or are ignorant) of the fact that many hotels have implemented ‘greener’ practices when it comes to doing laundry. Every hotel I have stayed at for many years gives you the opportunity to not have fresh towels every day. Then there is the fact that they are now going to lug their towels and toiletries to the hotel. Now, if they are flying or driving they are going to be increasing the weight of their luggage – thereby increasing the amount of jet fuel required to get them to their destination. Then they are going to take home the wet towels. To what purpose? Again there will be increases in fuel required to get their baggage home with wet towels. Why not just pick a green hotel, recycle the little plastic bottles and use your towels more than once if you are staying longer than a night?

Another major issue I have with this blog is their engagement in slacktivism as a way of going green. This entry sums it up nicely:

Over the course of Our Green Year, we have signed several petitions. We have signed petitions to stop the seal hunt, save animals and today, to save tiger habitats.

Tigers are one of the most endangered species on the planet, but they are also one of the most recognizable. It is feasible that within the next few decades, we could see the complete loss of this amazing animal due to habitat destruction. This would be a huge loss for our planet.

In Sumatra, only 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild. Once they are gone, that is it. This is due to illegal logging that is destroying their habitat, and the practice of clearing forest for palm oil and pulpwood plantations. In the past 22 years alone, 50 percent of the forests in Sumatra have been lost.

So, to help stop the logging of tiger habitats, we are signing the petition to do something about it (we hope).

You can do the same at:

They have signed many petitions on the internet to save everything. What good does this do? Petitions in general are not all that effective. But at least petitions that are signed, by someone going door to door, at least have some validity and can be used in the political process. Seriously, what good do they honestly think they can do by signing a petition in Canada to save Tiger habitat in Sumatra? I am sure there are many things contributing to the loss of habitat for all sorts of species all over the world. It is not simply a matter of the people living their not knowing what they are doing. Likely, they are trying to eke out a living. This one in particular interests me. My favourite coffee at the moment is Starbucks Sumatra. If some information had been presented about habitat destruction being linked to coffee consumption, ‘my coffee consumption’ in particular, I would feel compelled to research it and if the evidence was compelling change my consumer habits. They missed a big opportunity here.

All of their homemade ‘green’ toiletries’ have truly made me laugh! Here is a recent one:

Way way way way back near the beginning of Our Green Year, man it seems so long ago, we made a sugar scrub as a way of making our own type of body wash that can be used in the shower.
Today, we are going green with another body scrub, and this one is one I like. For me, nothing beats the smell of coffee in the morning, I love to drink it but I have never thought of using it in a body scrub. Turns out, you can and it is good for the environment because you are recycling the grounds.

Typically, we compost coffee grounds, but on occasion we are going to try making a coffee grounds body scrub. It is quite easy to do.

All you need is five teaspoons of ground coffee that has been used (recycling!), one teaspoon of sugar and two teaspoons of essential oil. Mix it all together and when you are in the shower, put it on with a circular motion. Leave it on for five minutes and then rinse it off. By putting a catch int he drain, you can then get the coffee grounds and compost them afterwards!

Not much more to say!

I loved this post because it is clear that it has not been investigated very well:

At the ranch, we have a fire pit in the front yard where we can sit and relax during the summer evenings. Well, this summer that fire pit is going to serve another purpose beyond just providing us heat. We will be cooking on it.

Layla and I love to go backpacking, and when you backpack, you have to cook your meals on a fire. There is nothing like it and we decided that this year, we will cook more food on the fire and less in the kitchen.

There are a lot of trees in the area, and some have fallen down. As a result, we will be using that wood (as long as it is not serving as a habitat for something) for our firewood. We are also getting our firewood from a sustainable source. Then we can cook our food over the fire, rather than in the kitchen on the stove.

It is not perfect, but it is just another solution that we can use to go green in our cooking, no different than how we use the fireplace inside to heat the house up so we don’t use the furnace as much.

Burning wood spews pollution into the air. I have recently read about some small towns in the north where they have pollution and smog days due to wood burning stoves. How can think it is more environmentally friendly to light a fire outside and cook over it? It is fun and enjoyable but not green. It is far more green to use electricity produced by hydro-electric damns than to burn wood and add particulate matter to the atmosphere.

This next post is hysterical and obviously written by a man:

Well, the next one is about going to the bathroom, but it is going to the bathroom outside. Now, this is only for ‘number one’ and not all the time (it gets to -40 here…..). However, by going outside to pee on occasion, there is less in the toilet and that means less flushes.

We are on a ranch, with no neighbors around, plus lots of trees so there are no chances of someone coming across me in the middle of my business.

Sure this is an odd one to do, and an unconventional green tip, but going green involves a lot of things, some of which we don’t always think about.

So, for me at least, when I am outside I will use nature as my bathroom to help conserve water in the indoor washroom

How the hell is it green to have untreated human waste going into the ground? They live on a ranch where animals graze. This makes no sense to me. Many countries in the developing world suffer greatly from being surrounded by untreated sewage. Why on earth would they want to turn their ranch into their bathroom. I am also pretty sure it is only the guys who would be doing this as it is so much more difficult for women.

Here is another rather lame post about visiting National Parks. I love how Craig spins it to make it seem green but he forgets a few things:

If there is one thing Layla and I enjoy doing, it is hiking and snowshoeing. There is something about being out in the wild, being a part of nature and listening to the sound of silence wafting through the trees. We love nature, hence the reason why we are trying to do our part to save it with Our Green Year.

Today, we are asking that if you want to do something to help nature, you can visit a national park. Here in Alberta, there are plenty of national parks and we are going to be visiting several of them this year (including on our proposed two week hike from Jasper to Banff this year!). The reason visiting a national park is green is that not only does it help you learn more about the nature that we all seem to be somewhat removed from, it is also because you pay money to be in the national park. That money then goes to help keep the national park going, helping it expand and helping to keep the animals (some of them endangered) safe in their national park home.

Recently, Layla and I, plus two of our friends went snowshoeing on a trail in Elk Island National Park. The money we pay helps that park, and by extension helps nature.

Visiting a National Park may be good for the soul but it does not do much for the park. Craig points out that you pay money to visit the park. Why do you pay money? Well, to clean up after all those visitors. People leave their garbage, they damage sensitive ecosystems and disturb animal habitat and migration patterns. Plus there is all that gas burned to get all those people to all those National Parks to pay money so it can all be cleaned up. Not so green after all when you think about it. If you are backpacking it is usually prohibited to build a fire. I know this from experience. We used to backpack 200 miles a summer when we were kids. My Dad always had his naptha stove and pointed out to us how to preserve the environment we were in, why we could not build fires and why we had to stay to the path.

I could keep going. So, stay tuned as I will focus the critical thinking lens on the ‘Our Green Year’ blog again. Plus I am sure you will all be able to buy the book they intend to publish. I have also wondered what happened to the “Our Green Year Journal” which has not been updated for a long time. I felt this was an integral companion to the blog as it discussed how they were implementing their new found green ways.

In the meantime if you would like a great green blog to read I recommend “A little Greener Every Day.” Robin Shreeves gives practical tips, with solid reasoning behind them. She is also honest about how difficult it can be to choose to go green.


Like most people, I have been reading a fair bit lately about how to become more environmentally conscious. Personally, I think peak oil is going to have a far greater effect on how we live and consume resources than any environment campaign. We can talk all we want about reducing emissions, plastic bags in landfills etc but until it hits us in our wallets we are not going to pay enough attention to make any substantive changes.

I have been reading a couple of green blogs on a daily basis to try and make some changes in our house. We have been using CFL bulbs for a long time and my latest project is to always try and remember to bring the cloth grocery bags. We are batting about 80% right now which is way better than it was for sure. One blog I read is called Our Green Year. At first I really enjoyed this blog. But now it is just getting funny. The things that Craig and Layla are doing, for the sake of the environment, are getting a little ridiculous. Everyday there is a new post and they almost always have the line: “Layla and I _____ (fill in the blank with environmentally pure behaviour).

Here are some examples of things that Craig and Layla have committed to doing:

Day 2: They joined the Green Party
Day 4: The started to store snow.
Day 9: they made milk jug flower pots
Day 14: Sees Craig and Layla washing their windows with socks and vinegar.
Day 17: Now we are getting a solar bbq
Day 26: they began to limit their showers to 5 minutes.
Day 32: they are now bringing their own takeout containers to restaurants.
Day 34: Sees the Bairds giving up their dryer.
Day 45: The Bairds tackle the pesky problem of those paper receipts you get in your cloth bags.
Day 49: Now, they are baking their own bread.
Day 49: The Bairds discover recyclable pens (can you contain your excitement??). Here is a quote from the blog entry for that day: “They are made from corn, and are completely environmentally friendly, so this is big for Layla and I because now we can make notes on our recycled paper with biodegradable pens and be completely net-zero in our writing lives.”
Day 57: Getting rid of pop cans and making their own soda!
Day 58: The Bairds are now making their own butter.
Day 75: Craig and Layla commit to only using one tank of gas per month.
Day 80: They start the global warming diet.
Day 82: Now the Bairds are going to wash their clothes by hand. But, go figure, they are having trouble locating a washboard.
Day 86: In an effort to conserve paper, the Bairds commit to: “We will write small on our paper pads and we will use both sides.”
Day 92: Craig and Layla are now going to collect the water that is run in the shower while getting the temperature correct. They will use this to water their gardens.
Day 96: My favourite day! On this day, the Bairds commit to trying to reduce their possessions to one hundred items. I tried to have a discussion with them about how one would do this (see the comments for that day) but I did not get very far. And, yes, for the record I was freaked out by that thought. We have multiple dogs, dog stuff alone would add up to 100 items: bowls, leashes, collars, brushes, combs etc.
Day 98: Crafting with old cds!
Day 115: Craig and Layla have a new toilet rule. Check it out to see.
Day 122: The Bairds commit to learning to like cold food to save energy.
Day 136: Craig and Layla have assured us that should they feel the need to buy jewelry it will be second hand jewelry.

Honestly, I don’t know how they can manage to do all of this and they are only at Day 138. I mean, seriously, when do they find time to sleep between making their own bread and butter, washing and drying their clothes by hand and sourcing second hand jewelry?

All of this has led Deb to take a fearless inventory of how we could do better on the environmental front:

Christine and I have decided to reduce our Carbon Handprints (anyone can reduce a footprint, it’s so passé).

From now on we’ll be going to the ocean when we need salt. We’ll boil seawater over an open fire in the back yard.

We are going to connect a treadmill to a generator to create electrical power. We will use dog power on the treadmill, hanging a bone from the handle and putting a bowl of water just out of reach.

Our guests will be directed to the closest Gas Station should they need to make use of washroom facilities. Christine and I will train our bladders to fill completely before requiring emptying.

In order to save trees, Christine and I will only purchase one book at a time, which we will both read at the same time. Our bookmarks will be made out of tree bark indigenous to the area.

Again, in order to save trees, we will suspend our subscription to our daily newspapers, and steal those of our neighbor.

In order to save on fossil fuel purchases, we will learn to siphon.

In the winter months, should we have snow, we will assemble our dogs into a sled team, with Clio and Mollie in the lead positions. We will travel only in large clockwise circles.

We will decrease our dependency upon processed food by making our own bread, and baking it in an outdoor brick oven, made with bricks from our neighbors’ deck.

Christine and I will reduce our dependence on ink by filling her fountain pen with the blood we drain from the body of the next Terasen Gas goon that knocks on our door to sell us utilities we already have.

We will recycle by collecting, carding and using all the dog hair in our home to knit an extra blanket to give to Craig and Layla for those nights that they turn their furnace way down.

We will lessen our trips to the Landfill by keeping only one filled garbage bag per week in our bear-resistant container, and adding one bag per house on our street for private pick-up.