The “Our Green Year” Twits*

It has been a while since I have felt compelled to blog about Craig and Layla Baird, the authors of the “Our Green Year” blog. They finished their ‘green year’ back in April and since then most of their posts centre around them receiving media attention or blogging about green solutions that require a great deal of resources.

My main beef with this blog has always been the assumption of privilege. In the beginning almost all of their green ‘tips’ were only possible because they worked from home. You can read about these ‘tips’ in other entries (see below). When I challenged Craig on this observation (and others as well, he took offence). When you work from home, in a rural area and you don’t have to commute you have a lot more time to do ‘green’ things. Many of the things they suggested also took a very ableist tone.  Early on there was a post about how healthy it was (not to mention good exercise) to mow one’s law with a push mower. I got seriously annoyed when Craig pontificated about the benefits of manually breaking up ice and snow. Much of the blog took an elitist, ableist and privileged point of view.

Another major issue I had with this blog was the lack of critical thinking. At one point, Craig and Layla decided to ban all things “Albertan” (see some of the entries below for more on this). They did this because of the Tar Sands. They were not quite sure how this would work as they had family in Alberta. Later on they made a big announcement about how they were now moving to Alberta and they commented (on the original entry, in red no less) that they were moving to Alberta and they thought it was a good thing because Alberta really needed to hear their message. I am sure that many ‘green’ Albertans must have taken offense to this self-aggrandizing statement. Now arrogance has been added to the mix.

At the end of their ‘green year’ they committed to posting once a week on their green activities. They have not really managed to meet their goal of posting weekly. One of their favourite things to blog about now is when they are ‘featured’ somewhere whether it be at a childrens’ event, being featured as part of the ’50 most influential people in Alberta, and a couple of weeks later announcing to us that they had been featured on Alberta Primetime on Access as being two of the most influential people in Alberta. Now it seems that most of their posts centre around other people realizing the wonder that is Craig and Layla Baird.

The only reason I can think of for them getting this kind of attention is that people are not really reading what they put together in their blog. Seriously folks, these people use coffee grounds to wash with, think nothing of peeing on ‘the ranch’, and banning places of which they are now considered ‘influential’ people.

Let’s not forget the whole reason for this enterprise – they plan to write a book. They also state loud and clear on their blog that they are happy to do speaking engagements. I guess when you are chasing the bucks, accountability can be sacrificed.

The last couple of posts have really annoyed me. I will be the first to admit that at times I can be petty. But as far as I am concerned if you are going to hold yourselves up as knowledgeable about everything ‘green’ one might expect that you actually have some knowledge. Craig recently posted an entry which was a video tour of his garden (boring) or at least it was until he referenced his many ‘species’ of pumpkins. I almost fell off my chair in fits of laughter.

On July 7, 2009 Craig posted, perhaps, his most privileged post to date. Entitled “A very Green Way to Mow the Lawn” it sports a picture of a beautiful horse eating the grass. I am not even sure where to start on this one. This post has very little relevance to your average person. How many of us could afford to have the land required and the horse to put on it to mow the lawn in this manner? Is it even green to keep livestock like cows and horses? They consume a great deal of food and produce a lot of manure and methane gas. They can only forage (mow the grass) for a short time every year. The rest of the year they must be kept in barns (no doubt heated barns as the Bairds live in Central Alberta) and they must be fed. How much energy and fossil fuels goes in to growing and transporting the feed for the Barid’s livestock?

This again raises my point about critical thinking. These two are incapable of analyzing what they are doing and seeing the consequences (sometimes the unintended consequences). If you are new to my blog, you may ask why I don’t ask them my questions directly. I used to post comments to their blog and ask questions, make remarks about ableism, pointed out how they were privileged and how they were also hypocritical. They eventually decided I was too ‘combative’ and they banned me from making comments.

One of their favourite arguments to throw at me was to say that at least they were doing green things and to question what I was doing. Quite the pathetic thing to say when you have nothing else to come back with. I am all for doing what we can to mitigate our damage to the planet while we are here. I have no need to list the things that I do or do not do. Suffice it to say, I work at it.

In my opinion, the Bairds are jumping on the green bandwagon (I hope it is being pulled by a green energy source). They accept everything they perceive to be a ‘green act’ at face value and they rarely (if ever) delve any deeper. I find this quite sad as they are squandering an opportunity to do something really good.

Other entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,

*H/T to Wandering Coyote for the inspiration for the title.

Greenwash – Part 3

I neglected yesterday to address Day 340 of the “Our Green Year” blog. This entry needs to singled out as a clusterfuck of all that is wrong with this blog. This blog post focuses on using natural remedies for some very serious medical conditions and problems. Even though Craig assures us that he and Layla are not doctors they feel no hesitation in recommending ‘natural’ cures to their readers.

So, let’s begin with the advice dispensing:

If you are feeling down, instead of taking anti-depressants, you can put a couple of drops of lavender oil on your temples. This can temporarily relieve anxieties and help calm you. Having lavender smells in your home or office will also help.

First of all, doctors do not prescribe anti-depressants for those ‘feeling a little bit down.’ Instead they are far more likely to suggest counseling, self-care and making some changes in one’s life to improve mood.1 If someone has severe enough depression that it requires anti-depressants then a little lavender oil on the temples is not going to help. Clearly neither Craig nor Layla or anyone close to them has suffered from depression or they would not write such drivel. As someone who has recently joined the ‘anti-depressant’ club as a result of chronic illness and anxiety I have to say that a little lavender oil would not have done anything for me. I only went on the anti-depressants when my anxiety and depression were almost debilitating. If counseling, self-care and making changes in my life didn’t work why would lavender oil? Moreover, the insinuation that people who are ‘a little bit down’ would take antidepressants is insulting. Mental health is a very complex and serious issue and not one to be taken lightly. Quite frankly, I was insulted by this post and I am sure many others were as well.

Continuing with the ‘mood’ theme:

Another tip for your mood is to buy 100 percent natural flower essences. What are those? Well they are flowers you grow outside with nothing but water and the sun. Flowers are a great way to add nice aromas and balance your mood.

Now everyone likes to get flowers. They smell nice and looking at them may make you feel a little happier especially if they come from someone special. I am at a loss as to what they could do for one’s mood pharmacologically speaking.

This one is great:

If you are having troubles with high blood pressure, try some nice herbal teas or use some dandelion tea.

I think if you have high blood pressure you need to be making dietary and exercise changes and taking medication if it is recommended by your doctor. I am not sure which herbal teas he would be referring to but I think if you drank any tea that had any affect on your blood pressure and you were taking medication, you may lower it to dangerous levels. This piece of advise is dangerous. Please, consult your doctor before you take any herbal remedies to deal with high blood pressure.

More condescension in this little exercept:

If you have trouble with diabetes, asthma or any number of conditions, you can contact a herbalist and see what options are available to you. Make sure you choose someone who has credentials and training with herbs and you should be able to get some very beneficial herbs.

I am sorry but people don’t ‘have trouble with asthma or diabetes’ they have them. End of conversation. Quite frankly as one who has asthma I would not give up my inhalers for any herbal remedy. If I am having an asthma attack I need to fix it, now! People with diabetes risk losing limbs, their sight and kidney function if their disease is not managed. I am not sure what a ‘herbalist’ can do for these conditions but I would bet they are far better treated by a medical doctor.

Craig ends this post stating:

So, unless it is a severe medical issue that only a doctor can help with, we will be using natural remedies for minor things like colds, flus, aches, pains, headaches and more.

Given that he has addressed severe medical issues like depression, diabetes and high blood pressure as diseases that can be treated with natural remedies I wonder what he would consider a serious disease?

1 I am also pretty sure they are not going to recommend lavender oil. Just my thoughts but hey, I am not a doctor.

Greenwash Part 2

Well it has been a while but the folks over at “Our Green Year” have been busy imposing their brand of ‘bandwagon green’ again. Here are some of the choice posts of the last couple of weeks:

One of their most ‘brilliant’ solutions for going green is to eradicate the plastic button. Yes, you read correctly, the lowly button:

Throughout Our Green Year, we have tried to remove plastic from our lives. Plastic is the scorn of our planet’s existence. It seems that every area of the planet has plastic in it and when archeologists look at our layer in history when they dig down, they will see a solid layer of plastic. While that is an exaggeration, the truth is that plastic is everywhere and in everything and it takes 1,000 years for it to degrade away.

One plastic item that most of us never think of, but may use every single day, is the buttons on our shirts. I enjoy wearing plaid shirts, but all my plaid shirts have plastic buttons on them. When one breaks off, I have to go and get another one, made out of plastic.

However, as it turns out, there is an alternative and it is TreeButtons. TreeButtons are a sustainable alternative to other types of buttons. These buttons are made from Cherry, Birch, Oak and Maple tree branches, and they do not warp or crack. They are finished with sandpaper and are preserved with natural nut oil. Plus, these buttons are made from sustainable trees so that the environment is not threatened.

Now when a button comes off a shirt, we will replace it with TreeButtons.

I don’t know about you but I have never had a plastic button break in my entire life. I have had buttons come off, I have had rivets come out but I have seen a plastic button break. In fact, the reason buttons are made of plastic is because they are so durable. I am guessing that either Craig is very ‘hard’ on his plastic buttons or they are grasping at straws. Probably they saw the wood button alternative and tried to figure out a way to incorporate it into their blog and thus the scourge of the plastic button was born.

I am not sure what the problem was when Craig was writing the post about all natural glue. He states:

While there is a rumor that horses make glue, I have no way to really confirm this. Regardless, glue is full of chemicals and when we use it we are inhaling those chemicals. In addition, making glue then processes those chemicals, which pollutes the environment and not just our health.

A quick check of Wikipedia confirms that indeed horses have been used to make glue. In fact, the work ‘horse’ appears three lines in. What kind of confirmation is he looking for? Or, more importantly, did he even bother to look?

Craig wrote a post about ‘Tax Time‘ yet opened it with something truly strange:

Well, today I shaved most of my head to see how it would look, and it doesn’t look too bad. Of course, with the hair that came off, I tossed it outside so that this spring, the birds will have something extra with which they can make nests with. When I shave my head again in a few weeks, I will compost the hair this time as hair is a big source of nitrogen for compost and is good for the soil.

Seems like a very odd thing to do with one’s hair however I guess if you are going to pee outside putting your hair outside naturally follows.1
Now to carry on with the tax time post. I am sure that Craig must think his audience is stupid:

You do everything you need to online, you upload your return and it goes straight to Revenue Canada. In the days of identity theft, this is also a safe option versus sending it in the mail where it can be stolen.

Seriously folks online tax filing has been around for a very, very long time. Granted filing taxes electronically saves paper but the real reason it was started is because it was more efficient (less human labour involved). I also do not lose sleep over the fact that my tax return might be stolen in the mail! I am just not that important!

I have noticed some incongruities with their posts. In a post about dental floss they champion using nylon (vegan) floss over floss made from silk:

So, Layla and I will be using Eco-Dent Vegan Floss. This great floss is made from, as you guessed it, non-animal or chemical products. Instead, nylon is used and the wax comes from rice. Silk is not used because silk production sometimes uses child labor and it can be very painful for insects to have silk taken from them. The best part is that the packaging is recyclable and the product is completely biodegradable so that you can put it in your compost bin.

From what I can tell about nylon it is not biodegradable. So here is a conundrum – is it more green to use a synthetic product or a natural product that may have some issues? 2

Going ‘green’ is not as simple a process as the Bairds would have people believe. Every choice needs to be weighed and deliberated. Then there is the condescension factor present in most entries of this blog. Here is a great example:

So, from now on we will add a tag line to our e-mail signature that will urge people to go green and offer them a green tip as well. Something like “Do you need to print this e-mail? Save paper if you can!” or “Remember to put your computer in standby when not using it!”

Those little tips might be just enough to get someone to think a little bit greener in their day-to-day lives.

Are most people that unaware of the environment that we need little reminders in someone’s email signature? It is almost like Craig and Layla are the founders of a new religion and are exhibiting all the pomposity that goes along with the newly converted.

Just in case you thought Easter might get by unscathed we are given this pearl of wisdom from Lord Craig:

Fourth, don’t buy any of those small chocolate eggs wrapped in foil. There are dozens of these eggs per plastic bag and that means a lot of foil wrapping. Instead of buying those eggs, give gifts to your children that they can reuse.

Seriously though how are you supposed to have an Easter Egg hunt for children without the little foil wrapped eggs? He goes on to tell us that if we buy chocolate to make sure it is organic and fair-trade. I am not sure how green that will be.

Stay tuned for my next blog on this topic where I will attempt to take on the mammoth task of identifying all of the things that Craig and Layla have banned in their blog – including the province they now live in.

1Or at least it does if you are Craig Baird.
2 Organic is not necessarily green. In fact, some organic products use more fossil fuels than conventionally produced items. For more info check out “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.