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.

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Published in: on April 7, 2009 at 12:28 pm  Comments (3)  
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Pet Peeve: Control Freak Bloggers

I keep running across (or into, as the case may be) with bloggers who heavily censor or don’t post comments. I posted before about a blog I was banned from because of comments posted that did not agree with what the author had to say. Another blog I read, Our Green Year,  which chronicles the journey of Craig and Layla Baird as they undergo a personal green tranformation. They have started a companion blog called the Our Green Year Journal where they catalogue the green things they do on a daily basis. They are not allowing comments on this blog as they state it is only a ‘journal (look towards the end of the entry).’

This makes no sense to me. The point of this blog and I assume the accompanying journal is to educate and to provide an example of all the green things they do everyday. I began to notice some inconsistencies between what they say they do on the main blog and what they list they do on the journal. The first major thing I noticed was the reference to chicken, turkey and ham deli meats when they said that they if they were eating meat it was bison. So, I asked the question about the deli meat and questioned how green it was and if they thought it was sustainable. Instead of posting my question they just added it on, in red, at the bottom of the post. It does not matter that, according to Layla, they are only using these ‘deli’ meats to ‘supplement’ their diet. The bottom line is they said they were only eating bison. Besides assuring me that the deli meat is organic they did not address the question of sustainability.

I also have other questions. For example they say that they are going to reuse everything before they recycle it. Yet in their journal posts they just talk about recycling packaging materials. They also talk about bringing plastic containers for things like take out – why don’t they do this for their deli meat that they have wrapped in paper? On Day 39 they talk about reusing items that can be recycled first. Yet almost every entry on the Journal says ‘packaging materials recycled.’ Where is the reusing? On Day 49 they talk about re-using receipts before recycling them yet the Journal does not indicate this activity either.

The burning question I was really hoping the journal would answer is how they find time to do all of the ‘green’ things they have stated they have incorporated into their lifestyle – here is a list of only some of the things that have yet to show up on the Journal:

Day 7: They volunteered with the Green Party. With a Federal Election underway the Journal has not reflected this activity.
Day 11: Layla started to make tin can pen jars to sell through the blog. Has she made any since the Journal started?
Day 21: Apparently the Bairds receive lots of books in the mail and need to recycle (or in their case, re-use first) a lot of packaging material. The Journal has not been up for that long so perhaps they have not received any books or reused any packing material.
Day 23: The Bairds commit to mowing the lawn with a manual push mower. Perhaps their lawn does not need to be mowed even though it is still quite warm.
Day 26: Craig and Layla commit to 5-minute showers with an egg timer! They dutifully record their showering times on the Journal (although, I have to secretly wonder if one of them ever cheats and takes a 6.3 minute shower, but I digress…). They also commit to catching the water that is run before the temperature is correct in a bucket and using it to water the garden. This activity is not recorded. What are they going to do with that extra water in the winter?
Day 27: Are the Bairds still drinking coffee the ‘green’ way?
Day 28: and what about that dandelion tea?
Day 29: composting inside – is this still happening?
Day 34: Saw the end of the dryer in the Baird household. Yet the journal does not indicate them hanging their clothes out to dry. Perhaps they haven’t done laundry yet as they were going to wear their clothes a little longer as they explain in a future blog.
Day 48: Have we been doing any container gardening in the house to clean the air inside?
Day 49: Perhaps the Bairds are not eating much bread. They committed to making their own on this day and this activity is not reflected in the Journal.
Day 56: are they still carrying around their portable bottle composters wherever they go?
Day 60: Craig posted about making their own soda pop. I guess they don’t drink that much as they have not made it yet according to the Journal.
Day 64: I guess you don’t use that much body wash if you only take a five-minute shower.
Day 69: How are they doing on the ‘one-bag’ challenge?
Day 72: I guess they don’t eat much yogurt either.
Day 82: One of my favourite days! I think the Bairds jumped the shark here…now they are going to wash their clothes by hand!!!! But they are having trouble finding a washboard. There has not been any laundry being done on the Journal. I guess they have a lot of clothes!
Day 85: Have they had the scythe out lately? Or maybe the grass and weeds don’t grow.
Day 90: Craig and Layla are now collecting the morning dew!!! Are they doing this every day? You sure can’t tell from the Journal.
Day 100: For people who claim not to eat much meat, almost every entry into the journal sees them buying some sort of meat. None of it was bison.
Day 114: Another post on how little meat they eat. Personally, I don’t care if you want to eat meat. However, when you say you are not eating much meat because of its impact on the environment and then eat meat almost every day there is a bit of a credibility gap. The claim to be almost vegan yet they buy locally sourced eggs and organic cream for butter. Why the disconnect?
Day 122: Eating cold food and another reference to deli meat.
Day 129: Having given up potato chips on another day, the Bairds are now making their own pita chips.

Now, here is my question, with all those ‘green’ tasks they have undertaken when do they find time to work or sleep? I am not sure what their goal is besides writing a book. It is certainly not education as evidenced by their refusal to publish reader comments and questions on the Journal blog. I have also posted similar questions to the main blog and they have not been posted either.

I began reading the Our Green Year blog as a way to learn about some things we could possibly do in our house to reduce our impact on the environment. Many green blogs out there are great. They talk realistically about the challenges and pitfalls of going and staying green. It is a shame that the Our Green Blog and the Our Green Year Journal do not fall into this category.