What does it mean to “be green”? Is it just about recycling our trash, or should we be hopping on the Sea Shepherd to fight Japanese whaling?
I ask because I was confronted with the thought in the elevator this morning. In typical morning conversation style, another rider brought up the gradually cooling fall weather. For anyone that’s spent the winter in Shanghai, you know how brutally cold it can get. Just the notion made the other passenger shiver.
“It’s only October and I’ve already put on the heater and pulled out the radiators. I try to be green but I can’t stand being cold. It’s not like I own an oil tanker or something!”
The interesting part is not that he has the heat on full blast so early in the season (I thought about doing the same thing a couple times myself). It’s that he felt the need to defend himself to a total stranger about how environmentally friendly he is. I’m glad he isn’t in the tanker business, but concerned about his intentions.
Have we gotten to the point where people are hyper-defensive about their very personal household actions? And if so, how can we gauge whether someone is really being environmentally sound or just trying to hop on the green bandwagon in name only? For me, being green is an internal attitude. Do you have to be a Green Peace activist? Of course not! To use an overused quote: “be the change you want to see in the world.” Do your part as you see fit, but do it for you and your loved ones, not to impress your neighbors.
Now you’re probably asking what this all has to do with Shanghai. When I first arrived here the buzzword was innovation. Now, everywhere you go there is something relating to being green or lifestyles of health and sustainability (LOHAS). Many business, some of which I’ll highlight in my Little Green Book, are certainly doing great things. The rest, however, are green in name only. In a place where environmentalism is in its infancy, this preponderance of “greenness” dilutes and confounds the true message. It conveys that by simply saying I’m an environmentalist, or calling my store green such and such, I am doing my part. In reality, they are doing nothing. If everyone took this attitude, whether defensively or proactively, the world would be in dire straights. I’m optimistic, though, that this isn’t the case.
How do you define being green? Do you think it’s better to simply get the word out or to really internalize the experience of environmentalism?