Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Walking the Walk - Feb. 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green.

Kermit the Frog had it right. Even with the best intentions, doing the environmental right thing can be hard. This is especially true now that Green, as a concept, has taken over a certain corner of our vocabulary. Energy production, transportation and distribution, buildings and materials, manufacturing processes, even people and political parties, all carry the same label. The term is even being used to describe a process that undermines the very principles that define it. "Greenwashing" has become a system of its own, a way to obscure the truth, or to make something appear beneficial and good when in fact it's not. The problem is that green, as a label, is easy to apply but can be ambiguous and difficult to analyze. Unlike the words Certified Organic, which have become recognized and trusted, applied to everything from fruits, to dairy products, to fertilizers and soils, Green just doesn't carry the same weight.
One area of clarity is in building design and materials. The U.S. Green Building Council, through its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, offers certification to buildings that meet their criterion. One local example is the new Community Food Co-op, on Cordata Street in Bellingham. Of interest to local home builders, buyers and current owners, the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, partnering with Built Green Whatcom, and Northwest Energy Star Homes, offers information and contacts for all aspects of design and construction, including remodeling.
For everything else, and with so much space to cover, the term Green ends up in danger of losing its potency and being added to the list of undefinable words like cute and cool. Fortunately, there are dedicated people, greenophiles (my word), who have done, and continue to do their homework, and offer the results to those of us who want quick answers. Basically, is this thing good or bad for the environment, and how does it rank with others of its kind? One excellent company, www.GoodGuide.com, gives detailed ratings on a list of consumer products, over 75,000 items, in several categories. They even offer a free iphone app that allows you to scan bar codes to pull up product ratings. Very cool--green!
Like any positive change, going green involves effort. This includes a possible change in ways of thinking and interacting, as well as different ways of spending money. When green rules are applied, the words "cheap" or "expensive" take on different meanings. No matter what the cost, future generations will live with what we pay for now. Is it worth the extra effort? I think so.

Note: Green Grows the Garden
All winter, seed catalogs pile up on my table. The pictures are so beautiful, I'm always tempted to buy more than I can plant. Mostly, we buy through the Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org, either from their excellent catalog or directly from other members. A recommended local company is West Coast Seeds, with a retail outlet at 3925 Elliot Street, downtown Ladner. Although many of their seeds are F1 hybrids, they do carry open-pollinated (OP) types as well, and the fact that they offer tested varieties, suited to our climate, is a big help. Be aware of certain restrictions on seeds coming across the border. Other excellent companies are: Johnny's Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Co., W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Renee's Garden, and John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds. Happy gardening!

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