How friendly is eco-friendly?

Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives - and in the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly?

Maybe the problem starts with what we define as eco-friendly. Do we mean something that is good for the environment or something that is just less bad than the alternative? Too often we are told something is eco-friendly when it is really only eco-friendlier than the alternative. For instance, anything made out of plastic will have an impact on the environment - even the biodegradable stuff. In fact, almost everything uses resources and will have a negative impact on the environment. So it can’t really be eco-friendly - can it?

You drive a hybrid - is that eco-friendly? Not in a million years would you suck on the exhaust pipe - it still uses oil. It is just better than the alternative Hummer.

You’ve changed your light bulbs - does that make you a tree hugger? Hmm, it still uses electricity that will most likely not be from a renewable source.

You eat organic foods - makes you feel green doesn’t it? Hope you planted them yourself because they don’t get to the shop or your house via wind power you know.

But it doesn’t mean that these things don’t mean anything. We will have an impact on the environment, whether we want to or not. We won’t be able to go back to the "good old days" when everything was green and lions roamed the streets (hopefully Will Smith was only acting). And I don’t think we want to either. People want their stuff - tv, fridge, dishwasher, computer.  And even if they don’t want these - books don’t come with a zero impact either.

It’s more about achieving some sort of balance. Nature has always healed itself. Trees provide us with oxygen, oceans clean oil spills, chickens have eggs (and eggs have chickens). We will run out of some things - oil and coal to name a few. But that’s okay; we’ll find new ways to travel and heat up. We always have and, hopefully, always will.

While being eco-friendlier won’t make a tree hug us, it will allow for the tree to continue to grow. And it’s the little things that can make a difference. Cut your emissions by turning the lights off when you don’t really need it. Save water by taking more showers than baths. Save on both by not filling the kettle to the top when you really only need a cup of water.

Find your own little thing to adapt or change - and don’t give up living at the same time. It won’t change the world overnight, but it will all add up if we all become a little friendlier.

Being eco-friendlier will give the environment the time it needs to heal itself. The problem right now is that we are getting to a stage where the time needed for healing can’t keep up with the pace of our impact. Be a bit friendlier and give nature a bit more time. Even if you don’t like nature, remember it serves as a central place for human life. We won’t make it if we didn’t have the trees, the water, the animals. No shelter, no food, no beer.

But don’t be all starry eyed about nature either. Remember, nature isn’t human-friendly. If a branch falls, it doesn’t check if you moved the car. If a forest burns, it doesn’t check if your house is in the way. If a volcano explodes, it doesn’t check if the villagers moved out in time. If a lion hunts, it doesn’t check if you can run faster. It does what it does. It is what it is. We shouldn’t park under the tree. We shouldn’t build in fire prone areas. We shouldn’t build so close to the volcano. We shouldn’t live so close to the lion. But we do because we all share this world - and sometimes we are just plain stupid or have no alternative. 

But if you insist on being eco-friendly - some advice. Go bury yourself out in the woods. You will have minimum impact, except for the disturbed soil and life cycle of the shovel. But you will be eco-friendly - pushing up the daisies. I’ll be eco-friendlier and water the plants. With a watering can. It’s eco-friendlier than a hose.

-Henk Campher, Former Vice President, Corporate Responsibility


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