What's really effective?
I first learned about the concept of greenwashing about 13 years ago and since then, I can't stop seeing it. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, greenwashing is when a company pretends to be environmentally-friendly by coming up with some pretty little eco-initiatives, but, on the whole, is still wreaking enormous damage upon the environment.
A prime example would be a company like Shell sponsoring a mini-documentary series on renewable energy. Even though their principal activity is destroying the planet via oil production, by having their brand associated with those who are leading renewable energy efforts, they come off looking 'greener'.
Last year, I bought the book Drawdown because I started wondering which of the eco-activities we undertake as consumers are actually a micro-version of greenwashing. For example, if I buy a cute little cutlery set to use instead of takeaway cutlery when I'm buying lunch to go, that SEEMS like an environmentally friendly thing to do. However, why couldn't I have just used a knife and fork that I already owned? Is the act of buying that 'travel' cutlery set merely greenwashing?
Drawdown's subtitle is: "The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming." The New York Times describes the book as follows:
"For the first time ever, an international coalition of leading researchers, scientists and policymakers has come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. All of the techniques described here - some well-known, some you may have never heard of - are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are already enacting them. From revolutionising how we produce and consume food to educating girls in lower-income countries, these are all solutions which, if deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, could not just slow the earth's warming, but reach drawdown: the point when greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline. So what are we waiting for?"
I figured that if anyone knew what actions are ACTUALLY effective in saving the planet, it would be the contributors featured in this book. I decided I'd read through it and select the initiatives that are applicable to individual consumers. By that, I mean that even though Silvopasture is one of the top 10 most effective ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, it's not something that I can do personally. On the other hand, reducing the amount of food I waste and eating a plant rich diet come in at number 3 and 4 on the list, and those are things I can absolutely do on a daily basis.
Rather than pushing for us to do things that aren't enormously important in the fight against climate change, I want to focus on the actions that will actually make an impact. I'll be writing about those in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks. I think there are at least 20 out of Drawdown's list of the top 80 ways we can reduce our output of CO2 that seem fairly straightforward for individuals to undertake.
In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about Drawdown, you can visit their website.