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Me and my footprint

Behaviors and attitudes about sustainability are hard to change




“Who’s calling? What’s that? The Society for a Sustainable Future?

“Well God bless you. What can I do for you?

“Do I have a few minutes for a poll? How can I say no to a Sustainable Future? Fire away.

“What’s that? Do I believe changes in individual behaviors and attitudes will make the biggest impact on a sustainable future? You bet. I love the environment, love it.

“Do I recycle? Of course. What could be easier? Trash in the red barrel. Plastic, glass and newspapers in the blue barrel. They teach this in pre-school, you know.

“What’s that? What is my thermostat set at right now? Wait a minute….

“80 degrees.

“That’s right, 80.

“Why so high? It’s December, you know. You’re calling north of the Mason-Dixon line. But in the summer it’s air conditioning 24/7 baby. OK. OK. Don’t worry, I’ll turn it down tonight.

“To what? I don’t know. Maybe 75. I like to feel toasty. Especially with the electric blanket on. Don’t worry. It’s got dual controls. That’s being energy-efficient, right?

“What’s that? What electric appliances do I run most often?

“Well, you have to understand, I’m one of those people, soon as I get home, the television goes on. Has to. I can’t stand a quiet house. Freaks me out. So the television is on basically whenever I’m home. At least I don’t sleep with it on. I knew a guy, couldn’t go to sleep at night without the TV on. Strange, huh?

“Then I might go in the kitchen and turn on NPR. No, I’m not really listening or watching. The news is too depressing. Have you watched it lately? Then, let’s see. I might pop something in the microwave.

“How often do I use the microwave? Ma’am, you know the world we live in. I’m microwaving every night. There’s no time.

“How far do I commute to work? Hah. Got ya there. I work at home. How many points do I get for that?

“Can I walk to where I shop for food.? What a concept, walk to shop. Just kidding. I could but I don’t. Why? I’d have to carry the stuff home. And those water bottles are heavy.

“How many water bottles do I consume in a day? I got to admit, I’m a little obsessive about my water bottles. It’s like I’m addicted. What? How many are in my frig right now? We’re getting a little personal, aren’t we? Just kidding. Wait…

“Ah, I guess there are about 20 or 30 in there. Hey, calm down. They’re eight-ounce Deer Parks. Of course, then I’ve got my giant tubular bottles of Smartwater. Can’t beat Smartwater. Oh, and then we have the easy pour three-quart jug of Deer Park for making coffee.

“What’s that you say? I’ve got enough plastic to cover an infield during a rain delay? I dunno, I never thought of it that way. C’mon, you gotta give me some points for recycling it all.

Diet and driving

“You want to talk more about diet? OK. How much beef do I eat? What’s that got to do with anything? What’s that you say? Raising livestock for human consumption creates 51 percent of GHG emissions, and pollutes rives and lakes. Well, I’m good for a couple of burgers a week, that’s about it. I’m not a big beef guy. I get points for that, right?

“What? What do I think about the cruelty of factory farming? To who? I know, I know, the farmers got it rough. The cattle? C’mon, they don’t even know where they are. They have pea brains. Just kidding. Alright. Alright. Jeez, I didn’t know this was a sore spot with you. This is where sustainability gets a little touchy feely for me. But don’t deduct any points, OK?

“My driving habits? OK. Well, I don’t have any points right now. I’m a good driver.

“What’s that? How often do I drive somewhere where I could walk instead? Never. Listen, I live in the suburbs. We have sidewalks that lead to nowhere. Seriously, they just suddenly end, like they ran out of cement. Makes no sense. You know the suburbs, nothing is close to anything. The school’s too far to walk. Church, library, too far. Now did you ever once hear of anyone walking to a McDonald’s? Or Wal-Mart. Imagine someone actually walking to Wal-Mart. You could pull a hammy just crossing the parking lot.

“How many cars do I own? Let’s see. Five. What can I say, I like cars. And that’s not including the kids’ cars. When they’re home the front yard looks like a moonshine runners’ convention what with all the cars all over.

“Would I consider purchasing a small, more fuel-efficient car, or a hybrid? The hybrid’s a little pricey for me, nice idea and all. You know, the economy isn’t exactly cooking along. We could still be in a recession. Who knows. And ah, small cars, they make me claustrophobic. I don’t need those huge tail fins, we’ve outgrown them at least. And all the chrome. Nice, but you gotta  move on…. Still, you know, this is America, not China. We’re a car nation.


“Would I consider downsizing into a smaller, more energy-efficient home? Like in England and Germany? But they’re row homes, aren’t they? Nothing against people who live in row homes. To each their own. But I’ve worked my career for my castle here. I’m kidding. This ain’t no McMansion. Don’t dock me too many points. But this is America, you know. Our  homes make a statement.

“What’s that you say? Am I willing to make meaningful reductions in my lifestyle for a sustainable future? What’s a meaningful reduction? You mean go back to something more simple? You mean go in reverse? Not exactly the American way, but I guess I could go without so many water bottles. I don’t know if the family needs eight computers. But some of ’em are old. I’d love to get rid of the kids’ cell phones, but that train left the station a long time ago. I don’t have an e-book or an iPad; I’ve got to get some points for that, huh? Let’s see, more reductions? Well, I guess I don’t have to use my underground sprinkler system every night on the grass. And to be honest with you, I could probably cut back on my 104-inch flat screen. It kind of takes over the room, you know?

“So that’s it? How did I score? What’s that? I’ve got a footprint the size of Crater Lake. You’re putting me on. Now exactly what is a footprint?”

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