Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

Earth (Photo credit: stef thomas)
Today is Earth Day.  I will be honest.  I usually harbor negative thoughts towards Earth Day.  The idea behind Earth Day itself is noble.  I think we should do what we can to keep the planet clean.  It is a good thing to recycle and to try to preserve our natural resources.   The main reason that I tend to have negative thoughts about Earth Day is what the environmental movement has become.  Rather than focus on conservation, it has become more of an attack or capitalism and the American way of life.

When I was a young and wide eyed innocent, I was very conscientious about the environment.  In junior high school, I was a member of the ecology club.  One of the things that we did as members of that club was to travel to local tributaries and collect water samples.  We would then test those samples for various chemical levels.  One of my favorite awards from those school days was a certificate from President Gerald Ford for our work in the environment.  We also took a field trip to the Eastern Shore where we paddled canoes through some waterways enjoying nature.  That was simple awesome.

My interest in things environmental waned considerably over the years.  It is not that I was going around doing things intentionally to harm the environment but rather I just lost interest in conscientiously paying much attention to it.  When the news media started their hyping of man made global warming, I paid some cursory attention to the stories.  As more and more coverage of intense storms received coverage, I started to wonder if there was something to it.  However, a few years ago, I read a story that indicated that several other planets were also showing signs of warming.  Since there were no humans on those planets, I started to believe that any warming was primarily caused by natural forces.

Crystal earth recycle icon
Crystal earth recycle icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These days, I am trying to do what I can to conserve resources.  I prefer to think of myself as a conservationist rather than an enviromentalist.  I am trying to recycle a lot more items these days.  In the past, I would only recycle cans and bottles, but now I am also adding more boxes and other items to my recycling bin.  I have gotten better about taking my reusable tote bags with me to the grocery store, partly because I have too many plastic bags around the house and my grocer gives a nickel back for every reusable bag I use.  Today, I went to Target and they gave me a small reusable tote in honor of Earth Day.  I discovered that they also give a nickel discount for using reusable bags.

The company that I work for is very big into trying to implement sustainable policies.  I do get a sense of pride in working for a company that also wants to be a responsible citizen.  They have switched a lot of our lighting to more energy efficient LED lighting.  They have also installed energy efficient hand dryers in the restrooms.  Since Earth Day was today, my company decided to celebrate on Friday.  They gave each of us a new, reusable bag.  They also decided that they were going to turn out the lights in the common areas of the office for one hour.

Personally, I am not a fan of turning out the lights for an hour.  Usually, we all end up having to turn the lights on that we have in our cubicles in order to see, which kind of defeats the purpose of turning out the lights.  I think a more meaningful gesture would be to switch from our traditional 5-day, 8-hour work week to a 4-day, 10 hour work weeks or to allow more telecommuting.  Both would take a lot of cars off of the road and reduce the amount of energy used in the building.  Still, the company has their heart in the right place.
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