"Green bathing"?

Posted 03.01.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | We've all heard of "green washing," where a company will redesign its labels and advertising to position its products as environmentally friendly -- green -- without actually changing the product. But how many of us have heard of "green bathing"? How many of us know that our lovely Aylmer is one of the worst examples of green bathing?

This sounds like blasphemy, but what else do we make of the news item in this week's Bulletin reporting that a city survey showed that of all sectors, Aylmer has the lowest composting record in the city and the second lowest recycling rate in town? Less than half 40 percent -- of Aylmer homes use their compost bins.

And yet Aylmer has made a name for itself complaining about urban sprawl, loss of green spaces and heritage trees, and increased traffic congestion. Aylmerites seem pleased to thump their chests in support of keeping the town green and peaceful, but not so pleased to do anything about it, apart from the complaining.

Clearly, urban sprawl is not good, and it is a plus to have so many residents objecting to the loss of green space to housing projects. But why can't we bring our environmental concerns home?

It's not enough to blame others, to criticize city planners and builders, and then to refuse to do our bit where it counts, in our kitchens. If we don't recycle or compost, are we using our concerns over urban sprawl to green-wash our consciences? It sure looks like it.

It is astonishing to learn that more than half of our neighbours can't be bothered separating their waste into one of three bins. Where's the rocket science here?

We have to pitch our trash somewhere; why is it harder to decide which goes into composting, which into recycling, and which into plain garbage?

Or is the challenge to figure out which bin goes out on which day? If so, why not put a reminder on the fridge?

Is it a bother or a big time loss to have to wash out the bottles and tetra-packs? Is it quicker to just toss everything into one big bin? What has made us so dim and lazy? What other activities are so important that we can't spend a few minutes washing out a milk carton? Is it TV we'd be missing?

Climate change, global warming, pollution, and violent weather have become no longer mere threats but real problems we all face. Our kids and grandchildren will stagger under this heavy inheritance from us; is this the legacy we want to leave? Recycling is not difficult or time consuming. It's a matter of teaching ourselves good habits. Washing out a juice bottle should be as automatic as closing the fridge door.

Individual actions do help, and they help in large part by raising the consciousness of us all so all that we've built doesn't slide into self-destruction. Taking a warm green bath won't get us far.

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.11