Monday, November 24, 2008

What does “green” mean to you?

In preparation for the 2008 Groundwater Foundation National Conference, “Going Green for Groundwater,” I spent a lot of time thinking about what being “green” means. To me, being green means acting in the best interest of nature, and in the best interest of Planet Earth. This prompted me to think about the global consequences of my individual actions, both positive and negative; how recycling one aluminum soda can saves enough electricity to power a TV or a 100-watt light bulb for three hours and recycling my junk mail helps save energy and trees, but how I sometimes drive a short distance when I should walk or ride my bike instead, and how I have a mountain of plastic bags at home that could be replaced with reusable grocery bags.

It also made me think about a quote I discovered by Leonardo da Vinci, who said “Water is the driver of nature.” Water has the awesome power and responsibility of keeping our planet viable for life. Water drives every process in nature, so if being green is acting the in best interest of nature, I think protecting our water supplies, including groundwater, is the ultimate act of “going green.”

Being “green” is very trendy right now. Businesses, industries, individuals, products, buildings, cars, energy – all are working toward that “green” label. And while the steps these different facets of our society are taking to go green are most certainly positive, I want them to remember the words of da Vinci, and those of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau who said, “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” I want them to “go green” by helping protect our precious water resources.

We want to hear from you – what does being “green” mean to you? What would you like to see from businesses, industries, individuals, etc. to be more green? How are you working to go green in your life?


Anonymous said...

This blog got me thinking… about the unconscious green lives that my grandparents lived. My grandfather recycled aluminum cans, not because it was good for the environment but because aluminum is recyclable and he could earn a few extra bucks. My grandmother had a small pull basket on wheels that she wheeled to the neighborhood grocery store and toted her groceries home. My grandmother made tons of stuff from scratch, including soap. They patched their clothes when they wore out and once an article of clothing was too worn it became a rag for cleaning, or a piece of fabric for a quilt or braided rug. They had huge gardens, providing fresh produce and what could not be consumed was canned. Carrots were pulled from the ground and popped right into your mouth; there were no harsh chemicals that needed to be washed off. Lights were tuned off when you left a room. In the cold winter months they would close off half the house so that they did not heat their entire home. Their house did not have central air and the one window air conditioner was only turned on when the summer heat become unbearable. My grandmother’s favorite cleaning product was vinegar and baking soda. Nothing went to waste and if something broke they would fix it instead of replace it. They never bought “stuff” just because, only items that were needed. They lived in a world before 5 year olds had electronics, 16 year olds had credit cards, and 22 year olds drove SUVs.

cindy said...

Today – most people think of “going green” as reducing one’s carbon footprint, but what about one’s water footprint? The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.

For example, the cup of coffee you may have sipped this morning to wake you up required approximately 37 gallons of water which includes everything from growing the beans to making the beverage.

The global water footprint – the water requirements of all human activity – has been estimated at 6 billion acre-feet per year.

However, this global water footprint is not spread equally across the globe. India’s population is 17% of the world total; but its water footprint is 13% of the globes. In contrast, the United States has 4.5% of the population and its water footprint is 9% of the world’s freshwater.

As I have mentioned many times over the years when trying to impress upon people water’s importance – water is right up there with oxygen in importance. We cannot live without it. Given the water footprint statistics for the United States, it is imperative that we work now to protect this precious resource for the future. It is time we explore options for protecting and conserving groundwater which makes up the majority of the freshwater resources for the next generation. Making changes to our lifestyles that will result in positive benefits for water will take some effort – sometimes even extreme changes.

Take for example an article I read last week about San Diego in the Union Tribune. The City Council is expected to approve soon an emergency water conservation plan, which could include a property-by-property water budget that would dramatically increase rates for those who use more than their allotted amount of water. The proposal also includes a ban on landscape irrigation runoff and ornamental fountains, schedules for outdoor watering, and restrictions on car washing. If the drought situation becomes severe enough, San Diego may also stop issuing water permits for new development projects unless builders agree to offset their water demand.

San Diego is not alone in looking at measures of conservation. Many communities are working hard to protect their water. Communities must begin utilizing practical, sustainable methods of groundwater protection.

The change we want to see will not happen overnight, but with each of us doing our part we will make strides towards seeing groundwater protection as part of the "green" solution.

waterGirl said...

I am working to get other groups involved in the Foundation's "Groundwater Guardian Green Site" program. What a great way to feel good about the eco-minded actions we take on a daily basis at our own places of employment.

Anonymous said...

To me the word "green" is so overused and so trendy that it has lost meaning. It, to me, just means scam. However, that said, I do love the ideas and principles behind a lifestyle that is gentle to our earth, that reuses and re-purposes previously owned items, that is self-sustaining, that does not depend on oil supplies from regimes that hate our country, that does not damage the environment, that does allow people to be independent and live their lives free from the dictates of others, and that does allow us to make healthy clean choices for ourselves. The entire infrastructure of our country which was set up decades ago does not support this free and responsible way of living. So, while many of us would really rather live off of foreign oil, off the grid, and put passive solar to use, we are trapped for the time being in the structures put into place years ago. Most homes are not designed to take advantage of free passive solar. Many towns and cities have ordinances against putting up your own wind turbine. They killed the electric car we could have all been driving by now. Etc. Etc. Yet, we must strive on.