5 Obstacles to Becoming Greener

I want to believe that many people want to be more “green” or make their lifestyle more sustainable than it is now. However, there are some things that get in the way of more people going “green”.

Terminology

In today’s world saying that you are “green” or attempting to live a “green lifestyle” has a negative stereotype.  If you say or hear the term “green” being used in a conversation, it tends to immediately spark a certain view of an odd, long-haired, “do-gooder”, who, composts, recycles, brags about growing their own organic veggies, has solar panels on their house, liberal and who wants to change the world to look more like it did back in the 1800’s.

Overcoming this stereotypical view of who is or what “green” has become an issue.

While this stereotype may fit some of “green” fits some people, it does not precisely fit many of those who are actually doing things “green” but don’t want to identify with being “green” because of those negative stereotypes.

Why?

Being “green” is often associated with a certain political philosophy or has even become a political party (here in Maine) and many do not want to be put in the same company as “those” people. Sad but true.

So the “green” terminology and stereotyping holds back some people.

Priorities

The “I don’t care until it starts to affect me attitude” is very prevalent in the U.S.  We have become a nation that focuses too much on the short-term “get it (whatever it is) while we can”, than on long-term solutions that would be more sustainable.  Our need for instant gratification and the push to continue our current consumer driven lifestyle, sometimes often blinds us to what needs to be done and the sacrifices that probably should be made for long-term improvements to the economy and our use of natural resources.

Changing people’s priorities, ideology and possibly where the money goes is frightening to too many people who first don’t want change; second don’t see the need for change (they like things just the way they are) and last, are scared of what the changes might mean to the way they live.

This attitude also means that changing to a more “green” perspective probably won’t happen to the majority of the population voluntarily.

Making sustainability or being more “green” would change our priorities – a scary thing to many out there.

Convenience

Our present lifestyle is built on convenience. We depend on being able to run to the store and get whatever “it” is we need and then get rid of “it” when we are done with “it” and go out and buy a new “it”.  That is the lifestyle that many in the U.S. lead today, they are comfortable with living that lifestyle and want to continue living this way.

Food is seldom made from scratch for most people and is bought already prepackaged and all we have to do is add water or warm it up in the microwave.  If we don’t want to do that much we have a bazillion choices about what or where we can eat, all we have to do is eat it and pay for it. Most people are very far removed from killing or picking what they eat and want to remain that way.

Our homes have become self contained worlds where we don’t have to worry about whether it is hot or cold/day or night outside, we simply flip switch and light appears or change the thermostat to warmer or colder temperature. We are able to communicate with anyone in the world instantaneously and be entertained with an almost infinite number of options (big screen TVs with hundreds of channels, computers, gaming consoles, etc.) all from the comfort of our favorite chair in our living room.

These are only a few examples of our present conveniences, there are many more.

Yes, our life in the United States is actually pretty convenient and easy isn’t it?  I know that I have enjoyed the fruits of our advanced society and would love to see it last forever.  Unfortunately, oil-based energy is not as cheap as it was just a few years ago. With the emergence of other countries into the “Country Club”, oil is becoming much more expensive and is being used at an exponential pace.  At some point the oil-based economy is going to tank, because of dwindling oil resources and rising prices.

What happens to our convenient way of life then?

Cost

This is issue that we are being faced with now, is it still cheaper to rely on an oil-based economy to provide us with our conveniences and current lifestyle than to actively seek alternative or “green” energy sources.  Many seem to things so today.

The costs to convert to solar, wind, wave, geothermal, hydroelectric or other more sustainable/alternative energy methods to the average person are initially pretty steep, when you have to sustain the rest of the lifestyle that we have become accustomed to and want to continue.

Then to think of logistical nightmare changing over to an alternative or different energy source to oil would entail on a national or even regional level, leaves many not really wanting to do anything about it.
What happens when we have no choices in 5, 10, 20 or so years?

Learning Curve

Even if we can afford to convert to a more “green” energy source or just being more “green” in your daily lives, there is a learning curve and many misconceptions that scares off many people.  Learning how to plant and harvest a garden, making food from scratch, or other things that need to be re-learned by individuals can be intimidating.

There is the misconception that you can’t have your local handyman just install most of the items that are associated with increasing your “greenness” (wood stoves, heat pumps, windows, doors, etc.), instead most people believe that you have to hire an “expert” that has been specially trained. Having experts do the big-ticket alternative energy items is necessary, but it is like that for any large installations i.e. replacing a furnace or changing a boiler that we just do today.

They think that it would be too “hard” to learn how to use all of these green things, especially if they have to install battery packs and inverters (new terminology) that they are unfamiliar with using.  I know that it is for me.
Another misconceptions about going green are that the steps you have to make, always have to be the “big” things.  That you have to go out and install solar panels on your roof or put up a wind turbine in your backyard, dig a geothermal pump and other things like that.

To me going or being more green is more often a series of small choices that if many people do, that will change how things are done or viewed over time.

Yes there is a learning curve, but does it need to be intimidating or stop people from doing more green things?

In the end what is “Green” to me?

To me being “green” is consciously looking at the way we live and trying to make it more sustainable. We don’t have to do the big things, sometimes I believe that a series of small steps are almost as beneficial and more likely to be done.  I do think that we have a responsibility to make conscious decisions about what we buy and that we need to look objectively at the long-term effects of what we are doing to keep up our “convenient” lifestyle.

What most people don’t realize is that most of us are already starting to do some things that are considered “green” – scary huh.

Who knows maybe we should move away from the term “green” because of the negativity associated with that word by so many people and focus more on what we are actually doing (or should be doing) – living a more sustainable lifestyle.

Am I a “green meanie” or one of those liberal long-haired types – nope.  I am just an ordinary guy who sees a need to change some a lot of the things we are doing.  At some point there is going to be a change to how we live (there just isn’t enough cheap oil left to support our current lifestyle forever), whether we like it or not.

Personally I really don’t want to be learning how to do things differently in the middle of a crisis, it is a lot easier to either learn different skills now and change how I do certain things before that happens.

I just think it is time that we and our leadership looks objectively at the long-term effects of our decisions to remain locked into a resource that is being depleted so rapidly, in order to maintain our current and convenient lifestyles.

This is not an all everything list, it is just a quick attempt to think about things that get in the way of becoming greener.