Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Green is the Seven Cities?

Posted Thursday, August 6th, 2009 at 12:58 pm on

What does green mean to locals?
by Amelia Baker

My dear friend and local photographer Jessica told me that while she was in the military the phrase “Ignorance is not an excuse” was frequently used. I do believe this phrase should translate to environmentalism and beyond.

Let me start by saying that I live in a green bubble. I own a green store, my husband is as green or greener than me, as is his family. All of my friends are green, and my parents and siblings are amenable to my green ways (whether they know it or not).

Now, you might think that I am some crazy extreme environmentalist that couldn’t possibly relate to why people live in a disposable world consuming so much every day. I’ll admit that I am crazy about making sure my own life treads lightly on this wondrous planet, but I get it. I know that every change makes a huge difference and for some people even the smallest of changes seems like a huge sacrifice. I get it, and I’m grateful for all green steps, big or small.

I am more than thrilled that eyes are opening up to the fact that we have limited resources, which we can’t go on using at this rate. Seriously, did you know that something like 60,000 plastic bags are used every five seconds? Eek! With this staggering stat, seeing more and more people using reusable bags allows me to be a little more at peace.

I’ll admit that I do judge green-ness of products and practices, and I can’t help it. It’s unfortunate that my home, Hampton Roads, comes in sub-par in the green ratings. Why? I’ll kick it off with the all-important matter of recycling. The fact that we have a combination of curbside and community recycling is splendid, but “acceptable” recyclables leaves quite a bit of trash in the trashcan. All plastics are recyclable, yet we can only recycle bottle-shaped plastic through our local service.

Wouldn’t it be great if everything wasn’t packaged in plastic? Um yeah, but that’s not reality. So instead we continue to pile up the landfills with items that should be recycled. But just because we might not win the battle against plastic doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be our greenest.

Here Are Three Ways Hampton Roads Can (And Should) Be Greener:

In my previous life in Huntington Beach, California, we didn’t have recycling bins. Gasp; a California town with no recycling bins?!?!? Yep, we had no bins, but everything that could be recycled got recycled. Why? ALL trash was sorted and the recyclables were pulled out. It was kind of like mandatory recycling. We could absolutely do that here in Hampton Roads, and bump the depressing results showing less than half of locals actually recycling.

On a bigger scale, did you know that our local coastline is one of the few ideal locations for offshore wind turbines? Theoretically if we jumped on this concept, we can produce sustainable energy for ourselves and sell energy to others around the country. And did you know that this wind energy concept would actually be less expensive than building and maintaining a coal plant? Right here in our own backyard is this amazing opportunity to lead the charge in sustainable, renewable energy–but damned if I don’t hear how this will NEVER happen. (I’ll admit that my political side isn’t quite as polished, so I’m sure there is somewhat of a political, bureaucratic nightmare holding this up.)

Something that I do believe Hampton Roads residents are exceptional at is supporting the local economy. The shiny, new word locavore is as big a part of the green community as any other notion. Being local saves a ton of carbon. Something like 1.1 billion barrels of oil would be conserved each week if Americans ate a locally produced meal just once per week. Fortunately, the cities that make up Hampton Roads offer eclectic mixes of neighborhoods that are home to many mom-and-pop boutiques, and residents are all for supporting these establishments. Lucky us, for having fantastic community agriculture projects that bring fresh local produce to the many farm markets scattered throughout the area. Two points for Hampton Roads leaning local.

So to conclude my highly opinionated thoughts and try to sell you on green, I’ll leave you dear readers with an analogy (as I hear that one good analogy is worth three hours of discussion): Green is to Hampton Roads as paint is to a wall. They both exist exclusively, but would really shine together.

Get going on your three-hour discussion…

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