Small children are naturally liberals. I remember the first time I heard about climate change, then called “global warming,” I was an impressionable 8 year-old. My mother and I had shopped at Target, and on the way out I picked up their monthly kids newsletter. On the front page was a picture of a sickly cartoon Earth with a cold water bottle on its head and an exploding thermometer sticking out of its mouth. The Earth was sick, and it was my job to help it. I took that job very seriously.
Growing up a skier, I worried throughout elementary school about this “global warming” and if that meant there would be no more snow, and thus no more skiing by the time I had the opportunity to share the sport and the outdoors with my kids. I had been indoctrinated. I was now an environmentalist.
Flash forward to the age of twenty-three and I’ve majored in Political Science to study environmental politics and I’ve worked in an environmental research non-profit. That goes to show, these lessons stick with you. The “green media” wields true power, and like Peter Parker’s (Spiderman’s) uncle told him, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
I believe the green media often falls down with this great power. It places too much emphasis on new products to consume and not enough on the value of using what we have. Rather than effective and practical measures one can take to decrease his or her environmental impact, it shows us fancy products to buy and further fuels our psychological compulsion to consume.
For example, continuing on the theme of skiing, this article on Top Green Skiing and Snowboarding Tips from Planet Green provides worthy advice on ways one can make greener choices when taking to the slopes; however, three of ten tips (and three of the first four listed) require buying new equipment, all of which carry their own environmental footprint.
Sure, a sustainably sourced bamboo-based snowboard manufactured with wind energy creates a smaller footprint than another snowboard manufactured overseas employing potentially dangerous chemicals which is then shipped halfway across the world. There is no dispute on that. But what about the virtue of using what you have? I have a perfectly good three year old snowboard that I love, should I toss it aside just to buy something constructed more sustainably? That means one more snowboard has to be created and one more snowboard has to be thrown to waste.
Ah, but what about recycling and donating products for reuse? Yes, the article suggests selling or donating your gear for reuse, but it never mentions actually reusing things yourself! Why not buy used gear to prevent it from ending up in the landfill? There is plenty of awesome gear out there used for only a season or two. Why not keep wearing the same jacket you have or taking a hand-me-down instead of buying one made with recycled materials and naturally sourced coconut husk-based fibers? None of these products are inherently bad. In fact, they’re all moving in a beneficial direction, if you need a new jacket, maybe you should buy these products. The problem is that the green media doesn’t often enough suggest these reduce and reuse methods.
It also doesn’t always use expertise, creating potentially dangerous situations. Mr. Brian Merchant who wrote the article admits within it that he is not an expert skier. One of the recommendations he provides is to take up nordic skiing, which he conflates with backcountry skiing. Both of these methods entail using primarily human power to explore the slopes, rather than chairlifts or snowcats. However, backcountry skiing and snowboarding is seriously hazardous! While Merchant suggests bringing along a friend or two, he offers no warning about the need for backcountry training in avalanche safety or first-aid. His statement that “proper knowledge” of the backcountry is needed doesn’t portray the level of risk involved nor the methods of obtaining such knowledge. Point being, not every green measure is for everyone. Journalists need to acknowledge the risk involved with their suggestions and sometimes need expertise in an area to properly share this information with their readers.
The saying goes: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” There’s a reason those words are in the order they are. The green media must recognize this and place just as much emphasis on measures to reduce consumption and reuse materials as it does on fancy new products.