I’m pretty sick of green groups singling out Wal-Mart like the poster child of big, bad, corporate, exploitation bullies. Green people for years talked about the big consumerism and Wal-Mart monster that appealed to that mass consumerism and a throw-away society. Liberal people snub Wal-Mart for its employment practices. Wealthy people snub Wal-Mart because they’d rather shop at Whole Paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, there is a little truth to all these statements. But, I’ve also noticed there are many things that Wal-Mart does right.
For instance, they hired Adam Werbach to help them become more environmentally friendly. Mr. Werbach had spent 17 years before that working on environmental activism through his leadership in the Sierra Club and other notable environmental organizations. Shortly after that Wal-Mart started offering the new CFL light bulbs and organic food.
The fact that Wal-Mart does provide employment for many people shouldn’t be overlooked either, in an economy that is hemorrhaging jobs everywhere. While I’m not keen on some of their noted unfair practices, the fact is – a job is a job. You get paid and it helps put food on the table for your family. That’s a HUGE benefit these days.
Now, another fellow blogger is noticing that Wal-Mart is also starting to not offer products that consumers are finding to be to be unsafe, like items that are products like baby bottles and infant formula cans that have a chemical called BPA. This chemical is approved by the FDA, but consumers are much more aware these days that not everything that’s on a store shelf is safe – no matter what government agency approves it. So, now Wal-Mart is being attacked for usurping the role of the FDA. It’s never ending the kind of criticism this company gets.
And, no one remembers that it was Wal-Mart’s beautifully efficient distribution system that ended being the most help in getting needed items into the New Orleans area during Hurricane Katrina, before and after the storm.
Honestly, I like Wal-Mart and I think they are doing many things right and are willing to change and evolve as they learn what works in our capitalistic economy and what doesn’t. It doesn’t hurt either that your money goes a whole lot further with the groceries there than other supermarkets too.
If there is one big problem with capitalism it has to be the profit motive. I’ve heard it over and over again: “Well, sure, it’s not “criminal” to charge an exorbitant profit (unless you are a regulated industry).” If it’s not criminal, we’ve certainly learned it is not sustainable. Profit motives are the reason people in starving countries like Argentina in 2002 couldn’t buy the food they produced in their own country. Instead, it was shipped out to other countries where they make a higher profit. Profit motive is why real estate became a speculator’s sport that ended up costing millions of people their homes in the end. Profit motive is the reason gas will never go down and always up, no matter what anyone says about supply and demand. Profit motive is why the pharmaceutical industry will never fund a study on any natural healing products that will undercut their profits in their own drugs, even if they find out they are effective. Profit motive is why people don’t have time to help other people in need, because there’s nothing in it for them. And profit motive is why in a drought a rain barrel would be priced at $150, as if this was not something you could make on your own for cheap. In short, profit motive is just another name for good, old-fashioned, greed when it becomes unsustainable.
Global Warming and Green Products
In one of those astounding synchronicities, I had to pay my water bill and ended up at the Raleigh website. There, to my surprise, I found they were selling rain barrels for only $80 to $90 approximately. Yesterday, I had been wondering how NC State could be doing a civic duty selling rain barrels for $150, and now I think I know they’re not. It’s one of those, “oh look we’re in a drought and people need water. Let’s sell over-priced rain barrels!” deals. And, imagine this! The Raleigh site even showed you how to make your own rain barrel out of an old trash can. There were also links for kits listed with the pre-made rain barrels too. So, now I have a good idea of what a rain barrel costs to do-it-yourself: approximately $16, if you already have an old trash can (like I do). Otherwise, it will cost you more like $45, which is close to the $30 I estimated yesterday.
Go Green Frugally
There are a lot of experts suggesting that green products and those that deal with environmental or global warming concerns, such as drought, will end up being a large industry as the years move ahead. You can expect people getting into these markets to have profit as their primary motive more than social conscience. If you want to uphold the standards and ethics of green industries, don’t patronize these people. Green isn’t just about taking care of the ecology and environment, it’s also about a sustainable way of life. Sustainability is not about price gouging. So, keep a sharp eye out and remember to pass along free information so others can also help to build a sustainable culture in their back yards for less.
*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by gilintx
One of the things that makes me hopeful about our present day culture is the continuing emphasis on greening our economy. Here in Raleigh, the drought has raised awareness on how we use water and how to conserve water. We have lots of work to do, but there are public measures being put in place to help us stem the loss of water in our city. I think that this type of awareness is something we need to cultivate on a daily basis.
It’s just too easy to waste our natural resources in the city, and we’re starting to figure out that some resources are not infinite. They depend on the goodness of Mother Nature, in many cases. Others we don’t even notice and rarely take advantage in our culture, like solar energy. Since the back to the land movement proved somewhat unsuccessful, maybe our options should be to attempt to green our cities? There is much news that this increases a city’s livability factor and, in turn, attracts future investment.
Here are some things I was considering as I thought about this idea of staying in a city, but greening my area:
- Investing in a solar hot water heater (my conventional one is getting old)
- Adding an attic fan for cooling
- Getting a push mower
- Reducing my amount of waste
- Growing a kitchen garden
- Figuring out how to dry food with a solar cooker
- Collecting rainwater in a cistern
- Using grey water to water plants or flush toilet
- Educating myself on how to implement more measures
Many of these options are common sense and don’t require a big expenditure, except for the hot water heater. I was reading about how people in other cultures use everything and make their lives more sustainable. Examples were small every day actions that we might not consider, like saving our orange rinds and drying them to use as flavoring agents in teas, cakes, and the like. Wasting is epidemic in our American culture and it can be reduced. We can start small and try to increase our awareness through everyday simple actions.
*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by darkpatator