The importance of being green

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“The government should make a law,” I overheard a co-worker saying, “against throwing anything recyclable into the trash. There should be trash inspectors to enforce the law and if anyone is caught they’ll be fined.”

The heavy enunciation of the last word shows that she knows where to hurt Americans the most–their wallets. Yet, with the plunging economy, people are already hurting financially. When people are struggling to pay bills and buy groceries, new fines seem to be the last thing we need.

Lawmakers seem to take the stance that if people won’t voluntarily sustain the Earth they’ll make them.

The Oregonian reported that on April 11 Governor Ted Kulongoski proposed a toll on I-5 that varies in cost depending on the day, time, location and congestion in order to pay for road repairs and dissolve rush hour by encouraging people not to drive.

There are a few disagreeable things about Kulongoski’s proposal. First of all, we’re already paying for road repairs through our state income tax. Also, the Oregon Lottery gives the Economic Development Department 15 percent of all earnings, which equates to millions of dollars going toward transportation every year.

Secondly, drivers are already suffering from gas prices that have more than tripled in the past six years. For many suburbanites, the Max isn’t a viable option and fuel-efficient cars are unaffordable. Limiting their vehicular expeditions to just going to and from work, a road toll would penalize these unfortunate drivers the most.

Becoming vegan or vegetarian benefits the ozone even more than attempting to decrease auto emissions. According to www.peta.org, “A recent United Nations report determined that raising animals for food generates about 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, SUVs, trucks and airplanes in the world combined.”

As global warming becomes an increasingly hot topic, fee proposals keep tumbling from politicians’ lips. On April 2, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed a 20-cent “green fee” to be charged to consumers for each paper and plastic shopping bag that they obtain from grocery, drug and convenience stores. If this fee were approved in Seattle, it would most likely migrate to Portland.

In my experience, rewarding people is more effective than punishing them. Financially, going green can be beneficial. If you can afford an expensive new car, there’s a substantial federal tax deduction for fuel-efficient car buyers. Some grocery stores, such as WINCO and Whole Foods, give rebates for bringing your own bags for purchases. Florescent spiral lightbulbs are more expensive than incandescent lightbulbs but save money in the long run because they use less energy and have a much longer life span.

The best rewards, however, don’t affect our bank accounts. These rewards are clean air, unpolluted water, green forests, delicious produce and other natural gifts. Through education and availability of sustainable options people will become more environmentally conscious. Fines and fees would just make people more bitter, destitute and less able to afford green options.

Caring for the Earth ought to be a common goal that unites all people regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion and other dividing factors. We all inhabit the same planet and should want to take care of it so that it will continue to take care of us. Celebrate Earth Day, today April 22, but make green choices everyday.

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