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Question of the Week: What trade offs would you be willing to make in your life to protect the environment?

2010 March 1

Choices, choices, choices! We make them everyday. Sometimes we weigh our options and make sacrifices before making our choices. Perhaps you chose to use a reusable water bottle today instead of just grabbing a disposable bottled water. Other times we may decide the trade-off isn’t worth the effort. Tell us about trade offs you are willing to make to help protect the environment. Share your thoughts.

What trade offs would you be willing to make in your life to protect the environment?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

79 Responses leave one →
  1. Ambrosia Brown permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I decided to not get a gas burning riding mower for my yard and got an electric pusher. It is better for the envirornment and I get more much needed exercise.

  2. kerry krcek permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would be willing to work toward producing more of my electircal energy with alternative energy like solar and wind. Find ways to use less energy, like living in a earth sheltered home with around 1100sq.ft., I would use a walk-in root-cellar off the shaded north side of my home in the winter months to lower my refrigeration use, be more water conserative, use a compost toilet. Make more effort to ride my bike, and use locale transportation more. Work at being the changes instead of talking about change,

  3. Pat permalink
    March 1, 2010

    We have never used bottled water. We put coffee grounds on certain plants in the garden; we don’t buy seasonal produce in the winter ($$$), the heat is set at 62 at night; grass clippings become mulch, we take recyclables to the drop-off place….we were born in the depression: It colors the way one does things.

  4. Sharon permalink
    March 1, 2010

    There are many things I am willing to do:
    Stop idling my car if stopped for more than 10 seconds
    Shop mindfully and try to purchase fresher products with the least packaging.
    Purchase food with minimal processing, use my own bags at the store
    conserve water, don’t run it when not necessary
    Recycle, reduce trash

  5. Kevin permalink
    March 1, 2010

    In a nutshell, I would be willing to pay more for Eco-friendly products and services. Specifically ones that provide, healthy and safe natural foods, sustainable home energy use, and effective public transportation.

  6. David permalink
    March 1, 2010

    It would be the most helpful if we all just consumed less. Everything that must be manufactured takes a lot more energy and by nature the transportation of it will impact the environment more than those thing we can make ourself or reclaim or recycle. We have been married for 30 years and have always furnished our home mostly with quality furnishings which were used. I make most of our furniture now so it is custom for us. We have never kept the thermostat above 62F and we cool ourselves with a fan in the hottest days of summer or sleep outside which is much nicer. We are developing our food growing skills to make more of our own food and we support our local food growers at the farmers market. We have replaced most of our light bulbs with CFL’s and will replace those with LED’s once the price comes down and there is more selection. We use one car regularly and I rarely drive since I work at home. When the price of gas is high we are good and don’t take unnecessary trips and try to plan the use of the cars better. When the price is low we tend to take more drives, so we could do better in this respect.

  7. joan permalink
    March 1, 2010

    My big pet peeve is bottled water—here in the US, where we have clean tap water, why not grab a reusable bottle and use it instead of drinking “bottled”!
    I am willing to make sacrifices if it will truly help the environment. But, many of us consumers are at the mercy of “hypesters” who are making money off so-called “Green” products. We need to educate each other! Any ideas?

  8. Brian permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would be willing to pay more in taxes to develop modern transit in this country that rivals what cities enjoy in Europe.

    People need to be able to leave their cars at home, or decide to not own one, if they choose.

    But they must still be able to get to work, shops, school, etc…

    Let’s build a transit system that provides options so we can get away from the stranglehold of car-ownership.

  9. Allison permalink
    March 1, 2010

    Whatever it takes – we are so comfortable as a country that I think any cost will be worth it – though I can say this *comfortably* since I know the costs of environmental protection are actually quite low, and possibly save money, when you take into account co-benefits like health, safety, and quality of life.

    Just tell me what I need change – and charge me more money for it – and I’ll find a way to use less!

  10. Ruth Thompson permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would start riding my bicycle to work twice a week, even though it means getting up an hour and a half earlier. *gulp*

  11. Krystal permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs which means cleaner air and water. Eating a vegan diet results in lower emissions, less erosion of streams and rivers and cleaner water. I don’t trade off anything to live this way. In fact, I’m healthier for it.

  12. Stephanie permalink
    March 1, 2010

    My husband and I recently bought a house in our downtown/main street area. Since then we walk to local bars and restaurants instead of driving. We furnished our home with mostly used furniture, which I believe has more character anyways! We recycle everything that can be recycled and use reusable bottles for drinking water. I try to buy products with the least amount of packaging, especially plastic and styrofoam! We use one ecomony vehicle and commute to work together. Once it warms up outside we plan on growing a vegetable garden and disposing of our food waste in a compost pile. We also purchase our fruits/veggies locally when the farmer’s markets are open :-)

    There is always more that can be done and less consumption is definitely the biggest!! Anyone see “No Impact Man”? Lots of great ideas in that documentary!

  13. Luis Visani permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would pay more for energy that comes from sustaintable sources, for exemple:

    - Energy produced by bioreactors using methane from decomposed trash

    - In Brazil some cities are using energy produced by sugarcane plants, during the process the waste are burnt, so converting in electrical energy by appropriate generators.

  14. BTrotter permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would be willing to pay more for gas with the intent of it leading to a reduction in overall use of fossil fuels, especially for transportation.

  15. Dave permalink
    March 1, 2010

    Well, we have already changed a lot for many years in recycling, energy saving appliances, bulbs, etc. I have also started a solar energy system which is partially running. The next item that we will be willing to do is to buy an EV. Unfortunately, none are available yet in a price range that is affordable even with the rebates. The one that comes closest is the Nissan Leaf and it won’t be available until the end of the year.

  16. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 1, 2010

    I would rather use power that came from solar or wind even if it cost more. I also think we must invest in a good public transit system, including funding fjor operations as well as projects. Transit is the only way we have to meet the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act. Without a good transit system, the environmental regulations will fail. We need to eliminate diesel as a fuel for fixed route buses and eliminate gasoline for paratransit vehicles and instead use hydrogen power or all-electric power. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  17. David Mc permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I would rather pay more for fuel also. It’s undeniably subsidized militarily anyway. We’ll have to cut the independent truckers a break though. A few years ago when my wife got laid off, we decided to downsize and save a job for someone who needs it more. One car, 1000 ft3 home, less disposable income. Still happy. I withstand my neighbor’s comments about my solar heat panels for the pool. We just ordered a new roof. We’re going white, even though it will probably look crappy in a few years. Hope it doesn’t bug that neighbor too much!

  18. David Mc permalink
    March 2, 2010

    You go girl!

  19. Ls0o-Green-Thumb permalink
    March 2, 2010

    The real question here is what sacrifices would most of society not be willing to make…

    I would love to go back to simple times where we lived in small communities where food was currency. A life where the only time you traveled more than a few miles from your shelter is when we were relocating or setting off on a venture.

    I think we would all thrive in a culture where we don’t have to have an FDA or EPA or any kind of GOV because we will all live together in a harmonic balance with our roots, our souls, nature. There would be no chemicals to regulate. No need for agencies to determine which drugs have more temporary benefits which may or may not outweigh the side effects.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m sure there are many, many people who are dependent on those ways of life today & think we could not survive without them. But the fact of the matter is that without all of the luxuries, conveniences, & commodities, we would just be back where we belong, at one with our planet, at peace with ourselves, & once again living as one whole…

    In short I would be willing to give up: TV, Phones, Computers, Cars, Radios, Running water, Cooking & Cooling appliances, electricity in general, Chemicals all together, everything artificial… & not just for the environment, not just for my own health & well being, not just for our sanity, but maybe just to see if I could do it. To prove I am truly a human being.

    If for hundreds of thousands of years we lived that way & grew into what we are today in the last 100 years. I know we are all capable if we can each fathom the will to actually live.

  20. Al Bannet permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I would be willing to volunteer at a recycling station, but there are none where I live, and the powers that be are not interested. Landfill makes it possible for waste and garbage to go “out of sight and out of mind”, even though it accumulates relentlessly toward a regional and global saturation point that no one wants to think about.

  21. Don permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I am slowly developing a home solar system to produce some of our own power with battery storage and the use of an inverter to convert to AC. We have one bank of LED lights but they are still quite spendy.

  22. March 2, 2010

    Right on, Brian! I think that one of the most important things we should be doing is re-thinking our infrastructure and looking for ways to change our car-centric society.

  23. Anonymous permalink
    March 2, 2010

    If I shall have to give a name to my trade; I shall name this one “Green Trading”.
    Considering in this great group trading, you would find:
    – Fair trade flower
    - New system electrical energy photovoltaic for family houses and building commercials.
    - Synthetic Turf system programs
    - An enterprise chemistries reproduction for waste sustainable
    - Green Reality Estate millennium building

  24. Jackenson Durand permalink
    March 2, 2010

    If I shall have to give a name to my trade; I shall name this one “Green Trading”.
    Considering in this great group trading, you would find:
    – Fair trade flower
    - New system electrical energy photovoltaic for family houses and building commercials.
    - Synthetic Turf system programs
    - An enterprise chemistries reproduction for waste sustainable
    - Green Reality Estate millennium building

  25. Chris S permalink
    March 2, 2010

    Quite on the contrary, a vegan diet in temperate North America is the exact opposite of what you think.
    Think of the fuel that is spent to either run greenhouses or transport fresh produce to markets in the winter months. Or the fuel that runs the tractors & other farm equpiment that plows the land, sprays the fields and harvests the crops. To say nothing of the farmers that are so in debt to the banks that finance their operations that they bulldoze the hedgerows to gain an extra few rows of crops. Or plow right to the edge of the stream for every last inch of crop ground.
    The average person has absolutely no idea of what is involved in the production of food in this country, yet they make many assumptions based on no data, only hearsay and articles written by equally clueless individuals.

    My qualifications are that I own a small farm, live in a county that is mainly farmland, am a member of Farm Bureau, and work for an environmental agency that often has to deal with agricultural issues as it affects wetlands, streams and water quality. I see the effects of agricultural practices every day – field crops, fresh fruit & produce, and raising livestock.

    There are many things that this country needs to change about how we raise our food… but going vegan is every bit as detrimental to the ecosystem as giant agribusiness.

  26. Brenda permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I will be willing to trade my car couple days a week and ride my bicycle to work. I have been training for a couple of weeks. It will be a 20 mile one way commute. yikes. However, I am excited to see Los Angeles riverbed and excited for my new physical condition. I need a support/team system. :)

  27. Dave O permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I’d trade off buying shoddy imported goods which help to destroy the environment in foreign countries that have inadequate government regulation or industry restraint. EPA & USA Leads the WAY!!!

  28. Valerie permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I wholeheartedly agree!!

  29. Janet permalink
    March 2, 2010

    Krystal stated she was much healthier because she was a vegan. This means less doctor visits and much less medication use! If adopting a vegan life is “detrimental to the ecosystem,” is not it the lesser of two evils? Hormone and antibiotic use in livestock, genetically modified organism (GMO) crops use as livestock feed and food for people, is very detrimental to life. There are pros and cons to vegetarian, vegan, and conventional diets. I think going vegan is probably the best.

    I am not a vegetarian or vegan. But, the more I learn and see how livestock is treated and processed for consumption is making me sick! This also has to do with the environment–Bird Flu, Mad Cow Dz, etc.

  30. Kai permalink
    March 2, 2010

    I will limit my exposure to dangerous chemicals, such as oxidane.

    This substance is the major component of acid rain, contributes to the “greenhouse effect”, can cause severe burns and is fatal if inhaled.

    Further, this chemical contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape and has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

    Despite these dangers, this toxic chemical is often used as an industrial solvent and is used in nuclear power plants and in many forms of cruel animal research. Even after washing, our produce remains contaminated by this dangerous chemical.

  31. David Mc permalink
    March 3, 2010

    oops, it’s bigger than you think. make that 1000Ft2, not ft3

  32. David Mc permalink
    March 3, 2010

    If we gave up modern chemicals most of us would starve. The ability to make fertilizer (ammonia) from the air (nitrogen gas) is a big reason we can grow so much food. I would give up alcohol, if I could have my own herb garden (ahem). I’d even use natural fertilizer if you wish.

  33. mike permalink
    March 3, 2010

    One thing I try to do is consider green principles, especially for purchases of large ticket items. For example, I recently felt it was time to say goodbye to my 10 year old car. There were many replacement choices. I could buy a large vehicle for $28,000 that gets 28 mpg due to hybrid technology or a smaller vehicle for $18,000 that also gets 28 mpg. Which is the best choice? A principle of green engineering is to meet the need, but minimize excess. Application of this principle means that I need to justify the extra environmental burden associated with the additional $10,000 in cost, and ask myself if the larger vehicle meets a need or represents excess. I couldn’t justify the larger vehicle, so now I’m happily driving the smaller one.

  34. Al Bannet permalink
    March 3, 2010

    Going vegetarian or vegan is not detrimental to anything except the profits of cattle ranchers and chicken farmers. As a boy I worked on a chicken farm for enough years to detest animal slaughter with all my heart; and since heart disease was common in my father’s family and he died of it,becoming a veggie and health food enthusiast has improved my health measuably for all these 35 years and counting. I highly recommend it. For example, when I stopped drinking coffee I never got another head cold!

  35. Someone who knows... permalink
    March 3, 2010

    Go ahead and give up oxidane and see how that works out for you…

  36. ashley permalink
    March 3, 2010

    i started recycling almost everything i can. i’m starting to use smonges instead of paper towels. i use household items to clean(baking soda, vinegar, lemons). i keep the lights off until it gets dark. i proudly take public transportation, i bring my own bags to publix, oh! and i’m using phosphate free dish detergent.

    next steps i want to take… take shorter showers, buy efficient toilets, get a low flow shower head, start composting, buy biodegradable trash bags, keep the house colder, not use the AC in the summer.

    great plan!

  37. ashley permalink
    March 3, 2010

    thats great! i wish i could bike where i live. good luck to you!

  38. ashley permalink
    March 3, 2010

    there are too many people to support to do that, but it would be an idyllic life.

  39. David Mc permalink
    March 3, 2010

    You mean hydrogen hydroxide? CAS number 7732-18-5?
    This is probably the cause of most needless chemical deaths of all.
    It’s almost not even funny.

  40. christina permalink
    March 3, 2010

    Inspiring.

  41. Melinda permalink
    March 3, 2010

    I almost nerver use my clothes dryer. I hang laundry outside, and it smells great. I think it’s very bad that some housing areas do not allow this.

  42. Chris S permalink
    March 3, 2010

    My original reply to this went into computer limbo, so I will try again to make a few points.
    1. humans evolved as omnivores, a healthy diet diet consists of a variety of plants, fruits and meat. Our caecum has become vestigial – you may know it as the appendix.
    2. the last time humans lived in relative balance with their environmental, they were hunter/gatherers or pastoralists following their herds that grazed the land.
    3. agriculture is responsible not only for the rise of civilization, but the start of human overpopulation. The former Fertile Crescent is now a a fairly vast desert located in Iran & Iraq
    4. there are plenty of small farmers who raise livestock in humane manner and raise crops using organic or IPM methods. Small farms also keep the land open for wildlife.
    5. it is the mega corporations that only value the “bottom line of $$$” that abuse the land, animals and their human employees so shamefully.

  43. EArs76! wHs. permalink
    March 3, 2010

    i am willing to not use my car as much or take the bus. i’m willing to take much shorter showers or so much hot water. i will stop buying mostly items that are not recycleable. its not a big step but its a start!

    ‘ _ ‘

  44. sharon permalink
    March 3, 2010

    I forgo convenient throw away items, have my own bags at the grocery store, cluster trips to save gas, avoid small landry loads in favor of larger, wet and soap up then turn off shower, wash, then turn water back on and rinse off, use waste basket in bathroom instead of flushing nose tissue down the toilet, and you know what, by not doing things the convenient way requires a bit more time and effort and burning of calories.

  45. Lara & Vara Sharma permalink
    March 3, 2010

    If it were in our hands we would construct a house with solar panels. Dad says it is expensive. But we are facinated by the solar power.

    My granddad is a scientist and in India he started the project to go in to villages to teach them about “Rain water harvesting”. We told our dad to get us huge pitchers to collect rain water over the spring and summer and use it for watering plants.

    We re ready to give up comfort and get ready to do more work to save environment. We know that to save environment we need to work little harder.

    Lara & VAra

  46. Clay Turner permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Finding ways in establishing my business with a more green mind.

  47. Al Bannet permalink
    March 4, 2010

    Well said, and I agree. To survive, we humans need to peacefully reduce our population and safely recycle 100% of all our waste and garbage.

  48. Terry permalink
    March 4, 2010

    I have been a vegetarian since 1991 (still eat dairy, eggs, some fish). I raise chickens for the eggs. I recycle as much as I can. I compost. I grow a garden every year (as much without chemicals as possible). I use public transit over 80% of the time to commute to work. My vehicle is 3 years old and I only have 15000 miles on it. I work as a Senior Environmental Specialist for a local municipality. I teach an environmental class at a local college. I buy as locally as possible. We keep the thermostat at 65 in the winter and 85 in the summer. I have very little turf grass in my landscaping, and water only enough to keep it alive. I teach my kids the importance of caring for the environment. This is more I could do, but some of that takes considerable money, so it is slow coming.

  49. CarbonPig.com permalink
    March 5, 2010

    I would be willing to use more public transportation if it were efficient. I live in LA and depend on a car to reach specific destinations that are poorly served. We need:

    -LIGHT RAIL
    -TROLLEY SYSTEMS
    -HYBRID SHUTTLES for SELECT ROUTES
    -LIGHT ELECTRIC VEHICLES SHARE STATIONS for local transoport – price point would be about $7/hr for rental and one way point – point would work.

    I write about this stuff on my blog

    Cheers,

    CarbonPig

  50. Jani permalink
    March 5, 2010

    yes choices are often driven by money; when the cost of gas went up, people started buying more efficient vehicles, combining trips, and thinking more about their driving habits. I pay more for eco-friendly items, even though technically I think they cost less to produce (less packaging, less fillers, etc.). And I do not purchase anything with animal products.

    I would be willing to buy food and products that don’t have extraneous packaging. For instance, cereal boxes: they don’t need to be fancy for me to buy. I know what Lucky Charms tastes like…just give me the food! That’s a silly example, but it goes the same for many products out there. Cut the fat! We don’t need all that foam, paper and plastic.

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