Last month I had the honor of addressing the student body at the New Orleans Job Corps as the keynote speaker for their "Green Week" activities to heighten their awareness of and to improve the environment.
So I shared my approach to "Green" living as spending as little money on stuff as possible. That would have been a very short speech, but I bet you got it. As much as it may make us cringe or blush to face our own reality, most of us understand that the landfills are full of our money and that our air and water are being polluted to manufacture, transport store and advertise the stuff for which we exchange our hard earned money... which is really what eventually ends up in the dump.
Well since these were young people, perhaps not as wise and clear thinking as their elders, I thought I should offer more, so I added the statement, "You cannot buy happiness or self respect", and "All you will ever be is how good you are at what you do and who you are in the lives of other people." Bottom line, living "Green" is really nothing more that embracing this truth and not wasting any of your blood sweat and tears (money which you exchanged part of your life to earn) trying to fool yourself or others that you are "somebody". The fact that this understanding is not widely held or communicated is the whole reason we now need a "Green" movement. We are trying to clean up the mess we created trying to buy happiness or to feel like we are as good as friends, family and others. The reality is that all that happens when we compete with one another in such a silly way is that we will all be broke-broke and in debt.
To help these young folk deal with this self and planet defeating behavior, I suggested that they stop looking through catalogues, walking through the mall and watching so much television with its constant message, "You really need to buy these sneakers if you want to look like somebody." (Perhaps for some of us elders it's the manly pickup truck or the remodeled kitchen, after all granite is "in").
It is really important to know that we humans do not have a lot of control over how what we see impacts how we feel, so it's easy to make a low ranking man, perhaps with borderline erectile dysfunction want a "brawny" pickup truck, just make it look powerful and "virile" in a video segment (whether it's in a commercial or paid placement in a movie or TV program.) So, when it comes to being "Green" our eyes will betray us if we expose ourselves (unwittingly) to images that make stuff look hip, in, strong, hot, popular, powerful... anything we want to be.
So, yeah, "Green" can include recycling, but real "Green" would mean not having to recycle it in the first place because it was never made, energy and pollution saved because people refused to exchange part of their lives just to have new stuff. (Yes, the time spent earning money is part of your, or somebody's life... exchanged for some money.)
Since these were young people with limited life experiences, I also shared that nothing makes life more comfortable, enjoyable and less stressful than having more money that you need, that having a bank account brings the real peace of mind which is such an important part of being happy and healthy.
So living green is really about getting off the "make as much money as I can so I can buy as much as I can" treadmill, and knowing that money that goes into a bank account is not causing pollution, destroying rainforest or filling landfills, just giving you peace of mind and options.
"A fool and his money are soon parted..." and our planet will suffer as well!
Lloyd Dennis is an author and producer of CresentCityLive.com which dedicates its writings to love, marriage and family living, mentoring, and live entertainment in New Orleans. They call him "Love Doctor" for what he writes and teaches about managing personal, business and workplace relationships.
Photo from New Orleans Agenda.
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