It’s not just about organic food and recycling…

July 27, 2009 at 22:34 1 comment

dur - le mondeÉtienne and I (read Kinia, the team’s July 6 newcomer) fell upon a summer edition of Le Monde 2 magazine. (No, it’s not the half-naked man that attracted us to the cover!) It’s the title: “Dur d’être écolo!” i.e., it’s not easy to live green. Quite a timely coincidence…

We both read the article, and were at first mildly entertained. The author explored ecological living with a touch of humor, but overall, he made the concept seem like a costly burden and a sacrifice. He started off by calculating his ecological footprint (“terrible”). He then poked fun at eating seasonal vegetables, before comparing the prices of ecological nose tissue brands and organic vs. non-organic foods. Enter some musing about recycling, shower lengths, dandelions and cherries… nothing too inspiring, in the end. It made sustainable living seem like something that was only a trend to be adopted at one’s convenience and whims, or something to be left “to the hippies”.

The article adopted a very fragmented approach to ecology and sustainability, which contrasted with the holistic approaches we’ve discovered over the last few weeks. Visiting eco-villages and intentional communities made the team realize how sustainability is really an investment and a question of “closing the loop”. It’s about reminding ourselves how human beings are part of nature and how what comes into us and leaves our bodies goes back into the food chain.

It’s not just a question of the prices of organic foods or of recycling. Actually, one of the most shocking discoveries I made during the excursion was that the waste from water toilets represents 90% of the individual household’s environmental pollution! We literally defecate and urine into our drinking water. There’s a very simple solution to that: separating both substances at the source.

“The biggest problem is that we try to lead urine and feces out through pipes and into the waterways, and to me this is a catastrophe,” said Flemming Abrahamsen in an interview with Hildur Jackon, author of  Ecovillage Living, Restoring the Earth and her People.

“In the meantime, we’ve been brought up to think that the water closet is the most modern and hygienic solution: correct, until the waste comes out of the house, after which we consider that the rest of it is not our problem. Only it is our problem. We think we are so smart, but I’d say the level of intelligence has gone down a lot since the time when people knew about nutritional balances in nature; the times when people knew about the use of feces and urine in nature,” Abrahamsen, who is one of the pioneers of ecological building in the North, added. The architect also introduced modern composting toilets in Denmark.

What was even more shocking in Le Monde‘s article was the four “indispensables” (must-have) eco-friendly objects it promoted. It didn’t bother me just because sustainability is also related to lowering your level of consumption. (Even though buying more gadgets seems like a contradiction when you are trying to be more eco-friendly.) It’s that fundamentally, the article did not focus on the benefits of living more in harmony with nature. If you eat natural foods, take care of your water and exercise, you are investing in your own health and by extension, into the health of the eco-system you are part of. That’s the biggest reward, and probably the most responsible attitude to adopt when thinking about environmentally-friendly living. This logic of “closing the loop” can be easily extended to house construction as well (but that’s something you’ll discover in other articles…)

In sum, it seems we really do get the wrong idea about “going green” when we narrow it down to a question of organic food prices and pesticides. It’s not so hard to live more ecologically if you also see it in terms of investing into a lifetime of health, pleasure and reward.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Jumping like frogs Taking good intentions one step beyond

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. zebe912  |  July 28, 2009 at 21:29

    For those of us living in America and complaining about the current state of health care, changing our diet & lifestyle can be one of the best fixes to the system. If you eat whole, you will feel better, your body will most likely get stronger and your health problems will decrease. You require dr. visits less and cause less strain in the system. There are definitely a lot of amazing benefits to trying to live closer to the earth and being a steward. It can be difficult, especially at first, but it is so worth it in the long run.


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