Detour From Beer: The Complexity of Living “Light.”

Rick Sellers, part of the crew at Pacific Brew News, has a blog entry worth reading this morning. (Okay, they’re always worth reading, but this particular one grabbed my attention.) You can read his entry here.

The issue he raises has larger implications for daily life as we figure out how to scale back our expectations (and our gas consumption).

If I stop going to restaurants, for example, I save money and gasoline. That’s good for the environment and for my bank account. But it hurts the people who own restaurants here in town, many of whom I’ve become friends with over the years. It hurts their employees too, and not just because they earn less money in tips. If everyone stays home to eat, restaurant owners will have to lay off some of their employees.

The same dilemma holds true for shopping, going on vacations, reading newspapers, etc.

Let’s look at clothing, for example. Sales are up at consignment and “used” clothing stores because shoppers are buying used rather than new clothing. They’re trying to save money and live environmentally by “recycling.”

But — if we all do that, what happens to the people who work in the clothing industry and in department stores? Yes, many of clothes we wear are made in China or Viet Nam and people there are already feeling the crunch. Factories are closing; people are losing their jobs.

If we practice environmentalism by growing and canning our own food, what happens to the people who work for food producers, from the migrant workers out in the fields to the people operating the canning lines at Hunt’s and Del Monte?

I’m not really going anywhere with this, except to point out, as Rick did, that living an ecologically correct life and trying to save money (yes, those are two different things) have implications that ripple out into the world around us.

Some decisions are easier, thank god: I don’t see a downside to drinking local beer. That keeps owners and workers at local breweries busy and helps all of us reduce our carbon footprint (because the beer doesn’t travel as far). But — most daily decisions aren’t so cut-and-dried. Something to ponder while you sip that next (local) beer.

2 thoughts on “Detour From Beer: The Complexity of Living “Light.”

  1. Living green isn’t an issue of morality–this is the epiphany that allowed me to do my best without feeling terrible. If we reduce our carbon footprint by, say 25-50%, we make radical change. So that means walking, taking public transportation, or biking once or twice in every four trips. Not stopping driving. It means combining trips–go to the store and stop in for a pint in one outing, for example.If we do all of these things we already know about (lists are availabe a Google search away), we can reduce our footprints without having to suffer actual or psychic trauma.(And some stuff is counterintuitive, too. What’s the carbon footprint on a bottle of beer versus a pint at a brewpub–even if you drive? Consider that no label or bottle or bottle cap was needed, nor the truck to deliver the beer to the store.)On the economic issues, I’d worry less about that. For the most part, the US doesn’t produce–certainly not clothing. The industrial food supply offers only low-wage, sometimes gray-market jobs. Losing one of those isn’t something the average worker can’t replace. There are larger economic forces at work there, but a reduction in US consumption isn’t the main problem. We consume far more than any nation on earth. Cutting back a bit would force changes in the economy, but arguably good ones.

  2. I hope I didn’t sound like I was still dithering over whether living green is moral/immoral. I’m so old that I was programmed to live green the first time around (ie, back in the 1970s when the environmental movement was still, um, green.) So I’ve long thought about stuff like turning out lights, not running water while brushing teeth, only making one trip a week to the grocery store, etc.But — it’s complicated. As in Jeff’s example: What offers the lower carbon footprint? Drinking at home or at the brewpub? Paper v. plastic? Cloth diapers v. paper? (Our daughter is expecting her first. She did a ton of research and concluded that paper was actually better for the environment. Who knew?)Anyway — I agree that cutting back would be good for all of us here in the US. It’s also inevitable.But I do wonder: are most Americans prepared to pay the real price for doing so? Is everyone prepared to scale back their lifestyle?I don’t know. And I don’t know what will happen when the unemployment rate soars as more Americans “scale back.”


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