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Our Going Green Experts

Ron Dembo

Ron Dembo

Professor, author and founder of Zerofootprint.net

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Josh Dorfman

Josh Dorfman

Author and radio show host known as The Lazy Environmentalist...

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Jennifer Hattam

Jennifer Hattam

Journalist and blogger at The Green Life

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The Many Shades of Green Living

With a gallon of gas costing as much as your morning latte, the idea of “going green” is turning heads as our decisions as consumers and citizens pile up around us. Where “going green”—a reference to the prominent color in nature—once meant an all-or-nothing proposition for which most or all choices were environmentally conscious, the modern definition is more fluid. A recent Yale University research study revealed a sea change in attitudes about our impact on the environment, with 83% of Americans citing global warming as a “serious” problem, up from 70% in 2004. The good news is it’s never too late to paint one’s life a deeper shade of green. What can seem daunting is selecting the perfect hue.

“I think minimally a green lifestyle is one in which a person takes active steps to ensure that his or her choices minimize negative impacts on the natural world,” says Rob Fergus, senior scientist with the National Audubon Society.

The key word here is “choices.” During the first 30 days of going green, the key is to shift one’s choices in a way that suits current obligations and preferences while having fun along the way.

Varying Shades of Green Living

Jennifer Boulden knows a thing or two about having fun while making key lifestyle changes. Co-founder of IdealBite.com, her mission is to feed readers eco-consciousness one green email at a time. “Adopting a green lifestyle means doing what you can, knowing that no one is perfect and we don’t have to try to be,” she says. “But where it’s convenient or possible or fun or inspirational, do give it a bit of extra thought.” This means thinking about how your choices impact the environment or about how you can better align your lifestyle with a more earth-friendly way of doing things. For example, a large family who drives an SUV, can minimize daily waste by using reusable lunch bags.

In contrast to the dour, doom-and-gloom days of yore in the environmental movement, Fergus is hip to the current trend toward choosing among a range of lifestyle choices from “light” to “dark” green. “Recycling and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents and driving a hybrid car are all what I would consider light green lifestyle choices,” he says. “Darker green choices might include producing as much food as you can in a backyard garden and supporting local organic agriculture, minimizing use of a car by cycling or using mass transportation and cutting back on electricity use and adopting household alternative energy sources like solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.”

Posted: 10/3/07

Raquelita, paper bags are not the answer. I am a 'North American' who is trying to make a difference & I bring my own bags to every store & farmer's market, among other efforts. Reusable bags are a huge help and can be fancy at the same time.


Once you begin to go green, it becomes, at least for me, an addiction...a healthy one at that. I am a heavy recycler and now I have people at work doing it and doing it willingly. It's great...very rewarding.

  • By amwith
  • on 5/14/08 2:19 PM EST

Raquelita, your point is well taken—we must change in many ways. However, change is challenging, and I think the point about many shades of green is that its better for an individual to do one thing than nothing at all! Usually, those individuals that begin as "light green" soon find themselves becoming more and more eco-minded as time goes on!

  • By kristen
  • on 4/28/08 3:45 PM EST

I don't think a combo of light green and dark green choices is going to meet the demanding ecological challenges we are facing. Sometimes, dear North Americans, there is such as thing necessary as 'sacrifice' of "life-style". In part, our unreasonably demands have helped created the problems we face. Park the SUV, AND use brown paper bags (the jury is out as to whether they are better than plastic vis a vis production energy used) AND grow some vegetables in your yard or if no yard, buy from local farm families. Many shades aren't going to do it!


Balanced assessment of the pros and cons of "going Green."