The best things in life are Green Earth-friendly options for living well. by Marilyn Berlin Snell
Hope springs eternal at Sierra HQ, even after four years of dealing with George W. Bush's environmental mayhem. When we looked toward 2005, the editors imagined a new start–where instead of playing defense against yet another ill-placed gas-drilling proposal or stealth attack on EPA regulations, we could take a momentary breather, lighten up. We could focus on the personal rather than the political, on breakthroughs rather than breakdowns. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we decided it would be time to accentuate the positive when it comes to how we dwell, dress, even recreate.
If you think that sounds frivolous, consider this: Of the 330,000 tons of insecticide used in the developing world each year, half is applied to cotton. Cotton may be natural and comfy to wear, but it's also one of the world's most polluting products, giving "fashion casualty" a whole new meaning. British designer Katharine Hamnett has decided to stop being part of the poison-for-profit gang and is going organic with her new fall line (see "Profile," page 18). She hopes to revolutionize an industry that cares more about color coordination than environmental effects.
Architect Bill Dunster understands that in many ways climate change begins at home, since nearly half of the energy generated around the world is used to heat, light, and ventilate our buildings. (In the United States alone, power plants are the source of 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to the greenhouse effect that traps excess heat in the atmosphere.) Dunster has designed and built a zero-energy housing development in south London that has the capacity to produce more power–clean, of course–than it uses (see "Better Homes and Garbage" ). Architects have accomplished similar feats for office and university buildings and even a commercial bakery ("Green From the Ground Up").
Across America, big bottoms are the rule (60 percent of us are obese), but people are beginning to make the connection between their health and the environment. They're getting off their duffs and into the outdoors (see "Fat Cities," page 38). The trend promises to slim waistlines, lower blood pressure, and curb trends toward diabetes while also expanding and strengthening our ties to the natural world.
From bicycles to blenders to photovoltaic power stations, inventors are tweaking what we take for granted and giving us delightful, earth-friendlier options ("Green Goods" and "Transported!"). But in these gluttonous times, sometimes we need to just say no to more stuff. Our attitudinal advice columnist ("Hey Mr. Green") tells folks where to get off the consumer treadmill, while ReadyMade editor Shoshana Berger updates the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra for the do-it-yourself set ("Interview"). For those with a secret affection for "total transformation" in magazines and on TV, we've got an extreme environmental makeover replete with "Dos" and "Don'ts" ("Green Eye for the Conventional Guy").
We can make better choices about how we live and what kind of world we leave behind. If you want to call it "lifestyle," go ahead. But what we're really celebrating is a style of life that replaces ego with eco, self-indulgent with self-sustaining; a style that blends environment, ethics, and innovation to set a whole new trend.
MARILYN BERLIN SNELL is Sierra's writer/editor.Up to Top