A few blogs ago I brought up the section in my book called ‘You Decide’. The idea discussed there is that we don’t have all the answers when it comes to sustainability, and because of this there are quite a few grey areas, areas that are seen as sustainable but may not be, and others that seem unsustainable but in fact may be.
One of the examples I had in the box, courtesy of my husband, was a point about an ‘eco’ electric can opener he saw advertised a few years back. He felt quite strongly that an electric can opener isn’t necessary at all since a hand held device works just as well and uses much less resources to manufacture and operate. So having a ‘green’ or ‘eco’ energy saving electric can opener isn’t actually eco because it isn’t needed in the first place.
At the moment I am in the US and just this weekend our friends brought us to a coffee shop, one that is proud to show off its green credentials. I ordered a hot chocolate which came to me in a clear glass (like the ones you use for cold water) rather than a mug. I generally don’t like it when they put hot chocolate in a glass because the glass become so hot it is impossible to pick it up and drink. This green cafe had a solution. They put a disposable cardboard holder around the glass so that you could drink your hot chocolate without burning your hands.
The cardboard holder was all it should be: labelled FSC, 100% recycled etc. I have it right here on my desk, it says “This product saves over 2,600 trees by using 154 tons of recycled paper annually.”
But does it really? If the hot chocolate had been put in a mug in the first place then you wouldn’t need these cardboard holders. So does it really matter how ‘eco’ it is, if it isn’t needed in the first place?
With some quick google work that cardboard works out to 118 pounds per tree. Seems fishy to me. How many trees do they really save? Are they basing this on an estimate of harvesting saplings?