It's Not Easy Being Green

Thursday, March 19, 2009

According to Auden Schendler, driving a Prius and recycling are all well and good, but they are only a fraction of the changes we need to make if we want to save the planet. He lays out a plan for sustainable strategies that tackle the magnitude of our global environmental problems in his book Getting Green Done.


Auden Schendler

Comments [20]

Michael O'Hara from Hudson, NY

While nuclear energy creates very little in the way of emissions once the plant is up and running it is also the most expensive way to boil water ever invented. Read this article in the Washington Monthly magazine for more details:

In addition, there are also significant issues in relation to the supply of uranium, disposal of high-level wastes, security, and transmission capacity. The uranium supply issue may be addressed by a switch to Thorium, but the other issues remain.

Mar. 24 2009 05:46 PM
Rachel from Rachel from Philly

I think the speaker is spot on, we're going to need to sacrifice on so many levels and I for one am willing to pay for it for my kids and their kids. This isn't just a movement for rich people especially since so many of the problems associated with global warming hit the poor first.

Mar. 19 2009 08:57 PM
David Westlake from NJ

Does anyone really think that a power plant reduces their generating capacity by the amount you save with a compact fluorescent bulb? (Even if multiplied by thousands). The power saved is just sold elsewhere as demand continues to rise or is simply generated and lost. How many power plants went offline because Walmart sells millions of these bulbs? The environmental hazard created by disposal of these bulbs is substantial. See
Wait for the LED revolution.

Mar. 19 2009 01:07 PM
Dan from NJ

Auden Schendler. I took a few cab rides in NYC last week and the cabs I rode in were Ford Escape Hybrids. The drivers I spoke to loved them and especially the fuel economy. I wonder if they were made in the "green" factory that you criticized ford for building. FYI they are build here and not in China like the low energy light bulbs sold in walmart. Great show..

Mar. 19 2009 12:53 PM
hjs from 11211

what's the cost of not saving the current global climate (do we care if our kids can afford food?)

Mar. 19 2009 12:41 PM
Phil Henshaw from NYC

Auden Schendler, message, that we need to make “tough choices”, falls short of being informative.

The sluggishness of the response to climate and the other critical environmental impacts over the past 30 years is really that they’re uneconomic. The real reason, though, is what we should all stand up and take notice of. The real reason is that before 1970, approximately, increasing investment in using up stuff made stuff cheaper and easier to get, but that reversed.

The whole earth’s responsiveness has changed, as a direct consequence of our approaching limits, so that now increasing investment in delivering more goods and services makes resources more expensive and scarce and complicated to replace. That’s why sustainability is uneconomic. It’s that the old technology has become uneconomic too, and the new technology is even more expensive.

Mar. 19 2009 12:39 PM
John from NYC

Before the naysayers say no to nuclear, read the article below. Its not a complete answer but lets try and keep an open mind:

Mar. 19 2009 12:36 PM
Ivey from Brooklyn

What is the difference between keeping your old less efficient auto versus buying a new prius, how much energy does it take to create the prius? How important is it to make these changes that might be using just as much energy to create then they are saving, an important thing to consider, and also, I hope you heard about the power house in detroit yesterday, check it out

and there are many ways to help save the environment that save money, almost upfront, like growing your own herbs or veggies.

Mar. 19 2009 12:35 PM
Errol from New Haven

What does Mr. Schendler think about the argument that if our economy grows faster than our technology gets more energy efficient we will never live sustainable (Thomas Homer-Dixon among others has argued this). Is the link between energy use and economic growth that direct?

Mar. 19 2009 12:35 PM
markbnj from

oh yeah tax system:

A MMT--- Minimum Milionairre's tax..

anyone grossing over 1M dollasrs will be subject to a new tax of a MINIMUM of 1% of their GROSS income..

so your minimum tax due with 1m in gross is 10,000.

with a 5 million dollar income, it would be 50,000 minimum taxes.

This MMT would cover BOTH corporations AND humans, and would overcome the 66% of milionaires that pay NO taxes!!!!

Mar. 19 2009 12:34 PM
markbnj from

oh... I have another idea:

if we can get nationalized heavy rail on ALL the 'eisenhower' highways (see my blog, search for transportation)

then we could have all new construction over 5million dollar projects (for now) require a heavy rail link.

(the example with heavy rail is that all trucks would go via rail for much more miles and save $$$)

also: easy to do:

as of x/x/20XX no more outdoor/ornamental holiday/xmas lights/decorations that are not made of LED's or energy efficient may be sold.

SO... 5 years from that day, no more non-led's may be sold. AnD these items may be returned to the govenrment for a %5.00 per item credit.

These items may NOT be donated or given to non-profits. 10 years from date it takes place there will be NO more use of these non led items.

(not only xmas, but july4th, haloween, etc too)

so if it went into effect 1/1/2010, then by 2015, no more non-led lights could be sold, and by 2020 no more could be USED (without fine!)

Mar. 19 2009 12:32 PM
John-Paul from Elizabeth, NJ

Green beret Motto is De Oppresso Liber - To Liberate the Oppressed

Mar. 19 2009 12:28 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Make it cheap, cheap, and cheaper for the consumer!!!! Just imagine if all the products in the big box discount stores were cheap and green!!!

Mar. 19 2009 12:24 PM
Scott_A from Astoria

Mr. Schendler's definition of sustainability isn't very good - even the Brundtland def. is better, which is saying something. Schendler's definition could indeed be considered correct, but it's totally against the spirit of the idea.

The definition "Staying in Business Forever" could apply to all sorts of bad practices which are unethical, or in some other way able to externalize their costs. By his definition you could farm/sell tobacco forever, with crazy inputs, and all sorts of bad stuff on the back end, but as long as they can do it indefinitely, it's sustainable?

We need a term that incorporates ethics and responsible decisions. A number of people have suggested variations of thrive-able as a substitute (notably, Jean Russell with thrivability).Despite the length of this post, I don't actually like spending too much time talking about which words are used, but I do generally support the term thrivability.

That minor critique aside, I still really like a lot of the guest's insights.

Mar. 19 2009 12:23 PM
stephanie from east village

all you need to do is make the color of light that these bulbs give off better, warmer, closer to what we have now and everyone will change to them.

image, color matters.

Mar. 19 2009 12:19 PM
markbnj from

I understand and sympathize with the speaker.

I have a 100% sustainable/GROWTH NON-profit business plan that is GREEN, and yet I have no way of funding it (even though it would cost less then $100,000 to start.

and it has a HUGE number of different profit centers, and would be NOT-for-proifit, and support LOCAL charities...


Mar. 19 2009 12:18 PM
Jason from Manhattan

Fairly off-the-radar, but this is a simple way to save paper, ink, trees, and money:

There is a free version for windows users. This eliminates all those extra pages coming out of the printer that just sit around until they are thrown out.

Mar. 19 2009 12:14 PM
rich from Brooklyn

If climate change is such a treat why are we not using the best most effcient enegy producer Nuclear. Why is it not the number one activity?

Mar. 19 2009 12:12 PM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap!!!! Going green has to be cheap if you truly want it to catch on. I am so sick and tired of people saying you have to make an economic sacrifice to go green. I cant even to begin to say how backwards and elitist that is. Solar panels are a hobby for the rich. Sure you make your money back after several years of use. But you have to put a big upfront investment. That’s the problem with most green solutions for building or renovating. If you have the big chunk of money or are willing to go into debt for a big chunk of money to save money in the long run, great for you. But most people don’t have that big chunk of money. And the trickle down theory is a load of crap. The government has been subsidizing solar panels for decades. Yet its still a rich mans hobby…

Shop at Hole Foods? Great if you have the money or are willing to make the sacrifice. But for a consumer that only makes $30,000 a year and has to feed 4 people and every expense in their life is doing nothing but going up, its just not fair or realistic to insist that they should be shopping at a store like Whole Foods. If you made products that are green cheaper or competitive with all the un green products out there, you would then have a serious green revolution and not just a bunch of Manhattan hipsters thinking they are superior to everyone else because they can afford to eat $4 tomatoes…

Mar. 19 2009 12:10 PM
sr from NJ

neither paper nor plastic is good, only reusable grocery bags are sustainable.
The day i forget to take my own bag, i almost always choose (plastic and i recycle them), and it gets me disapproving looks, but my logic is :
It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.
In 1999, 14 million trees were cut to produce the 10 billion paper grocery bags used by Americans that year alone
Paper sacks generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags. It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper. But recycling rates of either type of disposable bag are extremely low, with only 10 to 15% of paper bags and 1 to 3% of plastic bags being recycled, according to the Wall Street Journal.nothing completely degrades in modern landfills because of the lack of water, light, oxygen and other important elements that are necessary for the degradation process to be completed.
do you agree? or should i choose paper?

Mar. 19 2009 08:57 AM

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