Being Green is about more than being Green

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Lauren and I have been trying to do better at recycling (unfortunately Minneapolis makes you sort it, so I forget a lot) and we have probably cut our actual trash in half or better in the last 6 months.

Also, I’ve been doing a lot of work over the last year for the solar market (CIGS solar to be exact), and I’ve been attending a lot of talks on Green buildings (particularly churches) at the conferences I’ve attended and I’ve had an interesting realization.

Being Green, particularly the principal of understanding where things you consume come from, and where the waste and other end products of consuming those things goes, and who that affects, can be really relevant to other areas of life.

I’m sure that is obvious to a lot of people, but one particular application that this realization has sparked in my mind is acquiring and making general decisions about technology.

To complete this exercise I’ve come up with some categories and related sub-categories that have become important for me to fill before making a recommendation or decision.

Consumed by me/church/organization:

  • People time – How many hours is this going to be used? How many hours is it going to take in training / setup before this becomes useful (the wife test – phase 1)? How many people besides me will actually find this useful (i.e. the wife test – phase 2)?
  • Energy – Is this electronic going to be an appliance (i.e. always on)? How much power does it take to run this thing?
  • Footprint – What is this made of? Where did that come from and how far did it take to get here?
  • Monetary – What is the up-front cost? What are the costs associated with basic operation (relates at least somewhat to Energy)?

Produced / Long-Term, short-reaching effects:

  • Footprint (again) – When it is finished being used is it something we can give away that will be useful for someone else? Can we recycle it or any parts of it? What is the landfill impact on the parts that can not be recycled?
  • People Time – This is the time that people spend finding bugs, work-arounds, posting on forums, etc. This cannot be underestimated, as a lot of the power of great software and hardware comes from real-world usability studies (i.e. people using it and sharing their thoughts on it)
  • Lock-in potential – Where are we locking into something that limits us later? How much will it cost to migrate to our next level / next growth faze. Is that avoidable? How much will it cost to move to the next place?

The Long-term, long reaching effects – AKA the Ethanol effect

  • The money chain – your money goes somewhere, which then goes somewhere else, and so on and so on. How far up that chain can I see? Is that money going somewhere I’m not happy about? Is it failing to go somewhere that I want it to go?
  • Standards vs. Proprietary – People and the church can really help influence trends. Does the thing we are interested in promote inclusion or exclusion? In other words, does it help innovation or hinder? (This could be technological innovation, or business innovation in the global market, or any type of ‘innovation’ or creative thinking that helps us keep moving forward in justice for more people and making the economic pie bigger for the world). Are we helping monopolistic lock-ins and proprietary technologies, or are we promoting technologies that try to make that as simple as possible? Are we creating a market that locks out other countries and people so that only wealthy countries / people can get in on the benefits of local innovation?
  • Lost Opportunities for ourselves and others – Are we promoting something that has consequences that can impact the market to cause horrible things for other people (i.e. ethanol = re-grow-able gas = food in our gas tanks = increase global food costs…there are other examples, but that is the most obvious right now) If we sacrificed a little would it create a greater opportunity for justice in other places (other communities, or countries)

I want to save some more in-depth discussion of individual points above for seperate posts (lots to unpack), but I want to highlight the part that I call ‘The Ethanol Effect.’

That part is really hard, fairly abstract, and I believe something we should try to tackle from a biblical standpoint. This thought is an abstraction of the passage in Deuteronomy that says:

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Basically meaning that sometimes we have to make a few sacrifices and not always squeeze the last possible immediate gain so that we can bless the most oppressed and forgotten amongst us. Then, we subsequently receive more long-term blessing from God.

In a global economy I believe that the aliens, the orphans, and the widows from biblical times equates to the modern social outcasts in our local community, the global south, and the people suffering under oppressive tyrannous governments.

And since we know that as individuals we part of the trends in spending and subsequently global economics, we should as Christians try our best to consider the far-reaching implications of our decisions.

That, is one of the primary reasons I support more open-source and particularly standards-based technologies….but again, that is a topic to be expanded upon in a different post.

So, let me know what you think. Am I over-thinking here, or is there a way you think that I or we as global citizens could be more ‘green-minded’ in areas that aren’t necessarily considered green.