America: No Guilt about Green

When I was a little girl my favorite color was green, including all its variations, forest green, green yellow, and yellow green, that might be found in the Crayola crayons 64-count box.  I loved nature, playing regularly outside in the sandbox or in my tree house.  I loved animals, not just home pets, but those animals whose natural habitat needed protecting.  My first letter-to-the editor in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper was at the age of 10 and I still remember the subject: my support for Earth Day.

My dream at about the age of 12 was to be an environmental rights lawyer or veterinarian.  My plans changed over time but I’ve always associated the color green with the natural environment.  Today going green, living green, or being green-conscious is automatically associated with having an environmentally sensitive outlook and attitude, but also acting in a manner that tries to minimize harm and reduces waste.

It disturbs me how much I waste on a regular basis, how much my modern, American consumerist lifestyle disproportionately impacts the global footprint.  Put simply, I feel guilty about the choices I make on a daily basis.  I’m not the perfect, eco-conscious consumer.  I don’t eat all organic. I don’t buy exclusively cruelty-free products. I eat meat occasionally.  I do recycle, especially here in Japan where recycling is more commonplace than in America.  When I’m in the U.S., I drive a compact vehicle, one I’ve had since 1998 (Honda Civic), that gets good gas mileage and is relatively less polluting than other cars.  So I guess I’m like the average American–not a superhero on the environment–but also not a superficially indifferent jerk.  This National Geographic report on American attitudes toward the environment reaches a shocking conclusion.  Americans don’t feel particularly guilty about the consumerist choices they make related to the environment.  My country ’tis of me, the United States of America, which consumes more material and creates more waste per capita than any other country in the world, has a population that is slow to change its behavior toward the environment.  Perhaps this is one reason why many global citizens are not looking to the U.S. as the ideal model for modern living.  We are not setting the best example to our global peers about how to live smarter with less.  Organic food for thought, you might say.

So do you feel guilty about not being as green as you could be?  If so, then what are you doing to make positive changes?

20 thoughts on “America: No Guilt about Green

  1. I am now studying at the English department but I decided to move to a green engineering course at Sophia starting this fall. Before entering university, I never thought about our environment although I always put pet bottles in the recycling box. I think most of the Japanese are like me. They seem to care about our surroundings but actually they don’t. In my freshman year, I did a presentation about global issues. My topic was to use the habit in the Edo period, where things were deeply connected to basic thoughts about recycling. Until then, I didn’t know how good we were in dealing with nature and living without any needless waste. Since I am a Japanese and also able to communicate in English, I thought it will be best to use our culture and spread to the world so that everyone can live by sharing and caring for one planet.

  2. I was not so surprised to know that Americans have the least guilt of going green. It may be my prejudice, but my image of Americans is that they eat a lot of beef, ride cars everywhere and do not care much about the environment. In addition, I think my image of Americans not caring about green also comes from not signing the Kyoto Protocol.

  3. I feel guilty about consuming and wasting things. Although consuming goods is something I cannot stop for a living, I have struggle between protecting the green and surviving. I really feel that I have wasted a lot of things since I was born. For these days, environmental issues have become one of the biggest issues concerning to the world, and it is true that everyone in the world has to make a great effort to resolve this issue. In order to protect the green, I have been doing things that can be easily done for me. For example, I have been using a bicycle rather than a car to go somewhere near my house, and I have been trying to reduce the number of plastic bags when they are not necessary. I am not sure that continuing to do these small things makes any difference, but I believe that the positive attitude toward the environmental problems will make some difference.

  4. I am a kind of person who hates seeing wasteful things. I feel really guilty when I go to a restaurant and don’t finish all the food on the table. (Cause of gaining weight, I know.) And it is not new for us to know that American’s doesn’t treat its environment well compared to Japan. In Japan, when we are from middle school, we get trained to separate garbage and recycle pet bottles. As I recall, not many children in the United States are told to separate garbage or recycle. It is a shame since America has so much recyclable things. They don’t do their part for an eco-friendly environment. I would always have my mind set not to waste things and try to recycle plastic. I recently started taking my own water bottle and not buying a new bottle of water. I even walk with my own chopsticks with a very classy chopsticks holder. In Japan, there are many products that are coming out so that we can acknowledge the issues we are having. Let us be friendly to the earth we are living in.

  5. From my experience of living in the US, I agree with you that Japanese people are more eco-conscious in their daily lives. I now often feel guilty when I have to throw away paper, food, and clothes. However, I did not when I lived in the US. Lunch at school was served in disposable plates, many people threw away their food and brought new water bottle to school everyday. That was just how it is. I was no different from everyone else, so I did not feel guilty. That was just the consumerism culture in American society. But now that I live in Japan, seeing many authorities trying to contribute in making society more conscious about being “green,” I naturally started to follow their measurements. As a start, I now carry my own bottle. Being green does take a few extra steps, like dividing the waste into different categories, but the feeling of contribution satisfies me.

    I went to an outdoor music festival the other day, and one of its concepts was to be eco-friendly. Waste was divided into 11 different categories, and the volunteers asked the participants to divide the waste by themselves. The food stores used plastic plates and cups to reuse them, and wooden spoons and forks were sold at 50 yen. Actually, participants were asked to bring their own plates, forks, spoons and chopsticks if they wanted to reduce the amount of waste. In addition, biofuels and solar panels were introduced to reduce the amount of energy used. Participants were able to actually see the solar power utilized for mist showers. I felt that this way of involving a large group of people is significant because it will raise awareness. Efforts by individuals are important, but I feel that calling on large groups of people is effective as well.

  6. I think that Americans live in an environment where the need is to consume many products because there are many people in the nation. Also, its land is large so that people have to use vehicles to move from one place to another. At the same time, however, I found an eco-friendly approach in America, a doggy bag. When I went to an restaurant with an American family, they went home with their leftovers in a doggy bag. I believe that the bag which enables you to take your leftovers to your home is a very nice idea. In Japan, there is no choice when people cannot finish their meals at restaurants so that I hope the doggy bag culture spreads in my country.

  7. When I was living in the States, my family would recycle paper, plastic bottles, and cans. All the other waste would be collected by the garbage truck. After moving to Japan, I was surprised at how strict the rules were for dividing garbage: combustibles, non-combustibles, plastic, plastic bottles, cans, and so on. Now that I am used to this rule, I feel it very awkward that I used to put everything in the same wastebasket. Dividing garbage makes a real difference and I respect the rules set in this country. At first, I thought it was a very troublesome task, but now I feel it is a very efficient way of recycling resources. If the Americans would realize that their way of living is greatly affecting the planet, and stricter recycling rules would be introduced, the environment would become a much greener place.

  8. Last summer was a time for “setsuden” for those living in the western half of Japan (which includes Tokyo). The term “setsuden;節電” means saving electricity, and we were asked to save as much as we could because the loss of nuclear energy from Fukushima power plant was causing a significant reduction in our available electricity. Unnecessarily bright lights were turned off in shops and restaurants, the air conditioners were saved to the level people would feel comfortably cool enough unlike until last year where it was too cold. Even the electrical bulletin boards in Shibuya’s scramble crossing were turned off. And I realized how comfortable the lifestyle with using less electricity was. People could live conveniently enough not having have to use as much of our resources. It was a surprisingly happy realization that I felt could be shared by more people around the world.

  9. Japan is one of the most eco-conscious countries. A majority of Japanese are anxious about the environment because they realistically feel the change of climate, the decline in the number of Japanese special animals and so on. As for me, I feel guilty whenever I waste water, electricity, papers and food. Especially, after 3/11, I got to know how extravagant Japanese were. Now many Japanese are conscious about environmental problems. However, from my experience in the United States, I am sorry to say this, but they waste many things, especially food. Such extravagance leads to the environmental problems for sure. Yet, as far as I know there are still people who do not believe the global warming and who do not care about the environment that much in the US. All the people in the world, including myself, should be educated about eco-consciousness. I hope we have a nice environment in the future.

  10. I am sure I take more time to divide my garbage more here in Japan. I used to have 3 garbage cans in the U.S.: one for the green where we would put things like leaves or other natural things, one for normal waste, and lastly a recycling bin for mostly plastic bottles. I usually only had to separate plastic bottles from my other waste and that was basically it, but here there are many more bins to separate my trash. There are ones for plastic bottles, one for tins, one for glass, one for cardboard, one for other recyclable garbage and so on. We are expected to divide our trash so we can reuse whatever we can and not produce as much waste as we can. Since I didn’t have to divide my trash as much as I do now, I sometimes feel it is a burden or do not know which bin to put my trash in, but I think I still try to do my best as I can to separate them because I know it is one easy way to help the environment.

  11. I feel guilty about consuming, especially when I go shopping. So I have my shopping bag and chopsticks. I think Japanese people have thought about eco-life for only about five years, quite recent. When I bought pens at the supermarket about 10 years ago, I said I have “my eco-bag.” But a salesperson didn’t know what I meant. Now when we buy something at a big supermarket, we are asked whether we need a plastic bag. I think this is one of the reasons why we think about eco. I always wonder why we don’t have to pay for the bag. If we have to pay for it, then we bring our eco-bags.

  12. To be honest I do feel guilty about not being eco-friendly. Right now I am starting to protect more greenery, use less of what is necessary and so forth. This problem has been talked about for many years, but unfortunately not everyone seems conscious of how big the problem is, including me. From everyone’s posting, I suspect that food waste is a major problem in the US, but we cannot get rid of food consumption because we are human beings. The least we can do to protect the environment is to recycle, use less paper, and to not waste food as much as possible. I am actually doing a presentation about global warming in the next term, and I am educated by the environment. I think it is important to protect our earth before something really bad happens. It is our responsibility and we are the only living organisms that can control the environment to make it a better place to live.

  13. One of the books I have read told me that what should be considered as eco friendly really depends on people. For example, one thinks that we should dump the old commodities such as air-conditioning and TV and buy new ones that are said to be eco friendly is the way to contribute to eco lifestyle, while others may think otherwise. Their question is, is it really eco friendly to increase garbage by dumping old, but still usable commodities and buying new ones that produce a lot of carbon dioxide during the production process?

    I try not to keep the light on when it is not necessary and cut off the water when I brush teeth. It seems extremely simple, but I believe that constant efforts in daily life is indispensable when it comes to thinking about an eco friendly lifestyle. I do not really feel guilty about not being as green as I could be, as I always do these small, but important things to realize an eco friendly environment in my daily life.

  14. I feel guilty about not being as green as I could be. I always think I need to do something for our planet, but it stops there, and I usually do not do anything. It may seem like I am a cruel person, but I am not that cruel. When I buy drinks from vending machines at Sophia, I always buy drinks from the ones that indicate that some of the money I pay goes to Tohoku. (charity vending machine?) Also when I buy water, I choose Volvic because they send water to poor countries using part of their earnings. So, I think the reason why I do not do much about green is that it is a little bit troublesome compared to other charity thing (charity vending machines and so forth). Therefore, it would be nice if it becomes less troublesome to be green.

  15. It is said that Japan is one of the eco-friendly countries but I really doubt that point of view. The trees beside the road are always planted, not natural. The garden, such as Shinjuku Garden, is completely maintained by humans. We are said to be eco-friendly because we invented many techniques that reduce greenhouse gases, but real eco-friendly country do not have to use techniques to reduce any harmful materials because those harmful gasses are not produced in the first place.

  16. You make an excellent point but this is the age old question of man versus nature. What are we to do? We cannot go live in the mountains and remove ourselves completely from the natural environment. We must seek a balance and recognize that our natural environment is as important, perhaps even more important, than our human environment. Right now with our endless focus on Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we view nature as something to be controlled, maintained, or exploited for profit. Humans dominate nature but nature will win in the end.

  17. I think I am an eco person, even though I don’t take such an abnormal action towards recycling and what not, but I still tend to save electricity, or make sure my trash gets to the trash can.

    In our society, I think going green is such a difficult conversion for average working class citizens. Okay, the hybrid car saves the air from pollution, but how much is it? It’s too expensive. Instead of using electricity, how about using solar power? Again it’s expensive.

    Once technology advances and makes it easier and less expensive, our society will advance to the green era!

  18. I am not as clean as I could be.
    I have never participated in any volunteers.
    When I find garbage on streets, I have not picked it up and trashed it into the dustbox.
    I have not paid attention to CO2 I am emitting even now.

    However, I try not to harm the environment, for example I don’t give wastes away in the street.
    I think it is important not to do what we should not do.
    If whole human race tries to do so, the environment will be much greener.

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