Wired Magazine recently published an article called Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green. They suggested that being green doesn't always mean what we think it should.
A couple of their protested "heresies":
1) If a new Prius were placed head-to-head with a used car, would the Prius win? Don't bet on it. Making a Prius consumes 113 million BTUs, according to sustainability engineer Pablo Päster. A single gallon of gas contains about 113,000 Btus, so Toyota's green wonder guzzles the equivalent of 1,000 gallons before it clocks its first mile. A used car, on the other hand, starts with a significant advantage: The first owner has already paid off its carbon debt. Buy a decade-old Toyota Tercel, which gets a respectable 35 mpg, and the Prius will have to drive 100,000 miles to catch up.
2) Cut down old trees. Over its lifetime, a tree shifts from being a vacuum cleaner for atmospheric carbon to an emitter. A tree absorbs roughly 1,500 pounds of CO2 in its first 55 years. After that, its growth slows, and it takes in less carbon. Left untouched, it ultimately rots or burns and all that CO2 gets released.
Makes you think, doesn't it? It's this kind of critical thinking that we're going to need to apply as we act as individuals to save the globe. We need people willing to state what may seem controversial or counter-intuitive. Our problems can't be solved with a majic product or service, but long term, consistent thinking about our actions.
My own heresy? I work for an architectural firm but think we need to build less. We'll have to in order to meet the goals federal, state and local governments have already or will soon set. We need to use what we've got which means living and working more frugally when it comes to space.