Answers to Your Green Questions

February 21, 2009 |

greenIt’s so exciting that protecting environmental quality is at last on the national agenda. Finally, a shift from the tired either/or arguments of the past, that going green is bad for business. Or that we have to pick our devil: oil, coal or nuclear. There are so many rational alternatives available, depending on the resources and needs of the region. Of course they create jobs, different jobs from ones in the past. Ones we can be proud to pass on. Okay, I’m done, rant over.

Having said that, going green is getting more complicated by the day. As usual, the devil is in the details. There’s a lot of nitty gritty to practically every choice that goes way beyond the silly choosing “paper or plastic” at the supermarket (bring your own bag!). Help from the Green Lantern, courtesy of is on the way. Which is better, cloth diapers, or disposable ones? Is it always greener to take public transportation than to drive? Maybe it’s better to buy an artificial Christmas tree than a live one. And what is ‘clean coal’ anyway?

You can read these pieces online, or download them as podcasts. But don’t expect straight answers. They may actually raise more questions by showing how complex the choices really are. There are no clear cut, one-size-fits-all solutions to be found. The trade-offs are everywhere. The answers depend on what part of the environment is most important to you, or the region you live. But you’ve also got a frame for how to think through your choices. I have to admit it never occurred to me that garbage disposals might be bad for the environment. I mean, if you live in the city, isn’t it better than landfills? Well, only if electricity consumption or conserving water are less important where you live. There are no clear answers, only trade-offs. It makes me realize we are complete neophytes at this, or is just me?

Here are some more samples of three years of archived topics, all in the trademark wry and ironic Slate style.

Is it worth it to wash out your recyclables?
What’s the most environmentally friendly television?
Is methane really better for the environment that carbon dioxide?
Is it worthwhile to buy carbon offsets for all my holiday air travel?
Should you run your laptop off battery power or keep it plugged in?
What’s the greenest way to dispose of my dead body?
How do you find an environmentally responsible airline?

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