Thursday, October 14, 2010

Green is too noisy

A few days ago I purchased a bag of SunChips at a local Safeway; the check-out clerk asked me if I was aware of the fact that the company that manufactured the chips (Frito-Lay) was discontinuing the use of the “100 percent compostable” bags being experimented with for this particular project, because they made too much noise. Really, I said. The bags were indeed noisy as all beat, but I wasn’t bothered by it. The bags themselves seemed to be light and threadbare but surprisingly sturdy, and that they were 100 percent compostable was another positive aspect in its favor. Noisy, yes. But so what, unless you happened to be eating chips at a funeral.

The bags are made from a biopolymer called Ingeo, created by a company called NatureWorks, and uses plant sugar as its base component. Amazingly, it is being used not just in packaging, but items as diverse as pens, clothing and electronics. Because the material is “bio-based,” it will degrade “naturally” and completely when tossed in a landfill, unlike, say, metal cans. Products like this are the kind of forward-thinking projects that this country needs in this day and age. The public at first blush claims to support such efforts to promote a green environment and green jobs such as this. But interfere with a person’s “comfort” level, such as the amount of noise they can tolerate, even for the time it takes for them to stick their hand in a chip bag—well, that is completely unacceptable. Being “green” is too terrible a burden.

The question that Jared Diamond posed in his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” remains: “At what point do we as individuals prefer to die than to compromise and live?” Everyone knows that at some point in human habitation of this globe that the use of resources must better managed, which means more efficient land use, conservation and recycling. We need to invest in “green” solutions. But if it only takes something as innocuous as noisy packaging to put-off people from embracing what is necessary, than what about the acceptance of what is hard? Republicans, of course, have the answer to that: Do nothing.

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