Am I a "Green" Hypocrite?

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In this re-post from, Bob Faulhaber confronts a tough question: “Am I a green hypocrite?” What answer do you get when you ask yourself this question?

Am I a green hypocrite? I might be... This is something that I struggle with quite regularly. I consider myself an environmentally responsible individual, and sustainability is a core tenet of the business that I founded. With just about every decision that I make, or at least the major ones, I try to consider the environmental consequences of that decision and action. However, I'd be lying if I said that I always made the environmental choice. Most of the time there is probably a good reason for that, but sometimes it’s really just a matter of preference. Does that make me a green hypocrite? I hope not, but I will leave that for someone else to decide. Here are some of my green and not-so-green decisions.

  1. Morning coffee. This is a basic decision that most of us make every day. It’s a small thing, but it can have environmental implications nonetheless. I rarely get coffee to go in disposal cups, which needlessly consume resources and are waste-intensive, so this decision is green! At my office, however, I use a one-cup-at-a-time coffee maker, which may save water but also involves more packaging and waste. Not green.

  2. Cars. Neither my wife nor I drive a hybrid or an electric, but our lifestyle doesn't require us to drive a great deal, and we don't drive gas guzzlers. My guess is that we have a smaller transportation carbon footprint than most Americans, but probably more than most Europeans.  Not green.

  3. House. I live in a spec house that was built in 2004, so it isn't the most energy-efficient home around. I have replaced all of my incandescent bulbs with CFLs (I think that I have tried every brand and variation of CFL available). I have also installed low-flow fixtures in the bathrooms and kitchen, paint with zero-VOC paint, and use green cleaners, but my home is still far from what I would consider a green house. We plan to build in the future, at which point I intend it to be very green, but we aren't there yet. Not green.

  4. Business. Sustainability is a core tenet of my business model. I try to operate my business, internally and externally, as sustainably as I can. I have a green procurement policy – I purchase 100% recycled office products whenever they are available, I limit my printing, I buy Energy Star products. I also try to design as sustainably as I can within a project’s constraints and goals. As a civil engineer, some of my projects contribute to the environmental damage resulting from development, but I do my best to reduce that impact. All in all, I think that I can reasonably call my business green.

  5. Personal habits. This is one area where we have the most control in terms of sustainability, and the little things that we do (or don't do) can have an impact. I do my best to recycle everything that I can, turn off the lights when I leave the room, buy environmentally preferable products, unplug electronics, etc. I do have some less than green habits, however. I prefer soda from a can, I eat meat with most meals, and I drink a lot of sports drinks from small plastic bottles. All in all, however, I would consider my personal habits green.

  6. Children. I have three children, so some people would automatically say that's not sustainable because it's more than the replacement birth rate (birth rate to replace yourself), but I think that viewpoint might be a little extreme. I try to teach my children to be environmentally responsible in their actions and decisions and I am amazed at how much my 6-year-old already does it (my other two are younger, so the jury's still out). On the other hand, they have a lot of "things," which I realize is wasteful and resource-intensive. Hopefully, they will learn to be responsible stewards of our planet, but only time will tell. Draw.

So by my analysis, my house and cars are not green, my coffee and kids are a draw, and my business and personal habits are green. Does that make me a green hypocrite? I would love to hear your comments with opinions about whether you and/or I are green hypocrites! I may or may not agree with you, but after agonizing over this for some time, here is what I have come to find: you can't do everything! That may sound like self-justification or a cop-out, but I believe it. I think that we do sustainability and the environment a disservice when we discount the little things that people do because some of the other things they do aren't green. We should be encouraging people to do what they can and not discourage them because they're not green enough. Many people each doing a little might be much more effective than a few doing a lot. Personally, I plan to keep trying to do more so that I can start calling all of the above green.

Bob Faulhaber

Bob is a registered professional engineer in TN with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering and over ten years of experience in project planning, design and management. Bob was on the forefront of the green building movement and was ahead of the curve in obtaining LEED accreditation in 2005. He is passionate about sustainability and lectures and writes about green buildings and sustainability in an effort to educate the design community and the general public.

Websites: Faulhaber Engineering & Sustainability | The Green Civil Engineer

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