Extra $$ for Eco-friendly?

11:28 a.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Whatta ya think? Yay or nay?

I received a promo email from REI this AM promoting their eco-conscious efforts, and highlighting a new The North Face sleeping bag--the Re Meow. It's made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, and is made to be a (quasi-carbon-neutral?) copy of their Cat's Meow bag.

As far as I can tell, the specs for each are essentially the same, with the exceptions being the recycled nature of the materials of the Re Meow, the specific version of Climashield used as insulaton (Climashield Green HL in the Re Meow, Climashield Prism in the Cat's Meow), and of course color. Oh, and price. MSRP for the Re Meow is $199 (regular length) vs. $159 for the original.

Are you willing to shell out an extra $40 (or whatever) for recycled products? How far should one go in encouraging "eco-conscious" activity by product makers and resellers, such as REI? How much of this sort of thing is marketing gimmick? Am I too cynical for even bringing up the gimmick notion?

I really like the idea of strongly eco-friendly products myself, but find it at least occasionally frustrating that items advertised as such may fall well short of any meaningful difference, especially with all things considered.

So, whatta ya think? Green means go? Or no?

12:06 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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I'm sorry, but that's a guilt trip that I've been unable to pack my bags for. If the cost was equal, I might think about an eco-friendly product. If I thought performance was equal.

1:25 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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It is interesting that a lot of manufacturers and stores are charging a premium for "green" these days. I have a fleece jacket from Marmot that is from recycled soda bottles that is very similar to a non-recycled jacket they had at the same time. The price was about 15% less. Primaloft has a recycled version of Primaloft in their lineup of 4 versions that is about equal to the original Primaloft (this puts it as 3rd down in the lineup), intended for sleeping bags. Their cost to manufacturers is about 2/3 of their top quality version.

Generally cost of material and processing is less for recycled synthetic material in terms of what goes into the finished product. In metals (aluminum particularly, but also steel), the price difference can be substantial. The differential is less for plastics (including synthetic fibers and cloth). So the result is that the manufacturer and store is getting an increased profit if they sell the finished product for the same or a higher price. But hey, "everyone" knows that the main people who buy "green" products are rich Yuppies who want to display their environmental bona fides, so charge them the premium prices.

I use recycled paper for my computer printer, which does cost significantly less and does not seem to be any lower quality.

In the case of electricity, though, there are costs of building the wind and solar plants, so the result is that here in Palo Alto, we pay substantially more for the various "green power" packages (we are offered 4 electricity packages - the standard mix which is about 10% "green" and on up to a 90% package). We do get rebates for solar hot water (Barb and I have had this on our house for 25 years and will have it on the new house - the rebate is about 5% of the electricity charge, even if your backup is gas). And if you have solar photovoltaic, the City buys your excess power, which can end up being a negative utility bill here in sunny California (one of our neighbors has gotten money back almost every month for the past year).

When "twisty bulbs" first came out, they were something like $5/bulb. The City subsidized them after a year or two to $1/bulb. The local stores are now selling them at under $1 for the small size, and yes,they really do use significantly less electricity and seem to last a lot longer than the old incandescents (light color is pretty bad, though, as with all fluorescents, including the "daylight" variety).

Bottom line is that since the materials cost them less in most cases, the recycled gear should cost less, not more. At the same time, since Utilities is getting less income from people using less electricity, gas, and water, they are boosting the rates - ya get penalized for conserving, and it appears you also are now going to get penalized for preserving the planet. Or maybe it's that the "I am an Environmentalist" crowd are willing to pay more, so charge them a higher price (note that I put "Environmentalist" in quotes - a lot of those who proclaim themselves such are still driving SUVs and commuting to work one person to a car while those who really do try to conserve are getting penalized). What's wrong with this picture?

2:49 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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I echo many of Bill's sentiments. I did my honors thesis on renewable energy, and it's a sobering topic. Wind power is a farse as far as carbon and energy savings, along with a lot of other little nasty secrets about renewables that the media doesn't talk about.

Do something like bike to work or carpool one day a week and you'll be doing a lot more for the environment than by buying a recycled sleeping bag that needs to be replaced maybe every 5 years.

Generally, SMART environmentally friendly things you can do have additional benefits: if you bike to work, you pay less for gass, less for wear and tear on your car, and you get exercise. If you carpool, everyone's gas and vehicle depreciation charges are cheaper, etc. You get the idea. It generally shouldn't cost you more to help the environment. If it does, that's a red flag (in my mind) for a gimmick.

3:09 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Agreed, green stuff shouldn't cost more, not in the long run anyway!

IMO, going green as become a way to pray on people's feeling of guilt for mass consuming. The folks i know that swear by recycling and prone it have 2 cars, 2 houses and usually 2 of everything else from Costco. They would be the first to buy something "green" they might never use because they will be able to say "i help the environment!".

In the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle the first R is reduce, but it's way harder to do than recycling! And where does the "green" product fit in there anyway?? I'd rather do with less and buy things second-hand.

Bottom line: people are willing to pay more to get rid of the guilt they feel for wanting to buy more stuff they could do without, just my opinion.

11:38 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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I pretty much agree with everyone's sentiments, right down the line. The one thing I will acknowledge as being perhaps an advantage to all in buying "eco-friendly" whatever is that if it is recognizable by others as such, it could prove in some cases to be an encouragement to them to consider "green" choices. I saw this amongs folks I know when hybrid cars were introduced. When people started seeing more of 'em, they seemed more likely to be willing to consider such a purchase themselves.

When I saw the price on the "green" (actually, TNF calls it "anemone green") sleeping bag as a 25% markup, I couldn't help but think that somebody's paying for the privilege of being "eco-conscious".

Finally, my own little bit on the "green" thing--in the vast majority of cases, the "greener" thing to do is to take care of one's equipment, gear, etc. and make it last longer, instead of buying new. We're probably all familiar with the "three R's" of the green movement: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To that I've always wanted to add at least a fourth: Repair. One could also add rebuild and probably a few other "re's" as well.

With careful use and proper care, much of what we have, use, own, etc., can last us much, much, much longer than what we get out of it.

All this is exactly what the economists don't want us doing, however, since so much of the world economy is based on people buying things they don't really need. I guess I'll just have to depend on the government to do my spending for me. They seem anxious enough to do it, anyway.

9:01 a.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Nice to see some people are sane about this type of issue. I am not against "green", but I am not impressed with it that much. I do not like the idea of all that plastic going into landfills. I am not willing to shell out that much more to stop it.

Alot of recycling actually costs more than making the product the first time. I dont if that is the case here, but I am not willing to pay $50 more for a sleeping bag to "save" the planet.

When I was a kid (35 years ago), all cola products came in glass bottles. You could turn the bottle in for a nickle deposit refund on each bottle. They would wash the bottle and reuse it, without melting it down ect. This was a cheaper alternative to making another glass bottle, and it worked. My sister and I spent every afternoon looking for bottles and washing them. When we would get a couple of hundred together, we would go turn them in for the deposit. And at 5 to 10 years old, it was a good way to make money.

This all stopped when plastic became cheaper (waaayyyy cheaper) to make. Now, it would cost more to recycle those bottles than to make a new one. The point is, I am willing to do something like that to help the enviroment. But doing something that costs more and I cant be shown any real benefit for the cost, I am not willing to do.

9:17 a.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Robby, that has been a more recent and nearly DEVASTATING problem in Mexico. I spent a couple of months down there in '02, and the highways are COVERED in trash. I'm talking about a highway out in the middle of nowhere looking like a street in Chicago.

I was appalled. I asked one of my mexican friends why it was like that, and he told me that it started happening a few years before when all of the companies down there started using plastic bottles. Apparently the Mexican people were really good about returning the glass bottles for the deposit, but a lot of them just threw the plastic ones out the window.

9:25 a.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Well, people here would throw the glass ones out the window as well. That is where my sister and I would find them, on the side of the road in a ditch. You would be surprised how well those old bottles took a throw from a speeding car.

Because there was a deposit, it encouraged kids to collect them. The return on aluminum cans is no where near what the return on the bottles were (from what I have read it is because it is cheaper to make a new can than recycle the old one). Biggest raise I ever got was when the deposit went from a nickle each to a dime each (percentage wise that is).

12:50 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry, your statement about repair couldn't be more spot on. I take a lot of pride in the things I have held onto for years.......re-bungeeing tent poles, patching holes in bug mesh, regularly changing the oil in my 200,000+ mile car. With a little care, many of these things are as good, if not better, than the day I purchased them.

Unfortunately, maintaineance and repair are things that disappeared sometime after the advent of plastic and cheaply produced Chinese goods. The American public seems to have lost its ability to recognize quality, and would rather purchase something cheap to buy, cheaply made, and thus cheaply replaced. Good for capitalism, bad for landfills....sigh.

......back on topic, I agree that most GREEN products are only a marketing pitch to smug, SUV driving, yuppie, pricks. If any of these manufacturers were really trying to make a difference, these products would be less expensive or better quality than their counterparts. As many of you have pointed out we need to see some benefit to our purchase, be it function or financial.

1:06 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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It's true that the norm seems to be for cheap and very disposable things. Is TNF green sleeping bag actually stronger or made better? I doubt it.

This raises an isue in backpacking: longer-lasting usually means heavier. I stongly agree with Random and i've used super-light, semi-disposable things backpacking for years and still have them, with a bit of care. The ultralight jackets and shells i've re-used to make stuff sacks or boot covers.

Some things you just can't re-use and no amount of care is going to help: free inkjet printer/scanners, dvd players, 100$ tvs....

Paying more for a better quality/longer lasting product might be a smarter move than the premium for "green" products IMO.

1:19 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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well said Franc......

9:54 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Computers must be one of, if not the, most un-green things in use today. You "have to" buy a new one every 3 or 4 years to be able to use the new bloatware, er, I mean, "improved" software and to store the ever-growing file sizes. When PCs first appeared, a simple one page letter took less than a kilobyte to store (DOS, CMS, Apple, didn't matter). These days, with all the special formatting that all the word processing programs insist on inserting, that same letter stores in a file about 30-40 kilobytes in size. Plus the simple letter you saved 30 years ago on your Apple II can't be read by your Mac (same thing on a Windows PC), because you saved it on a 5 1/4 floppy. Ah, but, you say, I transferred the file to new media every 3 or 4 years. Except that Word (or pick any other current word processor) can't read that obsolete file format. Same with that spreadsheet you set up in Visicalc - Excel can't read it. So all those discs (and 7-track tapes in Barb's and my cases) just get thrown away, along with the hardware that got sent to China for "recycling", because it wouldn't run the newest version of bloatware.

Oh, yeah, don't forget the car. 40 years ago, you could keep the car running with a screwdriver and pliers, plus maybe a wrench or two. Now, you have to go to a "trained" technician who plugs in his computer, identifies the electronic module that has failed, pulls it out and tosses it into the "recycle" bin (maybe), and plugs in a new one. Wait, you say, I can do that. Except EPA rules require that changes have to be signed off by a certified technician (they aren't called "mechanics" anymore) to be sure the emissions are not affected (I am very much in favor of the reduced emissions, but I do wonder about the effect of the discarded modules and the toxic substances used to make the chips that go into them).

Ok, sorry, I'm way off topic, so maybe this should be in Off Topic.

10:42 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill, I don't know anything about it being illegal, but you can buy OBD scanners for $100 or less (try jcwhitney.com) and do the same diagnostics yourself.

I've never heard anyone say it was illegal, and I would be surprised if they could sell the scanner if that were the case. Working on my car is something I do entirely myself (except alignments and wheel balancing) both because I don't trust other people to do it for me and because it is ridiculously easy to do compared to how much they charge.

10:58 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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I had no idea OBD scanners could be had for around $100 or even less. Gosh, the things I learn around here!

I'm working on becoming more and more self-sufficient with all things, recognizing that there are some things I'm just never gonna get around to, like spinning my own yarn, refining oil, etc. But my Jeep is a diesel, and I already know how to make fuel for it in various ways, if need be. And I'm slowly picking up some sewing skills, etc.

On top of the self-sufficiency itself, it's fun, and very satisfying. Kinda like a Snickers bar, I guess.

11:43 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Perry, my motivations were two-fold for learning mechanic skills. First, I'm poor (currently in my 6th year of "higher" education... the debt hole grows larger), and second, my first vehicle was an '86 toyota 4-runner which was ruined after the dealership replaced the clutch and only put the transmission back on with 1 bolt.

That situation was my fault, of course, and they refused to eat the cost. Since then, I decided that even if I have to learn along the way I can do a better job than the dealerships. Along the way I've accumulated a nice set of tools, and all of them for "free" if you consider what I would have paid for the work.

I figure if I can handle a full cadaver dissection I can figure out a car engine.

12:02 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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east,

It's not illegal to do diagnostics on your car. The problem comes when you do things that might affect the emissions. Most (all?) states require the car to pass an emissions test and a safety inspection that must be signed off by a registered/licensed technician (some exceptions for cars built before some date, except here on the Left Coast where you have to get special exceptions, no automatic waivers). That's where the legal restrictions come in. If you never drive the vehicle on the road (hence no registration), you can still do pretty much what you want.

Hmmmm, question just occured to me - cars made before somewhere in the 1960s came without seatbelts. If I were still driving my old '47 Chevy, how does the seatbelt law apply?

9:07 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Well, Bill, to keep politics to a minimum I'll just say this: that's why I don't live in CA. I like to be left alone, and nanny-state CA rubs me the wrong direction on MULTIPLE issues.

I grew up in BFE and never once had my car emissions tested. Now I live in a state capital, and it's still never happened. We don't require tests over here for the registration like they do in some (oppressive) places.

9:17 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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I know this is off topic, but worthy of mention. Something I have learned the hard way: Do not pay for repairs until you have inspected the work and test drove the vehicle. Bring a knowledgeable person with you if need be. Tell the shop manager this up front before any work is authorized and you are much more likely to avoid problems.

These guys get paid (indirectly) based on how much business they run through the cash register per day, many shops have a daily or monthly quota the manager tries to meet in order to keep the shop profitable. Sometimes the "technicians" are under a lot of pressure to do production work. Some are very good and work at their home where they feel (my opinion) they have a better opportunity to take some pride in their work and make a little side money. That being said, be cautious with this approach as well.

Now on topic.

I try to practice the three R's myself, and as already mentioned in other posts, I also repair as much as possible. I will, when it is practical, buy green products out of a concern for the environment. I does seem that the matter is getting all muddied up by those marketing these products however, and it would be nice to have some clarity on the issue. I don't care to waste money on marketing hype any more than I care to waste energy.

I do have a couple peices of technical clothing made from recycled materials and it performs as promised. As far as cost I got them on discount.

9:51 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Good discussion. It's a pleasant surprise to read a thread-on this of all sites-that recognizes the spin present in the whole 'green' craze. I live in a city that is famous for its green-ness, and the subject annoys me. In fact, I would go a step further and say it nauseates me. In an era in which our oceans are slowly dying, hundreds of millions of people cannot access the necessities of life, and non-human species are being pushed to the edge of their ability to survive, the marketeering of 'green' condos, 'green' cars, and 'green' dishwasher detergent is in bad taste. OK?

 

In regards products made with recycled materials, I fall in line with the rest of you: I pay what I can afford for the best, most long-lasting product. I cannot afford to eat organic groceries all of the time, or even most of the time, and that's stuff I am putting IN my body. A 20-40% markup on other products simply ensures that said products are invisible to me. Like Franc, I do my best to keep event the flimsiest gear functioning for as long as possible. Being a cheap bastard also means that unhip gear (e.g., wool sweaters-and what's more 'green' than a sheep?) is available for pennies on the dollar (though it is sometimes u-g-l-y). Hell, as a metaphor, I think my 15 year old truck is better for the planet than a brand new Prius powered on river-killing dams and unlikely to be on the road in 10 years.

 

Thus far, the act of 'going green' is just one more way for the relatively wealthy, liberalish first-worlder to sooth their guilt complex. It has next to nothing to do with actually living in a way that could be 'sustained' by the ability of our planet to produce resources. It's like having a glass of water while your house burns down.

 

edit: also, while some may think that time is money, money is never time. I try to keep in mind that every dollar I spend is so many minutes spent at work instead of out in the world living the life I want to. I guess that I think this has special merit where outdoors gear is concerned.

10:27 a.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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that every dollar I spend is so many minutes spent at work

Couldn't have said it better. Right now i've been working on average 5 months a year for the last 6 years (7 months vacation, yeah!). Being a cheap bastard pays off, and i'd rather spend my money in a developing country that need it way more than we do. Also, the less i buy the less ends up in the garbage.

That said, i think backpackers in general are much "greener" than some, considering the big hobbies here up north are snowmobiling, 4WD, quads and motor boats. So i don't feel guilty one bit about taking the car to go do a one week canoe trip, or buying a "non-green" product.

IMO the backpacker's philosophy of doing with less, having dual-purpose items, walking, sleeping outside, selling old gear/buying second-hand and making stuff out of pop-cans is pretty respectable!

Let's throw some flowers at each other, yƩ!

10:01 p.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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... (e.g., wool sweaters-and what's more 'green' than a sheep?) is available for pennies on the dollar (though it is sometimes u-g-l-y). ...

goyo, I hate to tell you this, but sheep are actually not very green. Like all livestock, they are tremendous emitters of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, which is far worse than carbon dioxide. New Zealand, where there are several times as many sheep as people, is trying to figure out how to deal with this problem right now. One other thing about sheep is that they graze right down to ground level (one of the reasons that John Muir referred to them as "hooved locusts). One more reason for being a vegetarian (Barb and I eat very little meat, and what we do eat is primarily poultry and fish, which are much lesser emitters of methane). Not to be overly indelicate, humans are methane emitters, too.

10:09 p.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Mmmm... meat tastes better when it has lived a full and fartful life.

1:17 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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On the 'greenness' of sheep (wa-a-a-a-y off topic)

 

Methane is part of animal biology. Sheep fart. People, bears, and chipmunks too (which is probably really cute). While massive commercialization of any species is going to be environmentally destructive (and unethical), sheep are hardly a threat to global health compared to the aluminum plant that makes the materials for many ice axes, or the oil platform that generates materials for our fleece and rain gear and just about everything else. GM and heavily pesticide dependent cotton are hardly good for the natural world. Conglomerate domination of any market usually leads to the break down of producing cultural traditions, destabilizing local human populations and leading to increased agricultural development, sprawling shanties, and the loss of tried and true methods of traditional resource management.

The very foundation of our civilization (rapid, technology-driven expansion of capital and resource usage) is antithetical to the gradualism of nature's systems of adaptation and change, and leads to catastrophic break down in those systems. This said, people are a part of nature. Short of devolving into homo neanderthalensis, our need for domestication and manipulation of the environment is always going to affect change in the natural world. Nothing we do is neutral, and simple domestic technologies like sheep herding, tomato cultivation, and ceramics are going to cause change. It's a question of scale. An amount of wool/alpaca/whatever-bearing animals that is reasonable for local usage is certainly more 'green' than the system that goes into making an online purchase of a polyester Arc'teryx hoody from Amazon.com possible.

When discussing environmental issues, everyone talks about greenhouse gasses like its the only problem in the world. It's not. Moreover, the myopia of what I'll call 'popular ecology' (carbon b-a-a-a-d!) has done nothing for us except make naive members of over-consuming, market-driven (post)industrial society think that everything will be fine if they can smear 'green' lip stick on the gluttonous pig of their culture.

Gawd. It hurts to have had to use the word 'green' so much.

1:39 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Sheep fart. People, bears, and chipmunks too (which is probably really cute).

LMAO! I love it!

 

"This said, people are a part of nature."

Something that's always conspicuously absent from these discussions.

 

"When discussing environmental issues, everyone talks about greenhouse gasses like its the only problem in the world. It's not."

Nice to see someone with perspective now and then. I've read recently that we are actually in a 10-year cooling cycle (which has been attributed to "global warming"... figure that one out for yourself. I'm at a loss).

2:31 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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As I said a while back (facetiously, but taken waaaayyyy too seriously by a couple of folks), homo pseudosapiens being a major part of the problem, what we really need is a global disaster - pandemic, global thermonuclear war, asteroid strike - to reduce the population to a couple million for each continent. Just as long as whatever it is allows me to get to the parts of the globe and do the activities I want to do.

But then, having said that, I am now cowering behind the wall, awaiting the fanatical outburst condemning me for advocating some radical/reactionary hairbrained (or is it harebrained) scheme. Just joking folks. But us members of the Ancient and Dishonorable Society of Curmudgeons have to say things like this from time to time (if you haven't read it lately, re-read Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal)

4:10 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Ah, a pox on all your houses!

I've never seen a green sheep. I AM a black sheep, according to my brothers, who won't set foot outside their BMWs unless there's pavement below. Most white sheep aren't. (White, that is.) My neighbor just got a pink sheep from his job. (Or was that a pink slip? Pink panties?) My grandfather talked a blue sheep at times. (Esp. after he'd been drinking.) You should save the yellow sheep as your receipt. Moses parted the red sheep on the way out of Egypt, and painted the blood over Pharaoh's doorway. A tornado in Arkansas recently blew three sheep to the wind. And when the short sheep herder found himself in the middle of a flock of large animals, he turned to his buddy and said, "We're in some deep sheep, now, lemme tell you."

6:31 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Well, I wasn't expecting a puntifical explication to be dumped upun my head!

8:48 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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7 hours of writing a history research, i take a fiver and i'm reading this?!?

I feel like throwing myself down a bridge, give history a break and do something good for the environment.

Whait a minute, will it be considered polluting? I probably should jump naked just in case...

11:03 p.m. on April 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Well, I agree with Bill, too many people. I don't think weve reached the saturation point yet, unless you consider millions with out food a problem. Reducing the worlds population would be very eco-friendly IMO. I'm sure someone would find a way to charge extra money for that too!

One item I saw in a souvenier shop was a block of wood, it said: "hillbilly birth control". Directions on the back read: "place block between knees and hold firmly in place!"

I'm thinking, this is really stupid. Don't they know hillbillies can't read.

7:56 a.m. on April 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Whatta ya think? Yay or nay?

...Are you willing to shell out an extra $40 (or whatever) for recycled products? How far should one go in encouraging "eco-conscious" activity by product makers and resellers, such as REI? How much of this sort of thing is marketing gimmick? Am I too cynical for even bringing up the gimmick notion?

I really like the idea of strongly eco-friendly products myself, but find it at least occasionally frustrating that items advertised as such may fall well short of any meaningful difference, especially with all things considered.

So, whatta ya think? Green means go? Or no?

As an environmental educator, my only comment is that people KNOW green. It is not something that can be purchased, made, or sold. Anyone can green their gear/trip/life without having to be "sold" on the idea by REI, the power company, or any other corporation.

Recycled sleeping bag? How about buying a used one that has already gone through the manufacturing process? Recycled products are great, but buying a top quality product that lasts for the long haul, and using it to the end of it's life instead of getting the newest gear every year is the better way.

Green is a lifestyle, not a product.

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