Tom Matlack explores why caring for the environment is a crucial issue for good men.
The Range Rover was filled with kids of various ages and both genders bellowing “Defying Gravity,” from the Broadway show Wicked at the top of their lungs (really not sure why, one of those don’t ask, don’t tell kind of parenting things). I was happy to get out and fill that massive gas tank at an Irving station in the middle of nowhere Maine. Just as the machine flipped over $10 on the way to the cut-off of $75, I noticed the gentleman just the other side of the pump, filling up a 70’s-era Ford pick up truck that looked like it must have a couple hundred grand on it. And its owner took note of me, too. He had on a green John Deere hat with mud splattered all over it, and he smiled through a toothless grin like he was hiding something pretty damn funny.
“$4 a gallon,” he started up. “Can you believe it?” I tried to make out his age, but given his beat-up face and poor dental work, it was really hard to tell. I nodded in agreement and commented that I, too, found it ridiculous—just in hopes this guy wasn’t carrying a shotgun.
“You hear about those boys over Portland way?” he continued in a conspiratorial tone. I shook my head no, but he barely noticed. He had clearly had a story to tell. “A fuel truck pulled up for his first stop. Went in to take a leak and left the diesel engine running. Came out and the truck was gone. And they never did find that rig…”
Now I was laughing. “How many gallons on that thing?”
“Ten thousand. I bet they had a big hole already dug for the thing back on the farm and just buried it with a pump. Lifetime supply. Forty grand worth.”
“Now that’s an environmental program I could really get behind,” I told him as I replaced my pump. He laughed and drove off.
When I got home, I searched the web and called the Portland police. There was no record of a missing fuel truck. Either the guy in the pick-up was pulling my leg, or perhaps he had a lifetime supply of fuel tucked away in some big hole somewhere in the Maine woods.
Either way it got me thinking about what men really think about the attempt to recycle our way to a greener world.
A recent Michigan State study found that more women than men believe global warming is real. I am not so sure that acknowledgement of the problem is different between genders, but perhaps how we think about solving it. There’s a whole school of thought that only women can save Mother Earth. I’m not buying it.
And then, Jennifer Grayson points out that there are gender differences in who cares about WHAT related to the environment, and at least historically, women are more concerned about the household effects and men about global level issues.
Running off with ten thousand gallons of fuel might be one manly solution to global warming, (or, more likely, a cowardly one), but as I thought about it more I realized that some of the most macho guys I know have become focused on starting companies that are attempting to conserve energy and provide new energy sources
When I met Jack Roberts two decades ago, he told me that he started out buying and selling boxcars in Georgia. Or it’s possible I only dreamt that since he has grown to such a mythic figure in my mind. When I think of a good old boy in the best sense of the word, I think of my mentor Jack.
Jack was my investment banker throughout countless very tight spots. He was always someone on whom I could rely for quiet strength, a quick wit, and negotiating strategy. He’s the kind of guy’s guy that will never retire because he enjoys work too much. He would see the humor in the story about the guy who stole the fuel truck, for sure.
He’d always been an expert in media and telecom, so frankly I was shocked to hear that Jack had embraced the green movement; founding a company called Consert that has become the leader in consumer load management. Consert converts electric consumption in homes and small businesses into cost-effective, clean sources of capacity and energy reserves for utilities. But after getting over that shock, I wasn’t surprised at all that Jack’s company has jumped to the forefront of how to convert monitor homes and save energy through remote control. They’ve also named the city of San Antonio, a green hotbed, as their new headquarters.
Consert’s agreement with CPS Energy will result in the reduction of 250 megawatts of peak demand over the next four years using Consert’s Virtual Peak Plant software and will create more than 150 new jobs in San Antonio over the next few years.
“San Antonio has become a leader in clean tech initiatives,” Jack told me. “City leaders share our vision and are committed to a new energy economy, so this move was a perfect fit for us.
Susan Hunt Stevens is quickly becoming one of the leading voices on green issues. She has been asked to chair the interactive technology panel at the South by Southwest Eco Conference. She founded www.practicallygreen.com to build an online community of people striving to bring green actions into their daily life. The community started out for green moms but has morphed into a licensed model for male-dominated businesses such as Major League Baseball. I recently sat down with Susan to talk about gender and the environmental movement.
What the hell does taking your shoes off do for the environment?
What often gets overlooked in conversation about “the environment” is the effect that environment has on human health. In this case, removing your shoes is the personal health equivalent of washing your hands. It’s about ridding your indoor air, which is already way more polluted than outdoor air, of toxins (lead, cadmium, pesticides, etc) that come in on the bottom of your shoes and get into your carpets and floors. These toxins can particular affect little ones in your life who spend time on the floor—pets, babies, kids—who then put their hands or paws in their mouths. The EPA says that the simple act of removing your shoes and using a doormat can reduce contaminants in your home by nearly 60%.
I now recycle. But it’s more about being worn down than any belief that it will do any good. Please enlighten me, and all the other guys, why personal recycling will have any impact on the global environment.
From an environmental perspective, recycling hits on just about every “type” of eco-benefit. First, it reduces the demand for natural, and often finite, resources like petroleum and metals and keeps forests from being destroyed. Second, it reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Third, it saves energy and water. Let’s use plastic bottles as an example. Why does it matter if you recycle it? According to Earth911, producing new plastic products from recycled materials uses two-thirds less energy than making products from raw (virgin) materials, and it reduces the demand for fossil fuels (about 70% of plastic is domestic natural gas). But even if you don’t care about “the environment,” keep in mind that every time you put something in the garbage you are paying for it to be hauled to a landfill and stored. It’s becoming increasingly harder (and more expensive) to find places to put all that garbage. Recycled material not only avoids landfill costs in your town budget, but it also can be a source of revenue for your town.
But true recycling is more than just sticking your cans and newspapers in the bin. Most environmental impact occurs before we ever open that aluminum can, so buying products made from recycled materials is just as important as sorting. That’s why the mantra Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is in that order. First use less. Then reuse what you have. Then recycle.
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