Thursday, October 1, 2009


Econundrums, maybe?

Situations in which you might want to make the ecologically "right" choice, but it's not very clear what that is.

Here are a few of my recent ones.

1) I think on my own blog, I already mentioned the Norway maple trees in my yard. They're an invasive species, so maybe I should cut them down and plant native trees instead. But on the other hand, they're performing a variety of ecological functions that their hypothetical replacement trees would take a good many years to grow into. My decision here was that if money was no issue I would probably replace them, but money is definitely an issue - so for now, they stay.

2) Inspired by some very pleasant fall weather lately, I started thinking about riding a bike instead of taking the train to work. There is a bike trail that more or less follows the train tracks along the Schuylkill River, and to reach it, I would probably drive to the same train station at which I currently board the train. There are too many huge, bike-unfriendly roads between our house and the Schuylkill trail for me to bike all the way from our house. If I drive then bike, instead of drive then ride the train, I personally get some benefits - I'd save money and get more exercise. But environmentally speaking? The train will run whether I use it or not, and I presume that my presence on the train is negligible in terms of energy cost to run the train. Maybe the extra calories I would eat to make up for all that strenuous biking would have a higher ecological cost than my contribution to the ecological cost of public transit? Not to mention that by using public transit, I'm helping to create demand for it and ensure its continued operation/improvement so that it can be a viable alternative to driving. The lazy option might be the greener one here.

What econundrums have you thought about lately?


Tucson Trekker said...

I don't suppose AC use counts as an econundrum. Obviously the best thing for the environment is NOT to use it. I seem to have a tendency to get overheated, though, and work at home almost all the time. I do keep the shades drawn and almost all the lights off. It's an eco-guilt more than an econumdrum, I guess

Sparkling Squirrel said...

One here is about replacing the window air conditioner in our bedroom. Newer models are much more efficient (not to mention quieter and smaller), but the old one we have works. Replacing it would require whatever imputs go into making a new one plus what would presumably be landfill space (although around here someone might take it). Cost and inertia have thus far won.

salsis said...

My scooter - in another year I will have saved its cost in gas money. But, it's mainly made of plastic and was made in China, which means petroleum was spent in making it and shipping it over here. So I wonder at what point the fuel I save in gas (instead taking my car) breaks even with the amount of fuel it took to make the scooter. At that point I can relax and know I am saving the environment. HAHA.