A cloud can weigh as much as a 747 yet there’s apparently little danger in having them float around above you.
We all know weights and measures can be used in misleading ways, to get us to buy things, vote a certain way or just generally change our behavior. Many eco-stistics I see are about the number of trees a project would have saved (could have completely covered the State of Nebraska with trees) or the number of cars we could have powered (enough cars to drive a million people to the moon and back, twice), but they don’t really help me grasp the magnitude of a project.
I’ve never seen 12,000 cars for instance, so powering them for a year versus 120,000 cars would be about the same to me, except that I understand one number is ten times larger than the other. Adding more zeros helps less – it’s like the budget deficit. I can’t fathom trees completely covering the State of Nebraska, or enough yogurt for every public school in France, a stack of 100 dollar bills that stretches to the Sun, etc. Examples like this make my eyes spin around in opposite directions.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love trees and I do truly grasp environmental problems at a high-level, and also in a way that has personally and tragically touched my life. What I hope to see more is the practical, how-to-get-from-Point-A-to-Point-B part. How to climb a mountain one-step-at-time kind of thing. When we’re talking to ‘actual people’ (like me) we are often competing against their other, very pressing priorities, like how will I get to work today, pay my mortgage, and feed my children. That’s why I loudly applaud the individual and community blogs and programs that are talking directly to people, helping them make a real change in their own lives.
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The idea of using weight as a simple baseline to track your savings is a great one, and when used without any mind-boggling comparisons can be quite effective. I’m sure it’s lots of places, but I first saw it on Dog Island Farm where they show the pounds of food they’ve produced and the direct cost savings. This is probably the easiest thing for me to relate to since I buy groceries in dollars, not trips to the moon or square miles of forest.
The first time I read this, I walked into my kitchen, found the scale, and weighed the compost container. It may sound obvious to a lot of you, but sometimes I really need examples that help me reset the way I relate to things. It helped me understand where I was, and set a goal to improve on. That’s a big deal.
I’ve started weighing things in our house and was astonish to learn that 2 weeks of junk-mail is about 10 pounds of paper. Over the course of a year this is roughly equivalent to a complete NFL linebacker. Annoyingly I have done everything I know to do to get less junk mail, like calling each company directly, but it’s not working. Last week I got a catalog for wigs. Yup, wigs. This is one of the few times I would say, “there ought to be a law for that” especially when I have to pay for my trash and recycling service. On an annualized basis, those linebackers can add up. Oh, and that doesn’t include the electricity to shred the credit card offers, enough to give a dog a haircut?
We also learned we are composting an average of 7.6 pounds of food scraps weekly, nearly 400 pounds a year. Most of this is water weight that evaporates during composting so it doesn’t directly equate to a Western Lowland Gorilla’s worth of compost (or 160,000 all natural jelly beans) by the time it’s ready for the garden.
This is just a personal pet peeve, but seriously when we don’t communicate effectively we are not really communicating. It may not be easy but it’s important to keep improving how we relate to individuals or they (me) tend to tune out and not understand how to take the next step.
To recap, we are using a small kitchen scale to track compost out, and produce in, as well as some weird data about our trash. I am looking forward to tracking and displaying this in a simple, easy to understand way somewhere on this website.
This post saved enough rainbows to cover my yard with a thin layer of unicorn dust.
Weighing on my Heart by Brad Rowland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.