x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Green Queen: Being "greenish" is a worthy goal

An eco-friendly lifestyle can be an overwhelming task, but making small changes still makes a big difference.

In the late 1990s in Canada I had a roommate who could truly be considered "green": she worked for a non-profit devoted to an environmental initiative, wore clothes from a second-hand store and cycled everywhere, even in winter. She ate only organic and would not use plastic, even plastic wrap. She reserved a special sad face for whenever she felt one of us was being wasteful with food and water.

However challenging her habits were at the time, I have came to realise they were much more cutting edge than crazy.

At the time her lifestyle required so many changes that we did not even bother to try. I am sure something similar is going on in the UAE, where many expatriates may do some environmental backsliding. People who claimed eco-habits back home report that their lives have become something else entirely. They drive more, buy bigger cars, commute long distances, waste water and electricity, run their air conditioning round-the-clock and utterly fail to recycle. I think the thought of fixing these things becomes so overwhelming that they fail to fix anything.

It reminds me of Voltaire's "the perfect is the enemy of the good". So I propose that instead of trying to be "green", we aim for "greenish". This new buzzword, explained recently by Jen Drexler of the US marketing firm Just Ask a Woman, refers to people who are taking small steps to becoming more environmentally responsible.

In rather an understatement, she said that "greenish" has become popular because "going green can be hard".

"Greenish" popped up a few weeks ago in a New York Timesreview of the new and tiny Fiat 500. Its fuel efficiency, while good, isn't green but "greenish", said Laura Soave, the Italian company's North American brand manager.

Rather than letting anyone off the hook, "greenish" can mean that a building or a product has met the basic environmental standards. Somewhere else this might be shameful, but in the UAE it could indicate that a company has taken the first steps towards true sustainability. It can also mean that while a product has a way to go before it can be considered green, at least its packaging has been made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled materials. It may mean that while you still buy overpriced food flown in at great carbon expense, you stop bringing home plastic bottles of water. Or that without a place to recycle all the materials that come out of your home, you focus on finding somewhere for the plastic. Or that you begin to carpool from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, even a few days of the week.

In short, it's doing better, with an eye to one day doing your best.

amcqueen@thenational.ae