Friday, June 17

The Ecologically Minded Correspondent

Okay, so I'm poking around on Postcrossing (the postcard exchange program I cannot stop talking about) (partially because getting anyone else to take 20 minutes out to write me a note is like pulling teeth out of Congress), and I notice a little sidebar. Someone has assembled a small list of Things You Can Do To Make Your Postal Experience Greener!

I'm very eco and green, and I'm very against greenwashing. Traveling around southeast Asia was really hard for me and my wife, in an ecological sense, both because of our awareness of how un-green it is to travel at all, and because we were routinely confronted with the repercussions of climate change our own nation had initiated but for which these developing nations had to suffer. Imagine you're a Lao farmer, you grow your own food, you walk or bike everywhere you need to go, you reuse materials in ingenious ways to suit your needs, and then your lake dries up and your livestock die because Americans need more oil than anyone else, and more every year, and they don't believe in recycling. So the carbon they eject warms up the atmosphere, which traps more moisture, which traps more heat, and all your sources of water dry up. And you can't appeal to your government for relief because it's resolutely corrupt all the way through.

Welcome to scenic Phonsavanh, Laos! Please don't step
off the marked trails as there are still unexploded bombs.
It's heartbreaking to listen to their stories, their confusion at having lived sustainably for several generations, only this year it doesn't work because of what the rest of the world is doing, so they're going to starve to death unless one of their children can learn English and sell enough tours (of their barren, desolate wasteland) to drunken Australians or British lads to bring rice to the table, after repaying their bank loan for a dozen thousand dollars to finance their tuk-tuk, the first of many petrol-guzzling vehicles necessary for these tours. ...But I digress.

So writing letters isn't a very green practice. It involves printing paper with ink, hauling loads of postal cargo across continents and oceans by horrifically fuel-burning vehicles, and all the oil that runs the processing machinery and gets it all sorted. This list of ecologically responsible practices seems... a little pathetic in the face of what the planet is confronting. Very too-little-too-late. I was hoping for some brilliant innovation that I could implement to feel like I was really paying some penance for a lifetime of thoughtfulness. None of that was to be found here, however.

  1. Choose recycled postcards or postcards made with fibre that comes from sustainable forests. For instance, FSC certified postcards.
  2. Reuse/Recycle envelopes (it can be fun!)
  3. Use envelopes/writing pads made of 100% unbleached recycled paper.
  4. Walk, or ride your bike to take your mail to the Post Office.
  5. Write your postcards during daylight, or outside in the fresh air, and save on energy.
  6. When soaking off your stamps do them all at the same time and reuse the water as much as possible.
  7. Use refillable pens/highlighters etc.
  8. Print on both sides of the paper or reuse old study courses etc. to print things for personal use.
  9. When wrapping things, reuse gift paper. Be creative! You can use old maps, newspapers, pages from magazines etc.
  10. Get your electricity from a company that provides it from sustainable energy sources such as wind farms, solar energy, hydro energy, etc.
  11. Support an environmental organisation such as Climate care, WWF, Greenpeace etc.
Here's my categorical response to each item in this list.
  1. I don't know where to get recycled postcards. I haven't seen any that market themselves as such. I've tried making my own postcards, but many users specifically request not to receive these things.
  2. (See #1) I have made my own envelopes out of whimsical materials, and it can be fun, but it is still 1/16th of a drop in the bucket.
  3. This is a postcard group, and they're offering advice on pads of paper. I don't use pads of paper when writing postcards. The only pads of paper I use, I use as mousepads so I can quickly write notes while I'm surfing online, and those pads were salvaged from a dumpster, were purchased four decades ago, which is pretty good for reusing materials instead of buying new ones.
  4. Absolutely, I walk or ride my bike everywhere, or use my city's wonderful mass transit services (bus and LRT).
  5. The fact that I write my postcards during the daytime in no way mitigates how much light I use at night.
  6. I don't soak off my stamps. If I wish to save them, I scan them in.
  7. Absolutely, I prefer fountain pens that require refilling.
  8. When I write letters, I always write on both sides, but again, this is a postcard club.
  9. My sister and I wrap our presents in the same sheet of cloth we've reused for years. There's a wonderful website put out by the Japanese government, providing citizens with ingenious wrapping methods (furoshiki) for variously sized and proportioned gifts, to promote the reuse of cloth wrappers rather than paper.
  10. I have no idea how our electric company gets its power. There is no competition for it, however.
  11. Support those groups, but research them first. There are far too many groups doing the same work but diffusing donor funds too thinly to be very effective. There are also corrupt or at least wasteful, inefficient non-profits who don't know how to bring their administrative costs down. Maybe you want to support a powerhouse like Greenpeace, but maybe you don't want to support domestic terrorists like Greenpeace.

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