“Roughly double,” was my wife’s comment on returning from Whole Foods, laden with a family-size pack of toilet paper made from 100% recycled paper and no chlorine. “Roughly double” means our environmentally-friendly toilet paper cost twice as much as usual.

Hearing that, I wince; stifle the urge to ask how many other things she bought that were “roughly double;” consider taking a part-time job to pay for our new green lifestyle; revisit briefly the problem of toxins; and sigh.

Double. That’s crazy.

I read the package. It says if we all do this, we’ll save 5.9 million trees. I hate numbers like that. They’re meaningless-5.9 million out of how many? A billion? Fifty billion? Are we running out of trees? I don’t know.

Nonetheless, it seems like a bad idea to cut down trees to make toilet paper. We have started down this path; we’ll stay the course-even at “roughly double.” I can’t wait for the new Trader Joe’s. I hear it’s cheaper, and I really don’t want a second job.

It feels like we’re all waiting for someone to do something. Government, business, someone. But change begins with us, it begins with we the people. If we demand that businesses change their policies and practices, they will respond. We have the power. If we want clean air, clean water, safe food, we will get it. 

For two decades now we’ve demanded ever cheaper and faster personal electronics and we’ve gotten it in spades. Remember the DVD players that cost a couple thousand? The personal computers that went for six? The huge plasma screen televisions for12? It’s a well-known story by now. A new electronic product comes on the market and within a brief time it’s an affordable commodity. We want it; it happens.

Not so with green technology. Photo-voltaic panels that convert sunlight to electricity are going nowhere because they still have a 20-year payback. Today you can buy a little USB drive the size of your thumb that holds as much data as 4,000 floppy disks. What if we demanded that kind of technological advancement in energy technology?

There’s no reason consumer demand can’t make it happen. Certainly government will need to play a big role, but we need to do our part. We need to demand environmentally friendly products.

Business as usual means more pollution and more climate change. Change begins with us. We just need to decide what we want. What will it be, cheaper, faster computers or a sustainable lifestyle that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren?

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