It’s not what we do as individuals, but what state and national policies do that actually matters.
I’ve heard this multiple times over the years and agree wholeheartedly with it. Changing out light bulbs with compact florescents doesn’t do a thing to deal with the lifecycle issues associated with florescent bulb waste and recycling… and that’s just one example of misguided effort.
Realistically – Individuals can do a lot of little things to help reduce their carbon footprint – like voting with their pocketbooks and all. This, however, pales in comparison to what things like big industries and power plants are pumping out. Now I realize that things like passenger car exhaust contributes to a significant portion of carbon emissions, but even here there’s only so much people can do with the current state of transportation, job options, and cultural entrenchment. If you’ve got to commute, then you gotta do it. And if it’s cheaper (time-wise mostly) to drive there alone then that’s what people will be (and ARE) doing. Time is the most valuable commodity these days, and if it’s faster to go alone by car – they’ll do it. Until the systems themselves change to accommodate new methods that allow people to change effectively with them, nothing on our individual homefronts are going to change.
The truth is – national and state policy directives guide (1) government, (2) corporate, and (3) personal behavior the most. Just look at the recent “hands-free” laws that took effect in Oregon in Jan 2010. Would people really honor this directive if it weren’t enforced? No. And it is being enforced, so they ultimately will. Simple as that. You see enough people getting pulled over and you’ll find religion here.
The bottom line is that until we have a strong cohesive net of state and national policies that drive this revolution, nothing significant is going to happen. People are going to continue to do whatever’s convenient during the coarse of their busy lives and that’s about it. Same goes for businesses. When it comes to competition in the existing arena – you can only go green so much before it becomes burdensome and affects the bottom line.