A10: Definitional Essay, Steve LeBano

What is Green?

Being environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, or green has become a rather commonplace occurrence in today’s society. This has been largely brought about by environmental and/or economic factors that have caused the public to take a closer look at their own impact, as well as the impact of the products and services that they utilize. In particular, a product’s “greenness” is decided by the environmental impact of its use and eventual disposal as well as its manufacturing, material sourcing, and distribution. National Geographic defines the term “Eco-friendly” as “earth-friendly or not harmful to the environment.” From their conclusion, it can be inferred that for a product to be green, you have to consider its overall impact from the raw material stage all the way to its eventual disposal.

Raw materials can be considered green for a number of reasons, but ultimately, a green material does not adversely affect the environment as a result of its production or use. Materials harvested from common and fast-growing plants such as bamboo or hemp range from basic fabric products to flooring and other hardwood alternatives. These products hold an eco-advantage because they can be grown easily and will decompose easily when they are eventually disposed of. For example, this gives them an advantage over common standard materials like standard hardwoods, which take much longer to renew, and synthetic textiles, which do not decompose as efficiently and can often be produced under circumstances that sacrifice eco-friendliness for economy and accessibility.

The manufacturing stage of a product’s life is also important to take into consideration, as the byproducts of manufacturing can often leave a negative impact that is not immediately recognized by the average consumer. A manufacturer can reduce their environmental impact in a multitude of ways. Utilizing renewable energy can be a great way to reduce the impact of the manufacturing process, as manufacturing often deals with the utilization of a great deal of specialized machinery that requires a great deal of power to operate. In addition, the use of renewable and/or recycled materials reduces the amount of waste associated with the manufacturing process. Also, reducing the emissions produced in many common manufacturing processes (we’ve all seen a stereotypical factory with billowing smoke stacks) is a practice that can greatly reduce a manufacturer’s footprint. To put the impact of manufacturing into perspective, it is estimated that 10-20% of a car’s lifetime emissions are produced in solely the manufacturing stage. “Cradle-to-cradle” manufacturing is a system that many green manufacturers utilize that aims to decrease their impact. This system involves taking care in minimizing or eliminating resource use, waste, and pollution in manufacturing, and addresses every aspect of a product’s life, from product design to eventual disposal or possible reuse.

Product use can have both seen and unseen environmental detriments. Air pollution in the atmosphere as a whole or in the household is a well-documented issue. Automotive emissions, although still quite prevalent, have been reduced dramatically as the result of the utilization of cleaner engines and catalytic converters installed in exhaust systems to filter the gasses produced in fuel combustion. Many vehicles, including common standard models such as the Honda Accord, are designated as LEV’s, or low-emission vehicles.  Smoking cigarettes inside the home or in the car are also a heavy pollutant due to the smoke being trapped in a confined space. Aerosol use, which affects the ozone, can be easily substituted with spray bottles that don’t compress gas. Products such as cooking spray and hairspray have many easily obtainable alternatives available. Leaving electrical appliances on, such as TV’s and coffee pots, can increase their environmental impact accidentally, but many modern versions of these appliances have features that shut the appliance off automatically when not in use. Outlet timers are also available and can be used to automatically moderate lighting and reduce power usage overall, including those times when you forget to shut the light off or hit the lights before going to bed. Utilizing any of these alternative products or methods can be a great deal of help if you’re looking to reduce the footprint of the products you use in your daily life.

When the lifespan of a product ends, it is important to consider how it will impact the environment. Taking steps in the material sourcing and manufacturing process can have possibly the greatest impact on where a product ends up. If a manufacturer takes the time to source materials that will biodegrade efficiently or be reused, the result will be quicker, easier, and cleaner disposal. Recycling is also a highly effective method of reducing impact, as it decreases our use of landfills and reduces the need to utilize resources that are more time consuming and/or polluting to replenish. Being mindful of all the aspects of the products we use allows us to make educated choices concerning our personal environmental impact. If a product is created with cognizance to all of the ways it can affect the environment and addresses each issue accordingly, it can be considered a green product. It is simply not enough to focus on one aspect of a product’s lifespan and not consider its overall lifetime impact.

Works Cited:

“What Does Eco-Friendly Mean?” http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/ecofriendly-mean-2415.html, Daniel Holzer, Demand Media, National Geographic, 2 April 2013

A HANDY REFERENCE GUIDE TO THE 20 GREENEST MATERIALS” Luanne Bradley, ecosalon.com,  29 June 2009, 2 April 2013

“Renewable Energy & Clean Technology: Keys to a Revitalization of US Manufacturing & Job Creation” http://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/15/green-manufacturing/#oYAFXtfsUGOb9ABR.99 , Andrew Proteus, cleantechnica.com, 15 April 2012, 2 April 2013

“Ways to Reduce Air Pollution” http://www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/peg_caa/reduce.html, EPA, epa.gov, 6 March 2012,  2 April 2013

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One Response to A10: Definitional Essay, Steve LeBano

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey Steve!
    As you may recall, I write comments on your essays as I read them, to give you “live” feedback on your arguments as they unfold. I hope you find it helpful.

    P1. Gack.

    I’m sorry. That was impolite. Somebody has taught you to “write academic,” Steve. It’s not your fault. It’s what you know, and you’ve been rewarded for doing it, and books are full of examples to teach it. But it bores readers to tears and it can be avoided. You are welcome to resist my advice, but I’d rework your first paragraph like this:

    Everybody wants to be green, or at least appear to be, but too often products are labeled green that only meet a single environmentally-friendly criterion, instead of all of them. Some products, like compact fluorescents, are called green only because they use less energy. But in addition to energy economy, a truly green product would be kind to the earth in its manufacture, its material sourcing, its ecological distribution cost, and its eventual disposal. Only products that don’t harm the earth at every stage of their lives would be what National Geographic calls “Eco-friendly” or “not harmful to the environment.” That compact fluorescent, for example, carries a severe warning about its disposal, but in a few years our landfills will be oozing with released fluorine from the millions of CFs that get casually tossed into the trash.

    Mine’s not perfect either, Steve, but it avoids academic jargon like “has become a commonplace occurrence,” and “in today’s society,” and “This has been largely brought about by” and “as well as the impact of,” and “is decided by,” and “it can be inferred that.” These bits of language function, mostly, to induce sleep.

    P2. Cutting to the chase is always better. You call a raw material green first for negative reasons: “does not adversely affect,” but your example is of positive benefit: “hold an eco-advantage . . . grown easily . . . decompose easily.” Be sure to match your evidence to your claim. Cutting to the chase and not crossing your hands would look like this:

    Flooring and fabrics made from common, fast-growing plants such as bamboo or hemp, hold an eco-advantage over hardwood floors and synthetic fabrics because their raw materials can be grown easily and the products will decompose easily when they are eventually disposed of. Hardwoods are ecologically more costly because they take much longer to renew; synthetic textiles decompose poorly and are often made from petroleum and other materials that impose their own ecological costs.

    I’ll stop rewriting your paragraphs now, Steve, if I’ve made my point that simple, direct statements of clear intention with active verbs and an absence of jargon are more readable than their opposite. You do want to be readable, for my sake if for no one else’s. But that is the point. Would I read this if I were not its author? should always be your guiding principle.

    P3. “important to take into consideration.”
    “leave a negative impact that is not immediately recognized.”
    “in a multitude of ways.”
    “can be a great way to reduce the impact.”
    “deals with the utilization of a great deal of machinery”
    “that requires a great deal of power”
    “associated with the manufacturing process”
    “to put the impact into perspective”
    “a system that aims to decrease their impact”
    “involves taking care in minimizing or eliminating”
    “addresses every aspect of”

    P4. Hmmm. I may have led you astray, Steve. The definition argument and the others (rebuttal, causal) need to stand on their own as discrete essays, but its unnecessary for them to contain support for arguments outside your primary theme and focus. In other words, it’s odd to see examples of so many seemingly irrelevant green products and processes here. Auto emissions are certainly appropriate. But smoking, aerosols, and outlet timers aren’t. Much more relevant would be examples of the supply chain for building those LEVs. Do the ecological costs to manufacture them mitigate their benefits? Do the batteries required to keep those emissions low produce more toxicity than the emissions would? Those are the relevant examples you’d use here if you were preparing arguments of that sort for your longer research paper.

    P4. I’d say you made a paragraph out of two sentences worth of material about disposal, Steve. Don’t get me wrong; it’s very capably written and I admire the efficiency of its sentences in carefully and thoroughly and quite wordily conveying small bits of information. But it could, and should, be said lively, and contain both cows and chips.

    Clearly you have no trouble writing well in a certain style, Steve. I just want to kick you out of that groove if you’re willing. Ask yourself “Would I read this?” If not, “What would it have to say to make me want to read it?”

    Grade recorded. Better than you think after all that.

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