Saturday, September 5, 2009


Katie at EcoChick conducted an environmental survey to check out the attitudes of 50 people in Toronto. We teach how to conduct surveys in social science courses, and it's an easy lesson to modify for an environmental focus. She found the deal breaker for most people was cutting down consumption, and that some didn't understand the environmental concerns with meat production.

I've said it before, but food is hard for me. I don't grow my own because I forget about it, and it all withers, rots or feeds the raccoons. For some reason though, I have no problems tending to a flower garden. And I completely understand the problems with meat production, but I still eat it (organic, grass fed, and free range when I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of convenience for the world). I've been vegetarian twice, both for 2-3 years at a time, and my biggest hurdle is it doesn't seem like a meal without meat. Intellectually, I understand this is just as mindless as people preferring tap water at a blind taste test but still insisting bottled is better. But on a gut level, there it is. I've been raised on meat and potatoes, and that's a lot of years of conditioning to try to overcome. I'm still working on it.

The problem I have with some surveys like this though, and particularly with the standard eco-footprint analysis, is there's often no good answer for people who are already very environmental. Two of the questions focus on cutting down on personal consumption. I really buy nothing but food and essentials. I was at a mall yesterday buying the two required pairs of running shoes for my daughter for school (one for indoors, one for out). Having not bought clothes for myself for years, a long-sleeved shirt caught my eye. The 80s are back, and it makes me feel like a teenager again. I tried it on, and the sleeves were made for someone who doesn't canoe all summer, so I put it back. Whew, that was close.

The eco-footprint calculators (this one's really cute even though it places me in Calgary, but this one is more educational) often increase the footprint if you never ride the bus as if it means you're driving instead. Or if you don't wash your car rarely, it means you wash it often instead of the possibility of never washing it or not owning a car.

These are minor concerns but good to keep in mind when students are creating surveys.

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