In mid May, I arrived to teach yoga and was surprised to find the room so toasty. It was a cold, rainy morning in Vancouver (hey, summer, where are you?), but inside it was downright sweltering: the thermostat read 25 degrees Celsius. Huh? I immediately bumped it down to 20 and told the staff that 25 is crazy, regardless of season.
I was reminded of this interview with Mark Wigley, dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. A New Zealand native, he criticizes the American model of controlling indoor temperature (and of over-icing drinks) just because we’re rich enough to do so:
An American feels American only when the room is too cold in the summer and too hot in the winter. So every apartment in winter, you have to open the window to try and be less hot, and every apartment in the summer, you have to open the window to get a little less cold.
Unused reusable shopping bags
Another eco issue that ever annoys me? People who “forget” their reusable shopping bags and collect more and more plastic bags. Sure, they come in handy, but who needs dozens and dozens at any given moment? (I admit that I’ve cultivated veritable colonies of paper and plastic bags in my time.)
Worse are those who acquire too many reusable bags, which to me are worse than disposable ones. Reusable bags are typically thick, not biodegradable, and made in China. Most freebies are pathetic, with too-short handles or an ugly design. While disposable bags serve to hold trash or leaky items, unused reusable bags are 100% junk.
And about the claims that reusable bags contain lead or harbor bacteria? Get cotton canvas bags and wash them.
Am I an eco angel? Ha!
Whenever I rail against the crime of forgetting reusable bags, someone close to me points out that I dominate the bathroom cabinets with bottles of lotions and potions, especially hair goop. (With unruly curly hair, going without hair product is not an option. Seriously.) I might eschew disposable bags, rarely drive my car, recycle the milk cartons, use bar soap, and turn off the light when I leave a room… but in other ways I’m just as guilty of eco damage as the next person.
Speaking of turning off the light, I once interviewed Ramanand Patel for a magazine article. While we were discussing brahmacharya and ethical (and unethical) conduct of yoga teachers, the conversation segued to eco hypocrisy. Once, he told me, a friend invited him to a gathering of environmentalists at someone’s house in Berkeley. His friend figured that he shared the same values and would find the discussion interesting.
When he arrived, Ramanand found a group of people inside a house ablaze with lights, even in empty rooms. He walked throughout the house and turned off all the unnecessary lights—and then he left. He apparently found the “environmentalists” to be a bunch of hypocrites.
It is an amusing story. But we’re all hypocrites if we think we’re green but also fly or commute unnecessarily, buy yogurt in plastic tubs, drive when we could bike or walk, wear synthetics, and live modern privileged lives.