the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: green

Earth Day Meme


Assignment:  Ask Five of Your Favorite Bloggers to Do a “Green” Meme

Imagine there existed a system to measure a person’s “commitment to a green lifestyle.”  At one end of the spectrum, is the person who measures 0.   This person doesn’t care about the environment.  Sometimes, we give another name to this type of person — a Republican.  (ha ha, just a little political humor there)  This “zero” environmentalist doesn’t worry about the planet and has no problem throwing his trash in the street.

At the other end of the spectrum is Ed Begley Jr.  He measures a 100.  He is such a nut that he rides a stationery bicycle to power the solar panels that supplies electricity to his house, or something like that.

Six months ago, I started writing posts for the Brita Filter for Good blog.  At that time, I measured a, uh, let’s say –  40 on this imaginary environmental scale.    I already cared about the environment, at least in theory.  Caring about the planet is nothing new to me.  Any New York City public school child in the 1970s and 1980s was bombarded with information about pollution and “no nukes.”  In fifth grade, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Japan, insisting that he stopped killing the whales, and that I personally held him responsible.  I have been to Earth Day concerts in Central Park and Heal the Bay walks in Santa Monica, marching twenty feet behind Ted Danson.  Most of these gestures have been symbolic, even fun, because these events were also good places to meet liberal, sexually-confident girls who didn’t wear bras.

I have now written about my “green journey” for six months.   But have I really changed?  I think I have, maybe not as much as I hoped.  I’d say that as of Earth Day, 2009, I now measure a 69 on the imaginary environmental scale.  That is an increase of 29 points!  (and by coincidence, 69 happens to be one of my favorite numbers).  I am better educated, more aware, and have started to take concrete steps to do my little part for the planet.

In honor of Earth Day, I am participating in a meme with the other bloggers from the Filter for Good blog.

What are five ways that I can make a difference during this Earth Month?

Of course, as usual, I am late to the game, and have only published this meme on April 22, which is good for Earth Day, but a little late for Earth Month.  So, I am going to revise the question a bit and ask this question instead —

What are five green things that I can start NOW on Earth Day that I will keep on doing for at least another month?

Later on, I will be inviting you to participate and do this meme yourself!

My Five-For-Good Answers:

1)  I Will Continue to Educate Myself.

This might seem like a easy first choice since it doesn’t require me to do anything particularly green.  For me, it is the most important step.  Every action that I have taken during the last six months was because of my education.  By reading books and websites written by authors who actually KNOW something, I have gained an understanding of WHY I should be so worried about our planet.  Rather than acting out of peer pressure or ignorance, educations helps me make my own decisions.  I have even made some non-green choices.  I do not bring a burlap bag to the supermarket.  I take the supermarket bags and use them, rather than buying Hefty garbage bags.  I feel OK with this, because I took the time to think the situation out.

When I was a teenager, I was “for the environment” because it was cool, and rock stars gave concerts. Now I am motivated by the scary facts, particularly about global warming.

2)  I Will Not Waste Electricity

Remember this post titled “The Can Opener,”  in which I was amazed to learn that I was one of the few Americans who still used an electric can opener?  I am an electricity waster.

In a recent post on Filter For Good, I revealed a dirty little secret —

I always viewed electricity as clean energy, in contrast to the dirt that came from the exhaust pipes of our cars. While I intellectually understood that electrical energy had to come from somewhere, it was removed from my view, much like I order a hamburger without having to think about the animal that was killed.  In the past, when I shut off the lights when I left the room, it was to save money, not because of the environmental impact.

It is easy to get lazy with the use of electricity.  It is always “there” for our use.  Recently, I came back from a two week trip from Florida.  When I walked inside, I noticed that the living room light was on!  At first, I was nervous.  Did someone break in?  Then I remembered how I rushed out of the house to catch my flight and I forgot to shut the light.  What a waste of money and energy.  I should be booted from this green blog because of that mistake!

With the next month, I will be shopping for a more energy efficient air-conditioner in the living room.

3)  I Will Buy Green Household Cleaners

I’ll admit it.  I used to make fun of those of you who would buy green cleaners.   C’mon, give me a break.  Companies will sell you anything, you suckers.   Too much of a wimp to use regular ol’ Ajax?  Then I read more on the subject

The creators of most green cleaning products claim that they avoid some of the chemicals that are suspected to be harmful to humans and the environment, especially when these chemicals are washed down the drain. Although studies are conflicted on this issue, most environmental groups believe that the chemicals in tradition cleaning products can impair neurological functions, or act as respiratory irritants and carcinogens. Labeling on these products is confusing, and most consumers don’t know what these products contain. Many contain phosphates, which can deplete our water supply of oxygen. With 80,000 chemicals in use today, scientists are not sure which one is potentially dangerous. This seems like a good reason to spend an extra dollar for the “green” cleaning product.

4)  I Will Bring My Own Coffee Mug

People have been doing this for years.  I have never done it ONCE.   I have no excuse other than laziness.  Every day, I go to the McDonald’s across the street and order a cup of coffee.  Why add the paper coffee cup to the landfills?  Why not just bring my own mug?

But will McDonald’s fill it?   Has anyone ever brought their own coffee mug to McDonald’s?   I’ve seen customers bring their own mugs to Starbucks, but ultra-corporate McDonald’s?

5)  Buy Organic

This is a subject I want to better understand.  What is real and what is marketing?  I can appreciate how local fruits and vegetables taste better.  Less chemicals are used.  Energy is not wasted in transportation across the country.  I still feel that there is a bit of marketing involved, and that some organic products are just gimmicks, created just to sell products at a higher price.  However, for the next month, I pledge to buy more fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market in order to buy locally.  This is a big step for me, because I hate spending extra money when tomatoes are on sale at the supermarket.  But, hey, Earth, you are worth it!

Would you like to make any “green” one-month commitments on this Earth Day?

The rules are simple. (Editor’s note:  Actually THEY say it is “simple.”  I find it a big confusing, but I’m going to shut up about that and just copy it — )

Post five things you plan to do for the environment over the next month on your blog. At the end of your list, tag five of your favorite blogs, and include a link back to this post using the hyperlinked text “FilterForGood Blog Meme Contest.” Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs, or on their Twitter accounts (using the hash tag #FFGBlogMeme). Also, be sure to include these rules at the bottom of your post.

An Extra Bonus

At the end of Earth Month, FilterForGood will choose a few lucky bloggers who posted their five things to win some Brita/FFG gift packs to help you go green! Be sure you link back to the original meme post [] to enter the contest!

How about you — Letter Girl, Finn, Twenty Four at Heart, Miss Grace, and Stacey?

Going Green

During my senior year at Columbia, I decided to become a Reform rabbi.  Why?  Well, I had taken a seminar on Jewish Thought and there was this cute brunette in the class.   She was somewhat religious, but more importantly, she had these very long legs… sigh.  Does it really matter what the motivation is when there is a calling to God? 

I went on an interview with a rabbi from the Reform seminary. 

“Why do you want to become a reform rabbi?” he asked.


It was probably an answer that I should have rehearsed earlier. 

Later on, when I had some time to myself, I finally came up with an honest answer. 

“I am interested in Judaism.  I like the traditions, moral outlook, and the rituals.  But I have a lot of doubts and I probably won’t remain religious for very long.  It’s a big commitment to go to temple on Saturday, stay kosher, and not to look down my Aunt Birdie’s blouse when I get drunk on the Manischewitz during Passover.  So, I figure it would be good to become a rabbi because then I would be GETTING PAID to be a super Jew, and it would be a lot easier to do.”

I tell this bizarre story because I just started writing for a group blog, The Brita FilterforGood’s “green” blog.  For the next several months, I will slowly be “going green,” telling you about my experiences on a weekly basis on the FilterforGood blog.

But I’m not going to pontificate.   Take note of this:  I am getting paid to do this. 

Yes, I am writing for a corporate blog, even if it is a socially-minded one.  I will be taking green steps in my life, but I cannot honestly say that I would be taking these steps on my own.  I will be like the rabbi who became a rabbi to get paid to be kosher.  That does not mean that I won’t become a dedicated “green” person or that I wouldn’t have become a wonderful rabbi after college.  It just means that, as of now, I have no right to lecture to you on this subject.  I know it is a pain in the ass to carry your own recyclable bag when you go shopping, especially if it is decorated with daisies, like my mother’s bag.   So feel free to question anything I say about the environment.  I want you to be as skeptical about anything I say, just like I am when I read your “do good” blogs sponsored by General Motors.  Think of me as your paid guinea pig.

Even if you don’t want to read my posts, you should read the other five contributors.  The are extremely caring and knowledgeable about green issues, and can actually explain global warming to you — Blake Makes, Melting Mama, teensygreen, green LA girl and long-time blogging friend and nemesis, Whoorl. 

All I ask from you is to comment every once in a while, so I don’t get fired.   My posts will go up on Monday.

And please — recycle.

Goody Two Shoes

Some of the comments on my last post about a “caring” Twitter account were difficult for me to read.  I hate being thought of as a “nice guy.”

“You’re a good egg!”  someone wrote.  “Such a humanitarian!”

Ugh.  Are you trying to ruin my love life?   All the hot male characters on “All My Children” are the “bad boys”  Ladies, be honest with me — would your rather have a raucous one night love-fest with Mister Rogers or Roger Federer?

I needed help with my image.  Damage Control.  Luckily, my friend Lisa works at a large PR firm in New York and we spent the day brainstorming in her Madison Avenue office overlooking 23rd Street.

“In today’s media environment, it’s all about appearance and branding.” she said.  “Most of us have several levels, but audiences can only focus on one dimension at a time.  There are thousands of informational points vying for attention in today’s multimedia world, and each broadcaster only gets enough time to send out a strong single throughline to the public arena through words, visuals, and actions.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“You need to ask yourself, “Who is Neilochka?” You present yourself as a goody-two shoes and then you complain about never getting laid.  The problem is not YOU.  You have more than one dimension.  The problem is that you project yourself in a singular fashion, like an image on a movie screen.  And that image is goody two shoes.”

“But I’m not really a goody two shoes.”

“Exactly!  That is why I can help you do, as a professional.  I can help you bring forth another facet of your personality, filtering out the static information you don’t want, changing how you are perceived by your readers and followers.”

“I don’t want to lie or create a false impression just to change my image.”

“Of course not.  But I am sure that you aren’t always nice.  Can you think of a situation recently where you were NOT NICE or a goody two shoes?”

“Well, uh, yeah.  I wasn’t that nice to my mother this morning.”

“That’s good.  Now we’re getting somewhere.  Tell me about it.”

“I woke up this morning and my mother was in the kitchen.  I sleep in the living room, so I was easily awaken.  She had some lame-o excuse for waking me up.

“I’m sorry, Neil.  But I wanted to make you a cheese omelet.  I know this is your favorite.”

I scratched my balls and sat at the kitchen table, unshaven.  She placed the cheese omelet in front of me, along with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  I took a bite of the omelet, and I spit it out.

“What the f**k is this?”  I screamed.  “Do you call this a cheese omelet?”

“What’s the matter with it?”

“You used Swiss cheese!  You know I like Munster Cheese in my cheese omelet!”

“They didn’t have any Munster cheese in the supermarket.  A car smashed into the side of the store yesterday so they were only open half a day.”

“I don’t care!  Did you really expect me to eat THIS?”

I tossed the plate like a frisbee, smashing it against the wall, the cheese omelet sticking to the wall like putty.

“I’m not gonna eat this crap!  What kind of mother are you?!  I am so disappointed in you!”

I threw the glass of orange juice against the wall, just for dramatic effect, then stormed out, leaving my mother in tears.”

“That is perfect!” said Lisa, my PR friend.  “You must write a post about this.  You are such a BAD boy in that story!  The girls are gonna be getting wet just thinking about you!”

“Really?”  I cried, enthusiastically.  “Wow, that is terrific.  No more Mr. Goody Two Shoes for me!  And then, at the end of the post, I can tell them that — starting today — I’m going to start writing once a week for a really nice group blog about my attempts to go “green” to help save the planet!”

“Uh, no, bad boy.  Don’t write about that.”

(more tomorrow)

Talking “Green” with My Mother and Her Friend, Laura

I had lunch on Sunday with my mother and Laura, the friend who went with my mother on the recent Alaskan cruise.   I hadn’t seen Laura in a while. She was the one who made the arrangement for the trip.

Neil:  Did you enjoy the Alaskan cruise?

Laura:  Wonderful.

Neil:  What was your favorite part?

Laura:  Everything.

Neil:  I think Mom liked the food the best!

Mom:  Ha Ha.  You’re right!

Neil:  When my mother came back, I asked her to tell me all about Alaska, and she spent most of the time talking about the food.

Mom:  It was too much, even for me. You could eat 24 hours a day, even at midnight.  This man at our table would order three entrees every night — meat, chicken, lobster.  That’s just not healthy.

Laura:  I tried to limit myself.

Mom:  Me, too.  I still put on ten pounds.  From now on, I’m good. 

Laura:  There were plenty who were a lot worse than us.

Mom:  Remember when that woman from Seattle came to the table with a big tray of ten desserts, and I thought, “How nice. She’s bringing one for everyone at the table,” and then we found out that they were all for her!”

Laura:  She would have slapped you if you went near her dessert.  People went crazy with the food.

Neil:  Mom said the glaciers weren’t as impressive as in the brochure. 

Mom:  They looked more like rocks with snow on them.

Laura:  Well, it was that time of year.

Neil:  It was funny how on the Princess Cruise website, they show the ship sailing between what look like the icebergs from the Titanic movie.

Mom:  They also never show you the five OTHER cruise ships that are there at the same exact time you are.

Laura:  But it was a lot of fun.  We played some trivial games with some other passengers.  Some never even left the ship!

Elaine:  We loved this train ride up… where was this…?

Laura:  I don’t remember.  It was nice.

Elaine:  And the entertainment was Las Vegas quality.  Maybe not the Belaggio quality, but one of the lesser casinos.

Neil:  Did you see any whales?

Mom:  That was funny.  One day, they said “Whale on the right side,” on the loudspeaker, so everyone ran — and all you could see was a fin.

Neil:  On the website, they show whales jumping out of the water and eating snacks from the hands of the passengers.  Liars.

Laura:  But it was delightful.

Elaine:  It was.  The people of Alaska are very nice.

Neil:  How many Alaskans did you meet?

Elaine:  The tour guides.

Neil:  Do you think the glaciers are smaller now because of global warming?

Laura:  I don’t believe in that Al Gore stuff.

Neil:  Why not?

Laura:  I saw another show where they said it is a natural occurence.  We had an Ice Age once before and now the weather is changing again.

Neil:  What do you think, Mom?

Mom:  I believe in global warming.  Too many cars.  Whenever I go to LA, everyone has three cars.

Laura:  I don’t believe in the whole “green” thing.

Mom:  I do, but some of it — I have to admit — is just plain stupid.

Neil:  Like what?

Mom:  Like they say, “Don’t take the plastic bag at the grocery store.  Take the paper bag.”  Now if I take the paper bag, where am I going to throw my garbage in the kitchen?  The paper bag will just fall apart.  So, then I will end up buying Hefty plastic bags to throw out my garbage, and it’ll be the exact same thing, except before – I could have gotten the plastic bags for free.  Right?

Neil:  You know, you make a good point, Mom.  I don’t know the answer to that question.

Mom:  Why don’t you write THAT on your blog?

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