The Green Triangle

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Last week I went to a conference on climate change, a.k.a. global warming, at San Francisco State, my local university. About 1,000 students, teachers, and community members were there. I now understand that we face a terrible threat from the greenhouse effect created by burning oil, coal, and forests and by raising huge numbers of cattle and pigs.

Actions like these create gases (mostly carbon dioxide and methane, but there are several others) that act like a blanket on a bed or like glass windows on a car. In other words, these gases trap heat from the sun, warming the environment.

The greenhouse effect has always been here and we need it to survive. Otherwise the world would be too cold. But with our burning of fossil fuels and our animal farming, we have created an accelerated greenhouse effect. It’s threatening to get way out of control, which is why the glaciers and ice caps are melting.

But there is some good news in all of this: It turns out that the things we need to do to help the environment are also good for our health and will additionally save us money. This principle is called the Green Triangle.

Get Well and Save the Planet
Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia and other books, first described how Earth-friendly practices tend to be good for us and save money. For example, hanging clothes out to dry instead of machine drying saves money, saves energy, and gets you some good exercise (as well as being better for the clothes). Taking public transportation, biking, or walking instead of driving produces fewer greenhouse gases, uses less oil, is less stressful, is cheaper, gives you more exercise, and might even get you some social contact.

This concept works for almost everything. Grain-fed cattle are raised on massive feedlots and generate tons of methane. They are also fattier than grass-fed cattle and their meat is therefore worse for your arteries. So eating less meat and milk from grain-fed cattle is both healthier and better for the environment.

Of course, vegetarianism is also cheaper and can be even healthier if you get enough protein. (See Amy Campbell’s blog entries on vegetarianism and diabetes, starting with “Vegetarianism and Diabetes: Do the Two Mix? [Part 1].”)

You can apply the Green Triangle to your diabetes self-management, too. Exercise is free, green, and healthy. Buying a fast-food burger, on the other hand, supports a production chain that pollutes and damages the environment all the way from beginning to end. Also, preventing complications is a lot less expensive than treating them, and the treatments probably cause pollution.

A Social Triangle
Callenbach says the reason the Green Triangle works is that doing things with other people is cheaper, more fun, and better for you than doing things on your own. For instance, carpooling with friends for a game night is better for the environment, costs less, and provides more social contact than driving by yourself to a movie (where you will have to spend money and won’t get the social support).

Can you think of other examples where the Green Triangle works? Leave a comment here. And check out this Web site (or many others) for eco-friendly living ideas.

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