Making good guilt-free choices

From my Coast Reporter column, Flip of the Coin. One of my favourites. The feedback I got in the community from this little column was great!

In this day and age, we are bombarded by messages of what is and is not good for us. Vigorous debates have ensued over such matters, ranging from the food we buy to the car we drive to the type of activities we engage in.

One person will say stay away from red meat while another will proclaim the dangers of soy products.

A glass of red wine a day is good for you, but what about the pesticides sprayed on the grapes before they were picked, crushed and liquefied? What kind of labour was employed to pick them? And don’t forget the transport of the bottle. If it was shipped from the Okanagan, you might get some Brownie points, but if it was Australia, France or Chile, you just contributed to some pretty major greenhouse gas emissions.

I try my best to stay aware and do what I can to be healthy, both personally and ecologically. I make an effort to buy local, organic produce when available, and try to avoid processed food with its ridiculous over-packaging. I also unplug all my appliances when not in use and make an effort to leave my car at home when I can.

My co-workers will endearingly razz me for my ways, whether it’s for saying I only buy cage-free eggs, don’t own a microwave and avoid most seafood due to poor harvesting methods. I got some extra special razzing after I said I had not eaten a McDonald’s meal in almost 13 years.

The razzing is in good fun and I get it. My choices may seem extreme at times, but I often feel I am not extreme enough.

After watching a documentary on the commercial chocolate trade, I felt terrible about the near slave-like labour used to produce cocoa for processing the chocolate products I occasionally indulge in.

I later saw some photographs of the Alberta tar sands, and the images of people drilling for a highly coveted yet limited resource really stuck with me. By the end of the week, I ended up in a quagmire of consumer and energy-user guilt, nearly shedding tears over the paper coffee cup I held in my hand. Is everything really bad for me and bad for the environment?

The answer is probably yes, unfortunately, but let’s be realistic. It is nearly impossible to be perfect with every choice in life.

At some of the recent council meetings I’ve covered, there has been quite a bit of dialogue surrounding smart meters. Apprehension surrounding WiFi transmission has been expressed, and councillors have asked for further studies to be done on potential health risks.

I applaud the concern local governments have for the well-being of their constituents, but after conducting research into how minimal a health risk the meters pose, I wondered if councillors would also question the health risks from talking on their cell phones, heating food in their microwaves and using wireless laptops or tablets. Is the coffee served at meetings organic and fair trade with few greenhouse gases used in its transport?

Questions and concerns about consumption are important and should always be encouraged. The western world has proven this through epidemic obesity and cancer rates. Our energy consumption needs examination, too. Air conditioners, fuel, packaging — it all goes hand in hand.

As clichéd as it may sound, everything in moderation is probably the best way to go. Buy local when you can. Ditch the car and get on a bike, even if it’s one day a week. Don’t talk on your cell phone for too long. And certainly don’t spend the day hugging your future smart meter. Light some candles, have a relatively guilt-free glass of Okanagan wine, and toast to the good consumer decisions you just made.

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