Green Tuesday: When Less is More

Last week I started what will hopefully be a regular occurrence: the Green Tuesday post. It is good to know that there is a wealth of information out in the web-o-sphere and it would take a long time to sift through it all. In the meantime, I will continue to come across some really neat stuff.

A lot of the fuss being made over “green living” these days involves one paradoxical element: consumption. Green cars, green fashion, green home products – a lot of the “green” trend is simply advertising and marketing that is trying to sell you the trendiest product, or the trendiest way to carry your product (designer shopping bags, anyone?…come on!).

While many efforts have been made in the means of ecologically sustainable or less-ecologically destructive production methods, almost anything you buy at the store (and yes, that includes your LBS) had to be produced somewhere and somehow.

video homework
If you have the time on your hands, I highly recommend watching a short film (20 minutes) that has recently been making it’s way around the internet – the film is called the Story of Stuff and it examines modern production methods, from raw materials to production to distribution to consumption to disposal. The production and presentation of this film are really neat – with elaborate illustrations and a friendly presentation style. It is a very eye-opening and intriguing examination of western material production and consumption. If you don’t happen to have 20 free minutes, first of all, thanks for spending your precious time on this site, and secondly, here are some key stats from the film:

  • In the past 3 decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed
  • Forty percent of waterways in the US have become undrinkable
  • The US has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste
  • The average America now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago
  • National happiness in America peaked around the 1950s

I do not intend to be an alarmist, or scare everyone into thinking the world will end soon. But I strongly feel that our habits of consumption are in great need of change.

when less is more
I will admit that I love bikes, and I just don’t feel that I can get enough of them. Thankfully, bikes and their toys are not as sizable or production-intensive as other transport vehicles (read: Hummer H2), but they still require raw materials and energy to be produced.

One topic that came up in response to last week’s post was the local bike co-op. Bike co-ops are member-owned, not-for-profit organizations that have one sole purpose: get as many people on safe bikes as possible. The means through which they do this vary, but most will include educational opportunities about bike maintenance, as well as free use of tools to work on your own bikes. Most will take donations of used parts, and sell these to cover operating costs. All in all, a bike co-op is a place where people come together to learn from and teach each other about bikes, maintaining them, and safely riding them (depending on how many hipster kids go there to find old road frames for a fixie conversion).

I have yet to find a web resource that highlights bike co-ops in various places, but chances are (if you live in a sizable city), there is one nearby. Ask around at your LBS – maybe they know.

The point is: there are tons of used bike parts floating around in our cities, and you can find lots of useful pieces in a local co-op, which is simply a method of “recycling.” I encourage you to explore your local co-op and be more aware of our consumer habits as cyclists. Just because we may not drive a car, doesn’t mean that our actions do not have an impact.

extra credit
If you find yourself intrigued, and want to learn more, there is a plethora of resources on the web to guide you in your quest to live a more environmentally friendly/sustainable life. While a list that provides the best sites to visit would stretch way too long, I will leave you with my 3 favorite websites:

  • – CoolPeopleCare exists to show you how to change the world in whatever time you have. One minute? Five minutes? An entire day? Whatever you have, they’ll help you spend it wisely. In my mind, it is the epitome of community service.
  • No Impact Man – Last year, Colin Beaven aka No Impact Man, committed he and his family (wife and 4-year-old daughter) to live a “no impact” life while living in Manhattan. This meant no electricity, no buying new products, and many other things. The tales from the year are incredible, and crazy. That year is over, and Colin and his family are now exploring how to remodel their lives. Today’s post was brilliant and quite inspirational.
  • The Good Human – The Good Human was born out of one man’s idea for a website that can encourage people to be better humans…whether through working to clean up the environment, being active in political issues that mean a lot to you or just being more aware of your life and surroundings. From a post today:

When you carry out your trash at home on the next collection day, you’ll be sending more trash to landfills than the entire Subaru manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana.

Again, in no way is trying to tell you how to live your life. We merely report on the things we like or find important.

It’s easy to get sucked into the “green is better” frenzy, but being more eco-friendly is definitely a good idea. Hemp is a great renewable resource that creates strong, durable products, like hemp clothing and jewelry. You don’t have to be a member of the “drug test crowd” to benefit from hemp, either – hemp is an amazing family- and earth-friendly resource.


  1. Chris Moran

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Noah

    Although I’m certainly not one to label myself an environmentalist, this is one reason why I tell people to look at used bikes for sale at their LBS but a bike co-op has many of the same bene’s. You keep old frames out of the landfills, help support your local bike shop (which is more often than not an independent operation), and usually end up with a decent bike that’s tuned up and ready to roll for a fraction of the price of a new one.

    I’m also right there with you on the reusable canvas bags. I use a decade-old duffel bag for my grocery getting. Then there’s the rest of the green consumerism frenzy. Don’t even get me started on the woes of manufacturing a hybrid gas/electric car…

    Great points.

  3. Noah

    Oh yeah. And that announcer lady needs to learn about buying bleeding-edge motherboard/CPU combinations so that she can upgrade the CPU a time or two before the next technology shift. Desktops from the big names are all modular and always have been. Moron.

    </nerd rant>

  4. David

    on the subject of bike co-op, Los angeles is blessed to have several.

    I’ve only been to the bikerowave, a great place in santa monica. There are plenty of donated bikes around, but they don’t quite have the man power to recycle bikes for sale. They exist for spare parts or as project bikes for the mechanically inclined. Great place to hang out and learn wrenching skills.

  5. Lance

    Great stuff Jeff. People are finally starting to open their eyes to this stuff but not nearly enough. Coincidence that we’re the most car driven(no pun intended) nation in the world? I think not.

  6. Jeff the Veloteer

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone. I have always heard about the Bike Oven in LA, and I just thought that was THE coolest name! I think my ultimate job would be to open up a bike co-op/deli/coffee shop/used book store…man that would be heaven.

    Noah, while I must admit my ignorance to your nerd rant (but glad you put it out there 🙂 ), I am right there with you on hybrid production, among other things. I got some free canvas bags from a company conference last year, and while they still had to be made, at least I could put them to good use afterwards, AND not have to buy a new one that’s all trendy looking. When I go to the more “hippy” grocery stores (like Trader Joe’s or Sprouts), the clerks say “thanks” for bringing my own bags – if I go to Safeway, they ask me which aisle I got them from…

  7. Noah

    I’m fortunate that all four grocery stores within 2 miles of my place actually give me a credit of $0.05 per reusable bag I bring in, and they count my panniers as two even though it’s one piece stitched together.

    People assume grocery sacks are free, but they still cost the grocers. The price of the shopping bags is built into the price of what they sell, same as the cost of paying employees, etc.

    I will admit that I do intentionally get plastic grocery sacks on occasion. They’re great for making my clothes and gadgets water resistant within my panniers or backpack on a rainy day. They’re also good for lining small bathroom trash bins. That said, I only get plastic bags because I intend to put them to some other use later on.

    As far as the computer rant… Her saying that upgrading the processor to a faster one requires going out and getting a new computer is as inaccurate. You might need more parts than just the faster chip, but computers are as modular as bicycles are. If you want to upgrade to a 10-speed cassette on your STI-Equipped road bike, you might need a narrower chain, new shifter and maybe a new RD, but not a new bike.

  8. Ghost Rider

    Here’s an odd one for you regarding reusable shopping bags:

    At the grocery stores here in Tampa, there is not only a display of branded canvas shopping bags at each cashier, but there is also an electronic message at each terminal : “Save a bag – use reusable bags!”

    My wife and I have a huge collection of bags and baskets we use, and invariably the cashier and bagger both ask “what do you want us to do with these?” as if we’ve offended them somehow by bringing our own bags. Or, they’ll try to wrap groceries in plastic BEFORE putting them in the canvas bags — they are just not getting it!

    By the way, reusable bags make a great (and inexpensive) impromptu Christmas or birthday gift. I think more people would use such things if they were presented with their own set!

  9. r.

    We have a store chain in Memphis that charges extra for bags: 10 cents for plastic and 5 cents for paper. I believe they let you use all the empty cardboard boxes for free. I usually bring my own canvas bags or homemade plastic bags since they’re sturdier.

    If y’all are into crafts you can check out the Make Magazine podcast on homemade messenger bags. I think this blog did a story on homemade messenger bags before and it’s the same process to make your Target bags into grocery getters.

    Memphis also has a really awesome coop called Revolutions (
    They’re very sustainable and try to recycle all the parts or metal that aren’t usable anymore.

    I’m glad to see this post and I hope more folks out there will learn to reduce instead of consuming so much. I truly do agree that less is more.

  10. Jett

    Thanks for helping me decide what to do with an old steel Schwinn I inherited. The frame is too small for me, but should play well at Atlanta’s Sopo Bicycle Co-op.

    Some of the cashiers at the grocery store I frequent now understand panniers, but it’s been a slow education process. Let’s give more lessons!

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