02 February 2009

Higher Efficiency is not Sustainability

I hope this is not too off-subject or obtuse, but I think there is an important point to be made about striving to be "green" through better technology:
...while the products are getting better, we’re still using more energy and other resources in order to use those products... we’re going further in the hole all the time.

...Driving a car that is 10% more efficient uses the same amount of gas as driving 10% less. The yellow line on the graph shows the effect of the increased efficiency. The dilemma is obvious: even though the increased efficiency makes a big impact, the line is still rising, which means we’ll still be burning more gas.

...ask 20 friends how many miles they drive each year. Then, ask them each to tell you, out of all those miles, how many of them they drive because they want to, and how many they drive because they have to. I suspect that most people will tell you they drive a lot more miles because they have to rather than because they want to.

Doing something because we have to reduces our freedom, because we don't have a choice. Doing something because we want to is one good definition of freedom. Living in a place where you can get to all the daily necessities of life by walking, biking or driving gives you much more freedom than living in a place where your only choice is driving. - Steve Mouzon, The Original Green


Fifteenth and Vine said...

Great post. The issues of efficiency and sustainability too often are dumbed down. We can't consume our way out of this crisis.

Randy Simes said...

Very true...'green washing' nowadays has taken over and I think many people are missing the point on what it means to be truly sustainable.

hellogerard said...

I've thought this before. Even if a new shirt for your house is green, do you really need to buy another trinket?

The notion of choice is interesting. I rarely drive on the highway, so sometimes I just do it for fun. I always thought that was weird, but according to this post, maybe it's a good sign.

Tim McDonald said...

Valid point, but we shouldn't overlook the importance of efficiency. We need both conservation and efficiency to achieve sustainability. Education about both sides of the coin is critical.

Charlie Green said...

Great post. Efficiency is a good first step, in part because greater efficiency does lead to smarter use. But that distinction between efficiency and sustainability is crucial.