Baby Steps

from mgessford, via Flickr Creative Commons

I am an animal trainer at heart, and I understand that rewarding companies (with my money) for “baby steps” — tiny movements in the directions I consider “right” — will eventually cause them to take larger steps in those “right” directions.  With that in mind, I gravitate towards things labeled “green”, even if those things are only partly green, or even, as I sometimes find, only faintly greenish.

The pen I bought last night might be the most sideways baby step I’ve seen in a bit.  It annoys me, because the big print (of course) says “BIODEGRADABLE PEN!!  SAVE THE EARTH!  ECO-FRIENDLY!!” and then the tiny print, on the back of the carton, indicates that only “most of” the pen (i.e., the actual body of the pen) is biodegradable.  The ink cartridge, the tip, the spring, and the finger cushion are not biodegradable and go in the trash.  In addition, the “biodegradable” parts of the pen are only biodegradable under certain circumstances.  They will not biodegrade in a landfill — you have to take the pen apart, take the biodegradable bits out and bury them in your yard.

In their defense, the pen company does say on the carton that the pen isn’t all biodegradable.  They even have friendly animations on their web site demonstrating how to disassemble the pen and make sure that the bits which can biodegrade are disposed of appropriately.  (And, of course, if I were really eco-friendly myself, I would have a compost bin to put the pen parts in.  Glass houses, etc.)  In any event, I did actually buy the pen, because it is a baby step in the right direction.  If enough people vote with their wallets, perhaps the company’s next “green” pen will be 70% biodegradable, and their next will be 85% biodegradable.

The whole mess just reminded me of having to look on the back of every product, follow every asterisk, and make sure that “cage free” means “living on grass pasture” and not “packed shoulder to shoulder in an open plan barn”, and that “natural flavors” is not a euphemism for “crushed beetles“.  Sometimes it’s really hard to be earth- and animal-friendly, but, well, we’re all taking baby steps.

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