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An Apology to Mother Earth

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Warning to readers who consider themselves environmentalists: This issue of American Demographics may cause serious guilt pangs. I thought I was living a fairly Earth-conscious existence: I recycle; I eat organic; I'm a member of the Nature Conservancy and The National Wildlife Federation. In fact, there isn't a light source in my house that doesn't sport a low-energy fluorescent bulb.

But after reading Associate Editor David Lipke's feature about eco-friendly homes, I think I owe Mother Earth an apology. When my husband and I bought our first home two years ago, we didn't pause to consider whether the wood used in construction for framing, hardwood floors, and our super large deck came from a forest managed in an ecologically-sound manner. In fact, for all the hundreds of questions we had for our builder, realtor, and mortgage consultant, it never occurred to us to ask if our new home was environmentally friendly. As Lipke points out, most house hunters don't know enough about the subject to ask the right questions. I know we didn't.

Since my largest purchase to date wasn't environmentally friendly, I wonder if I can still qualify as a "light green" consumer. In "Saving the Earth, One Click at a Time" Associate Editor Rebecca Gardyn reveals that a new segment of consumers show their environmental activism through one of my most favorite guilt-eradicators: shopping. Gardyn states that just 6 percent of light green consumers regularly donate time to environmental causes, but 90 percent buy green products at least occasionally. Because light greens are Internet savvy, e-tailers are paying attention.

But perhaps a guilt-assuaging shopping trip in cyberspace isn't necessary after all. I was redeemed after reading "Green Cars," by Dale Buss, a new contributor to American Demographics. That's because I just signed a lease on a 2001 silver Toyota Prius, braving a four-month wait before I could sink into the seat of my very low emissions car. The decision to go with the Prius wasn't easy. The Prius isn't a car for hedonists - there are no options available. For the price, I could have gotten a car of the same size, fully loaded, with leather seats, power everything, and even a sun roof. But I settled for cloth and manual seats, and picked the environment over luxury. Now, as I motor around suburbia, to my ecologically-disastrous home, I can roll the windows down, knowing that at least when I'm driving, I'm doing my part to keep the air breathable.

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