Eco Fear: Don’t Be Afraid To Live Green

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I recently wrote about Eco Guilt, the idea that you are not doing enough and that you feel you must do more to live a green lifestyle. As if that weren’t a big enough burden, Eco Fear also haunts us.

News reporting is based on what sells, not what may be real or the most important issues of the day. Sensationalism and shock value rule! People live in fear because of that, but, hey, it sells advertising.

Green Lifestyles: not to be ruled, or ruled out, by spurious reporting

The latest thing I read was that Consumer Reports did a study and concluded that rice contains high levels of arsenic. There was no mention of negative health effects, just lab results that arsenic levels were high.

One account said even organic rice is grown in old cotton fields, so the plants are sucking up the arsenic from the soil. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed cash crops, so it makes sense to me that this is possible, but I only read that in one place. This idea was not in every article, most of which were all simply repeating what was in the report.

Another article about rice and arsenic said that arsenic is naturally occurring in rice, especially brown rice, which means it is in the shell of the grain. White rice seems to have less arsenic. Nothing was said about organic rice, but the point was to avoid brown rice. Now, we’ve been told for years that brown rice is more nutritious, because of the shell!

Others said to avoid rice and rice products altogether to avoid ingesting arsenic. The media was big on sensationalism and short on analysis and in-depth reporting. Besides, this is non-news. It has been known for decades that rice contains arsenic, but just now someone decided to pick up on that one tidbit and run with it. I saw a tweet saying ‘I have to give up my organic rice now!’ Wow. It sounded like that person did no homework. Instead, s/he read the headline and made a deduction that all rice is poison.

I think this is the most balanced reporting on the rice/arsenic issue. It should alleviate fear and give you a more holistic picture.

The next thing I read was that recycled toilet paper is not good for you and that you should use paper (all paper products) made of virgin trees. The premise is that recycled paper may contain receipts that contain BPA, which allegedly lingers after recycling. Cut down trees! Don’t use recycled paper! Stay safe! Another blogger did not do their homework, but instilled fear among their readers.

When I googled this topic, I found that this is not new news, either, but most reports did not thoroughly examine the issue. Some said to curtail your paper use and use recycled when necessary, and some said to avoid receipts. The Huffington Post is the only piece that showed a more balanced and detailed picture, instead of instilling fear or avoiding the real issue.

Green living and critical thinking

When you read something that seems extreme, Google it! Dig until you have a sensible, reliable answer. I think it’s sad that the media has to sensationalize green news. Green living should be wholesome and healthy, and scare tactics do not naturally fit into it. It’s a paradox to see fear and/or ignorance in something as honest as green living. So instead of jumping on a bandwagon or skimming headlines, do some homework and find out if this is honest reporting or a crumb of a big issue that someone is blowing up for the sake of gaining readers.

I’m tired of reading fear-based articles. We should not live in fear of not being eco-friendly, whether it is carpooling, eating rice, buying second hand clothes or wiping our butts. Fear and clean living do not go hand in hand.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.