What moron said that knowledge is power? Knowledge is power only if it doesn't depress you so much that it leaves you in an immobile heap at the end of your bed.
I've been reading again -- big mistake. I just finished a book called Sustaining the Earth: Choosing Consumer Products That Are Safe for You, Your Family, and the Earth, by Debra Dadd-Redalia. In 330 pages she says that there are very few products that are environmentally pure, except some sneakers (Eco Sneaks) and some safe, sustainable barbecue briquettes (Barbecube Fruit Wood Briquets). Of course, if the sneakers come to you gift-wrapped, or if you actually use the briquettes to barbecue anything, the earth is again in peril.
I used to think I was living fairly environmentally soundly. I write on the back of any paper that comes my way. I tear the windows out of business envelopes before recycling them. I bring my used soda cans home from hotel rooms because I don't trust the hotel staff to recycle them. I walk my foster daughter to school every day. I rinse and reuse Ziploc bags. I have low-flow toilets (which are the ultimate sacrifice because they require frequent plunging, and the threat of overflow means one can never really be at peace). I have a compost pile for lawn clippings, food scraps, and bunny waste, which I water with buckets of shower water I collect while waiting for the water to get hot.
Still, if the guy driving the UPS truck that delivers my recycled toilet paper stops off for some to-go food in a Styrofoam container, the scales are tipped right back toward disaster.
Things we use that can't go back to the earth to be used again have a finite availability and so, in turn, do we. It's as simple as that. Faced with such an overwhelming concept, I have to guard against just giving up and becoming completely cynical. I confess that when I first read that smog is particularly hazardous to children, senior citizens, and physically active people, for a brief moment I thought, "I'm in the clear for at least 10 more years."
I used to use Shopping for a Better World by the Council on Economic Priorities for my responsible consumer needs. It rates companies with an A, C, or F on their environmental impact, their record on hiring women and minorities, and their willingness to disclose that information to the public. So, for example, there's Chevron with an F in the environment category but a B under minorities and an A under the disclosure heading. It seems to me that if a company is destroying the earth, the fact that they're including minorities in their pillaging and are willing to tell us they're doing it should be little comfort. It's like forgiving an ax murderer who is nice to children.