Tesco Environmentalism – every little helps

I can’t stand it any more. Yesterday some tosh in the Guardian about whether Christmas lights are green enough. Today some silly post on Treehugger about a huge tower in which a few trees will be planted, as though this will make it ‘green’.

It’s the ‘every little helps’ school of environmentalism, or Tesco environmentalism as I call. The thing to remember about Tesco’s slogan ‘ever little helps’ is that while Tesco gives you a few special offers, they are still screwing you over. And so it is with Tesco environmentalism. It doesn’t matter how many light bulbs you change or how many extra trees you plant in cities. Our vehicles still run on oil, and most of what we buy is still shipped across the world, and we still waste a vast percentage of energy we produce because no one cares enough to force real energy efficiency on industry or construction companies.

Tesco environmentalists argue that these small changes to our consumption patterns help raise awareness of environmental issues, but that’s because they hang around with other ‘green’ people and feel smug about how many people agree with them. If they talked to people outside their little circles they’d realise that these silly ideas make environmentalism a laughing stock. How can people take you seriously if you’re obsessing about whether or not to have Christmas lights while outside your house plumes of carbon dioxide rise up from the road?

I once went on a short training course where a true die-hard collected all the 20 or so teabags we used in a little box so she could take them home and put them on her compost. I’m afraid I didn’t admire her for it. I just thought ‘What a waste of your energy’.

No one has infinite energy, and that includes eco-warriors, so what they choose to do with that energy matters. Worrying about Christmas lights is just not worth it. Not while the whole city you live in is lit up, night after night, by streetlights and adverts and empty offices. Compared to the real environmental issues around how we live, Christmas lights just don’t matter. Worrying about them only makes you look like some kind of self-denying monk who can’t see that no-one cares about his self-denial. It puts people off environmentalism and I can’t say I blame people for being put off.

Added to that of course is the little problem that if most people want to buy eco-friendly Christmas lights, they’ll probably get in the car, drive to Tesco (have you noticed how many supermarkets leave their lights on all night?) and buy some LED lights that were shipped from China, where they were made in a factory fueled by China’s coal, probably in some highly polluting process that no one is allowed to talk about. Another reason to call it Tesco environmentalism.

‘Every little helps,’ I hear someone say. Well, it’s sort of true and sort of not. Tesco still shafts you, and the global environment is still being fucked. Every little helps, but not so as you’d notice, and not so as the climate will notice.

The one good thing about the slightly mad teabag lady was that I knew she was living a genuinely green lifestyle and didn’t shop at Tesco. Her obsession was at least consistent. Most Tesco environmentalists can’t even achieve that, and people know this. They look at such people and see people worrying about raindrops overfilling a bucket – while the bucket sits under a running tap. What a bunch of idiots, they think.

And they are right.


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