A few months ago, our information technology department sent an e-mail to everyone in the company saying that Lebhar-Friedman, the parent company of Nation’s Restaurant News, was now a green company as they had developed a little green dingbat — a picture of a tree in front of a lawn and a winding river. We were to paste that dingbat on the bottom of all of our e-mails along with the words “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.”
Our IT department is loaded with bright and capable people, and the statement that developing a dingbat made us green was tongue-in-cheek, I think, but it could have come with great sincerity from any of a number of PR firms, telling me about a new restaurant or company that had changed its light bulbs or was recycling its paper or turning down its thermostats in the winter and was therefore now environmentally sound and worthy of our attention. I get e-mails like that every day. I consider the environment and don’t print them.
It’s 2008. I was born in 1967 and was potty-trained in cloth diapers because my mother didn't want to contribute to disposable diapers clogging landfills. She wouldn’t start the dishwasher if there was still room for a shot-glass in there. Our thermostat in the winter hovered around 58 (we were encouraged to wear sweaters). My parents saved their paper and aluminum and took it to the supermarket the one day a month that recyclable materials were accepted there. That's just the way it was. I was raised to pay attention to the environmental impact of my actions.
My parents were ahead of their time (they still are), but they were hardly revolutionary. Where has everyone been for the past 40 years? A former vice president makes a movie and all of a sudden everyone’s making token gestures. They’re suddenly realizing, now that gasoline is approaching $4 a gallon, that maybe they shouldn’t have been driving those SUVs throughout the 1990s.
Do people really print e-mails without considering the environment? Is our company really green now that we tell everyone else how to behave? Will the addition of that line at the bottom of our e-mails possibly push our messages over the edge of one page, so that if their recipients do decide to go ahead and print them anyway they'll end up printing two pages instead of one?
These thoughts were on my mind yesterday as I landed in San Diego. The National Pork Board’s annual Taste of Elegance is being held here, starting on Sunday. I’m in town a couple of days early, because I’ve never been to San Diego before and it makes sense to check out some of the food here.
As a New Yorker, I can be a smug environmentalist. I can shake a disapproving head at southern Californians and say “I don’t even own a car.”
But of course in New York, I don’t need a car. I have access to the country’s best mass transit system.
But in San Diego I need a car, so I rented a hybrid.
Of course, not driving a car at all is better for the environment than driving a hybrid, so once I arrived at Estancia La Jolla, where I’m staying, I handed the weird non-key starter device to a valet and headed inside, turning off some of the lamps in my room, as well as the machine that was making theoretically calming ocean sounds.
I would have dinner in the hotel.