Original Kermit the Frog Photo By adamfarnsworth“It’s not easy being green”, or so a famous frog puppet once asserted. Perhaps that statement could be reshaped today to read “it ain’t easy understanding just what the heck ‘green’ precisely means in a more environmentally aware society”. In our modern world, terms like “green” and “organic” are sometimes tossed around like any “It” word of the day. They have been uttered so often and written about so much that they somehow they tend to lose meaning in the hustle and bustle of day to day life.

In the 80′s something that was “bad” was suddenly “good”. In the 90′s “Phat” no longer referred only to the girth of one’s waistline, but to the amount of coolness a person or object possessed. Each new bit of jargon caused the mass confusion of parents world wide. Are “green” and “organic” contemporary examples of vernacular that leave not only moms and dads scratching their heads, but also saddle young and old alike with the question, just what does it mean to be green?

Earth (my favorite planet) Photo By woodleywonderworksWe as a society are lead to believe that by purchasing something that is labeled “green” or “organic” that we are somehow doing something good, or “bad” for you children of the 1980′s, without perhaps thinking about the meaning behind the terms. It can not be denied that these words can be used as advertising ploys, as environmentalism has become a hot issue, surely some greedy people and companies will use that trend to their advantage. Slapping a buzz word on to a product in an effort to cash in on its trendiness is not a new practice in consumerism. Only few years back, as Atkins diet mania hit entered the publics collective consciousness, a “carb-free” label meant sudden financial success for an array of barely edible products.

Appleofmyeye Photo By Bludgeoner86So if Green no longer just refers to the color of money, or popular fictional frogs with a penchant for dating pigs, then what does it mean? My own understanding is that for something to be Green, it should exemplify both social and environmental consciousness in action. This is not to say that my understanding is completely correct. There are still the seemingly unanswerable questions, such as what if somethings production is good for the earth but bad for the people producing the product? Or vice versa? Is the environmentally sound option always the most socially aware choice? Is it always worth shelling out extra money for organic food when one can not always be certain what “organic” means, let alone if the product at hand is actually organic? For a person with a fair amount of Catholic guilt, this endless stream of moral queries can become maddening, trust me.

Stacks of books, Seattle, Washington, USA Photo By WonderlanePerhaps the only truth is that life is not easy. Even things that are supposed to be made simpler by the advent of such modern conveniences, such as grocery stores and online shopping, are not as easy as they appear to be on the surface. Of course, they can be simple, one can thoughtlessly buy things and only think of the immediate results, and let’s be honest, most people make purchases or perform actions based on immediate gratification from time to time, and I for one am not here to judge you for things I am myself guilty of. Maybe we should look at the Green movement as a reminder- a reminder to not be lazy just because it is an option, a reminder that sometimes research is required in making our own informed decisions, a reminder to not blindly trust simplistic labels to make our decisions for us, and a reminder that we, like Mr. Kemit the frog himself, must accept that it is not always easy being Green, but most worthwhile things in this life tend not to be effortless.

Necessity is often said to be the mother of all invention, but is it perhaps also the driving force behind adaptability?

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse”, three little words that have become the battle cry of the Green-minded set, have been reinforced in recent times by the plain and simple necessity that comes with living through trying economic times. Over the past months, as stocks were plummeting and jobs were steadily disappearing, the amount of garbage produced by the normally consumer crazy American public was following suit. By some estimates, the amount of waste inundating our landfills has decreased by as much 30 percent.

Blue Marble (Planet Earth) Photo By woodleywonderworkBetween vanishing 401Ks and the dwindling job market it is hard for even the most optimistic among us to not feel a little hopeless on occasion. While living life in the lean lane does not necessarily mean grabbing a shovel and burying our family valuables in the backyard, it does mean that people are adjusting the way in which they live on the most fundamental of levels. People who may have never given much thought to where their abundance of belongings came from, let alone where it went to after they disposed of it, are now forced to consider the realties of our sometimes disposable society. Slowly but surely, frugality has birthed a new, more green minded nation.

Pre-recession you may have tossed that aging Milli-Vanilli poster out of the window of a moving Hummer. Post-recession you is much more considerate of the plight of mother earth, so you reuse that classic poster as lining for the cabinets in your kitchen! No worries, photos of this lip syncing duo will do nothing to tarnish the street cred of your dishware.

Pre-Recession you tossed that empty cola can in a river overflowing with salmon, while post-recession you rinses that can out and redeem it for the nickel deposit! Score! Both for your wallet and those cute fish!

Pre-Recession you would buy six motorcycles at a time, in an effort to let your friends know that you are in fact cooler than both James Dean and The Fonz combined. Post-recession you peruses pictures of the cast of Happy Days on the internet at your local library. Hey, it is a recession, not everything is gonna be unicorns, rainbows and Harleys!

Its Future is in our Hands - Live Earth Photo By aussiegallMother nature enthusiasts may have preferred for these considerations towards the environment to have been adopted by the masses for reasons other than frugality, but ultimately this new found environmentalism is good news for the planet. The more people who live conscientiously, for whatever reason, the better. Lessons learned out of necessity are hopefully not as disposable as the society in which we belong tends to be. When this recession becomes past sense (fingers firmly crossed), perhaps the newly learned, Earth healthy habits adopted by so many won’t soon be forgotten.

4th of July Fireworks Photo By deltaMikeIn honor of the upcoming Nation’s Birthday: the 4th of July we thought we would highlight a great feature on Green and not-so-Green Presidents. The Daily Green wrote a couple articles a while back : 10 Greenest Presidents and Presidents with the Worst Environmental Records. Both these articles highlight the Presidents who have given the most to the Green movement and those who have done the least. In order to rate the Presidents, the Daily Green has identified those that have done either the most or least amount of work with environmental policy and protection. Of course it is hard to compare all the Presidents as obviously America has gone through massive change and evolution. However, these lists highlight some of the greatest, well and worst environmental Presidents.

Seal of the President of the United States Photo By JoshBerglund19Its always good to start with the positive, so we want to feature some of our favorite Green Presidents and highlight what they were able to accomplish in their term. The Daily Green’s list, as we mentioned above, contained the Top 10. We will feature four of the Greenest Presidents, but to get the full list, check out their feature.

1) Teddy Roosevelt: He is often thought of as one of the forefront environmentalists, as far as Presidents go. In his time in office he was constantly pushing Congress for environmental protection, including setting aside 150 million acres timberland and turning it into public domain. He also was able to create 50 wildlife refuges and 5 National Parks and initiated the US Forest Service.

2) Jimmy Carter: Carter was wise beyond his years and definitely ahead of his time, as he not only instituted Green Acts, but he lived by example. For instance he installed solar panels on the roof of the White House and kept the Thermostat at 68. He created the Department of Energy which he hoped would create National use of alternative fuels.  Also, he signed into law several acts such as Soil and Water Conservation Act, Endangered American Wilderness Act, and Superfund Act.

3) Richard Nixon: Although being most infamously known for his role in the Watergate scandal and his bombing of Cambodia, Nixon is also known for some great Green moves. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act. During his Presidency he signed several eco-acts including the Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Ocean Dumping Act.

4) Woodrow Wilson: Wilson may not have accomplished as much in the Green world as the previous people on this list, however, the Green items he did complete are incredibly important. In 1916, he founded the National Park Service, which is incredibly treasured throughout the US. Also, he pushed forward the Smith-Lever Act of 1914.

Other Presidents on the Top Greenest Presidents list included Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Franklin D Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon B Johnson, and John F Kennedy.

And as many great eco-friendly Presidents that have come through history, there are some equally as terribly green Presidents. These Presidents have chosen to either ignore environmental policy or have left a path of destruction. The following are only four we have chosen to highlight from the Presidents With the Worst Environmental Records. To see the full list, check it out here.

1)  Dwight D Eisenhower: Eisenhower’s Presidency begun during the Post World War II Era. And with that era brought expansion to the suburbs. Eisenhower actually really promoted the move to the suburbs and he constructed many projects that lead to the Interstate Highway System and funding and energy moved away from mass transit. From these movements suburban sprawl and car culture really took form.

2) Ulysses S. Grant: Although Grant was able to make Yellowstone the first National Park, he has huge black mark on his record. This mark is the 1872 Mining Law, which changed  how mining worked. With this law large scale and destructive mining begun on public land with no payback to the taxpayer. This Law is still being fought by Environmentalists today and causes many battles.

3) Ronald Reagan: More than any other Administration in history, Reagan gave leases to oil, coal, and gas development on National lands. Reagan appointed anti-environmental leaders to head the EPA and Department of the Interior which caused such laws as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to be rolled back. He also scaled back Carter’s CAFE standards for gas mileage and slashed funding for alternative energy. Furthermore, he once famously or infamously said  “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

4) George W. Bush: This probably comes as no surprise to anyone: that Bush makes this list. It is well known at this point that the Bush administration is known for their denial of Global Warming and their refusal to fund alternative energy. Bush has huge ties to the Oil Industry and under his terms, they reaped the highest income ever. On top of this he scaled back laws protecting air and water pollution, opened the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for drilling, pushed logging, and promoted mountain top coal mining. Possibly the worst impact he had was on his denial of Climate Change and the setbacks he caused to the country.

Others that made the worst list include: William McKinley, Richard Nixon (although he appears on the Green List), Andrew Jackson, Herbert Hoover, and Warren Harding.

Windmills at Middelgrunden Photo By andjohanThis lists should serve as not only a lesson to future politicians, but a great way to get to know the history of the Green movement. Its a glimpse at how politicians, specifically Presidents, have shaped the Nation’s environmental policy. So let this be an eye opener for Obama (after all who wants to be on any worst list) and to us as a nation. The environment is a precious thing, and we need to remember to treat it kindly. So this 4th of July, while you are drinking beer and watching the fireworks, take time to reflect on the environment.

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