Kingfisher in a Can or Kingfisher in a Bottle: the Perils of Personal Responsibilty
It's been a busy week down at the dhaba. Since Facebook hosted our "virtual launch" on Tuesday, we've had close to three hundred customers according to the fellows over at Google Analytics. Small potatoes, but we had to start somewhere. Thanks to everyone who's posted or otherwise passed on our link.
While we're on that subject, someone must have given us a big shout-out in the Great White North, because a bus load of nearly 50 Canadian eco-tourists stopped by the dhaba on Wednesday! I suspect the good people over at the Dogwood Initiative might have had something to do with that. There are lot of serious struggles going on in Canada these days, and we promise to look at those issues more carefully in upcoming posts. A special thanks also to Known Turf and the Plastic Graduate for their blog plugs.
Twitterwas a bust--instead of tweeting, I think the guys and I will try spending a rush hour or two on the Moolchand flyover next week holding a www.greenlightdhaba.org sign. While standing in real traffic might not not generate a lot of web traffic, I bet it would beat tweeting in the dark!
I promised some dirt on Shah Rukh Khan--and I don't want to let you down. But SRK's not going anywhere, and more pressing matters have presented themselves: climate change is not only threatening to undermine our nation's food and water supplies, as we suggested last week--it may be endangering the world's supply of wine and beer! Just the other day, an article in the New Scientist said that climate change might undermine the quality of European beer! Czech pilsners are particularly in peril. And as if that weren't enough, the New York Times cited a new report which finds global warming may have a "critical effect" on high quality wines. These stories have had the environmental sector of twitter space buzzing nervously for days.
Here in Delhi, as we navigate our way through the crowd of guys waving 50 or 100 rupee notes
at the counter of our local Wine-Beer shop, most of us aren't thinking about the expensive imported wines--or even the Czech pilsners. If we aren't feeling like hard liquor, it's most likely a cold beer we are after. Personally, I like Kingfisher Extra Strong. The only question I have to answer when I reach the front of the line is: can or bottle? I've never been able to taste the difference between the two, so I've always chosen bottles over cans. The bottle gives a slightly better value for the money, and I've always assumed it was the more environmentally friendly choice.
I did some research on this question, "just for fun". I found that there is a columnist at Slate Magazine, who gets paid to think about these kind of things in more detail than you can imagine. He actually looked at the can/bottle question, and he explains his findings here.
As it turns out, I was right--the bottle of Kingfisher is better. Why? Because we do such a good job of recycling/reusing bottles in India (thank you, kabaadi walla), and because Kingfisher is brewed and bottled in plants near Delhi, as I learned on page 58 of this 462 page document. Glass is much better than aluminum in that scenario because aluminum mining and smelting is dirty and energy intensive. However, aluminum is better if your beer comes from a very long distance away, because aluminum is so much lighter than glass and thus takes much less energy to ship. So if you ARE drinking that Czech pilsner, better buy it in a can -- or better still, a keg!
It will probably come as no surprise to you that I found this exercise extraordinarily frustrating. Researching and writing this post took so much time that I didn't have time to drink the can and bottle of Kingfisher that started it all! How can anyone be environmentally correct, if it takes so much energy to figure out what being correct means?
Of course, it's impossible! Yes, we should do what we can to be responsible: buy locally, buy less; recycle and reuse--the regular stuff. But words like, "environmentally conscious", "green" and "personal responsibility" are a bit like Teacher's Day and Friendship Day: too often, they are rituals with no real meaning.
In fact, companies love the idea that environmentally responsible individuals are all that is required to save the world--because then companies can go on doing whatever they want to do. But personal responsibility alone will never be enough. We also need to expect governments--local and national-- to do their share by making sure the price of products in the market reflects the true cost of their environmental impact: from the mine to the dump.
In that scenario, local, environmentally friendly products would become cheaper, while imports and other unsustainable products would become more expensive. Let's not kid ourselves; we'd have to give up a lot of things we like. But it would be good for the environment, good for local job creation, and in the long run we might end up with a world fit to give our children.
Hari Batti's Green Light Dhaba is based in Delhi and serves up fresh thinking about the environment, politics and justice. We're open Tuesdays, Thursdays and most Saturdays. If we're not pissing somebody off, we're not doing our job. If this is your first visit, check out our brand new About the Dhaba page and tell us what you think; that's why we're here. Of course, if you like what's on the menu, why not grab a free feed or follow us? You can also friend Hari on Facebook, follow him on twitter-- and spread the word in whatever way you can!