Energy Diet

Practicing What I Preach

You might think that because I work as an energy content producer for National Geographic, I am the picture of environmental enlightenment, riding around in a compost-fueled vehicle while buying carbon offsets for my vacuum and keeping myself warm with only solar energy and my burning virtue.

On the contrary, while putting together this project, I realized just how few of the behaviors in this diet I actually observe on a regular basis. The more I urged people to check out this diet, the more it seemed only fair that I try it myself. So I will be blogging along with our other nine participants from around the world, if not “competing” in earnest.

In college, I thought of myself as an “environmentalist” and joined a campus Earth group, pledged on Earth Day to give up plastic utensils, became a vegetarian after reading about how cattle ranching was contributing to deforestation in the Amazon, became overly sanctimonious among family and friends about recycling, and joined various American nonprofits dedicated to conservation issues.

Some of the habits I formed back then have stuck with me (recycling, saving water to the best of my ability). Others, well …

Bacon, known to so many of us as “the gateway meat,” finally broke my 13-year streak of vegetarianism a few years ago. I do not currently support any environmental organizations, though I did at one point sign over a stimulus check for $200 from President George W. Bush to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a gesture that earned me a letter from the NRDC’s president. In fact, I felt so proud of myself for that elegant bit of self-sacrifice that it somehow gave me a subconscious excuse to Scrooge out on any further contributions. And plastic utensils? I’ve used a few.

Despite my failings, my carbon footprint is comparatively low as a city-dweller in Washington, D.C. My car, a Mazda Miata, is not a hybrid, but it’s very (my riding companions might say excessively) compact. Washington isn’t the greenest city in the world – it’s known for terrible traffic and, despite the First Lady Michelle Obama’s creation of a White House kitchen garden, most restaurants and markets place little emphasis on sustainable food – but it does have a solid recycling program and has been cited for its residents’ healthy lifestyles.

The problem is, once we’ve done a few good deeds for the environment – diligently separating the trash, remembering the cloth shopping bag, buying organic produce – it’s easy to get lazy about the rest. After all, the mere fact of being human is un-environmental, and all of the negative effects we have on the Earth just by being alive can be so daunting, when you think about them, that it’s tempting to just give up.

But the idea isn’t to do it all – the idea is to do more. And that’s what all of us will attempt over the next 12 weeks.


  1. Derek Ferguson
    Yosemite National Park, California
    February 2, 2011, 1:03 am

    Good luck on doing more and identifying less with being an un-environmental human being. The fact is not that humans are un-environmental, but that we are literally made of our environment. So enjoy doing what you are able to make this round home we all share a little healthier.

  2. Christina
    February 2, 2011, 1:05 pm

    Thanks Derek, that’s a good point!