The Green Triangle – first introduced by Ernest Callenbach – is a simple model for describing how our lifestyle behaviors can affect the environment. The model uses an equilateral triangle with each of the three vertices representing Health, Environment and Money. Affect one of these vertices; you will undoubtedly affect the other two.
Driving a Car v. Riding a Bike
Say you normally drive your car to work; it costs you Money to operate your car: registration, repairs, gas, insurance. Your Health is adversely affected as sitting shortens your quadriceps, tightens hips and can lead to chronic lower back pain. The Environment also suffers from operating vehicles: from the methods used to drill for oil to the noxious chemicals internal combustion engines create.
Let’s say you want to save Money by riding your bike to work instead. Reduced mileage in your car means cheaper insurance rates and fewer trips to the gas station. Riding your bike is saving you Money, and your Health gets a boost as you are getting exercise. The Environment is also benefited by your choice; one less car on the road means one less source of pollution. It matters not which vertice you affect change in; it subsequently affects the other two. Naturally, the reverse is also true.
Drawbacks of The Green Triangle
Although The Green Triangle is a simple model, it is not infallible. Using the example above, the argument could be made that although you will save money and help the environment by riding a bicycle instead of driving a car, you are less protected on a bicycle, even when using appropriate safety equipment. Furthermore, if you already have a car, but do not have a bicycle, the initial outlay of cash for a bike and accessories will initially thwart attempts to save money. It may take several months of regular bicycle riding to recoup the money spent acquiring the bicycle.
People also make short-term choices that lead to disastrous long-term effects. The California Department of Health recently noted that poverty and obesity are closely related; the smaller the paycheck, the bigger the belly. People living in poverty will buy processed foods from fast food restaurants and convenience markets because they are inexpensive and readily available. Despite saving money by eating cheaply, they are adversely affecting their health and arguably the environment thanks to the conventional farming methods fast food restaurants use to supply their cheap menus.
Sometimes the conscious choices we make to optimize our health or aid the environment aren’t always cheaper. Organic food, despite being great for the environment and our health is more expensive – sometimes prohibitively so. Products which are made from earth-friendly materials and have a low environmental impact are frequently much more expensive than the conventional alternatives. Ideally, individuals and families are consuming less overall so that when they do make a purchase, they can invest in environmentally safe and healthy options.