Lorraine Courtney: 'Why rampant hypocrisy of eco activists is doing more harm than good to our planet'

It’s not easy being green. It’s so hard that this week Canada’s Green Party admitted to photoshopping a disposable cup out of a photo of party leader Elizabeth May ahead of next month’s election. It replaced it with a reusable version and metal straw. But I’ve rarely seen an eco-activist, online or off, who wasn’t a hypocrite.

The planet is being systematically destroyed. Yet all we’ve managed lately is an online battering of Ryan Tubridy and lots and lots of virtue signalling on social media by middle-class parents. You’ve seen them too, uploading photos of little Amelia heading to the #climatestrike from their iPhone that was made in China.

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The eco-hypocrites are everywhere. I see mummy bloggers who insist they use cloth nappies but then post about the 10 different teething rings they’ve been #gifted and don’t seem to see or care about the hypocrisy. It’s the same with the beauty bloggers. You’ll watch one wax lyrical about a new vegan beauty line and spend the very next video unpacking a ginormous shopping bag of new outfits – to be worn once. Then there are my vegan, vegetarian and mostly meat-free peers who eat an avocado on toast every morning. A Carbon Footprint Ltd study shows a pack of just two avocados has an emissions footprint of 846.36g CO2, almost twice the size of one kilo of bananas.

Revelry at this summer’s music festivals was once again environmentally grim on a grand scale. In 2018 Electric Picnic- goers left behind 10kg of waste per person. Organisers said there was a “definite improvement” this year but in the aftermath the site was a sad wasteland, strewn with abandoned tents, camping chairs, soggy sleeping bags and empty drinks cans.

The eco-friendly market is mushrooming as we’re buying ever more stuff. It doesn’t matter that it’s bamboo cutlery and organic cotton. Last year the reusable water bottle market was valued at more than $8bn (€7.3bn), up 3pc from 2017, and it’s expected to reach $10.4bn by 2025. Companies are onto our new-found love of all things eco. They have jumped on board the eco-bandwagon, keen to virtue signal their way to a few more euro, and are marketing green products to us.

Truth is, we don’t need them. It’s pointless, wasteful and not environmentally friendly to replace your metal cutlery with bamboo forks and knives. But there’s no money in advertising or promoting the reuse of things that we already own, and most of us own too much stuff already. Be honest. How many KeepCups do you have in the back of your kitchen cupboard?

In a finding that will surprise, probably, no one, a 2018 survey showed that the more a person claims to be concerned about global warming, the less likely they are to behave in environmentally friendly ways. Participants in a year-long study who doubted the scientific consensus on the issue “opposed policy solutions” but at the same time, they “were most likely to report engaging in individual-level, pro-environmental behaviours”, said a research team led by University of Michigan psychologist Michael Hall.

Conversely, those who expressed the greatest concern about the warming environment “were most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions”.

Those of us on the green bandwagon might consider ourselves environmentally friendly but we’re not, according to the statistics. We are the reason fast fashion exists. Too many of us go shopping a few times a month, conveniently forgetting that producing one T-shirt uses about 2,700 litres of water, the same amount that the average person drinks over the course of 900 days. We have a three-times-a-week Deliveroo habit. The portions are massive and we don’t usually finish them, and that’s not taking into account the packaging it’s delivered in. Figures from Wrap, the UK charity, found 18 to 34-year-olds wasted 49pc more food and drink in an average week than pensioner households.

Aside from the hypocrisy, the eco- conscious have a tendency to come across as condescending and aggressive rather than trying to help. I’ve stopped listening to them and bet I’m not the only one.

I’ve always tried to live and spend more carefully and think about how grandparents did things. Yes, they mostly wanted to save money. But they lived far more sustainably and saving the planet was a happy by-product. Some changes all these new green activists could make so as to be more inspirational but less obnoxious: stop eco-preaching and virtue signalling; stop pushing a green agenda on us at every opportunity and lashing out at anybody who asks questions; just stop and live your life mindfully and quietly and prudently.

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