Can anything can be called “green” ?
Few examples in French newspapers Pourquoi le tote bag n’est pas écolo. (L’Info Durable), Nos tote bags en coton sont-ils si écologiques que ça ? (Vogue), Les tote bags, c’est faux amis de l’écologie. (Courrier International), Les tote bags sont-ils vraiment plus écologiques que les sacs en plastique ? (Numerama), Non, la voiture électrique n’est pas écologique (Reporterre), Et si la voiture électrique était un désastre écologique ? (Le Parisien), Les éoliennes sont-elles vraiment écologiques ? (Capital). Actually any title with “eco-friendly” or “ecological” might fall here.
To know whether a topic can be quantified, one should wonder if there exist a scale or a unit measure.
The global warming can be measured with temperature change. The biodiversity loss can be measure with the number of endangered or instinc spicies. Waste can be measured as a weight, volume or toxicity. Air pollution can be measure according to the number of particules in the air or death rate at a given place over a given period of time.
It is not possible to list all possible “dimensions” of what one consider to be defined as “ecological”. Especially as it encompasses many social subjects that are deeply connected to ecology.
Warning : this comparison actually depends on many other factors that vary crom one bag to the other :
- usage duration
- production process (for the cotton or plastic version)
Moreover, journalists have shown that cotton bag are usually given as gifts and goodies, ending up in closets not being used.
The question is more complex that this example. A real comparison should distinguish the CO2 emissions related to the production versus those of the car usage. The latter being related to the CO2 emissions of the carbon intensity of the electricity which varies from one country to another.
In general, the production generates more CO2 emissions for an electric vehicle. Overall, on the entire lifecycle, the electric vehicle emits less CO2 emissions.
There are always counterparts to a decision. For instance, renewable energies produce an electricity that emits less CO2 but require more raw materials and which contruction sometimes harms biodiversity and pollute soils or water.
Nonetheless, the fact that a counterpart exists is not sufficient to do “nothing”.
At the United Nation level, the climate and biodiversity changes are studies by two distincts institutions : climate by the IPCC, biodiversity by the IPBES.
Due to the interplay between both, these organisations have written a common report in June 2021 : Biodiversity & Climate Change stating that : “Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing issues of the Anthropocene. While there is recognition
in both scientific and policy-making circles that the two are interconnected, in practice they are largely addressed in their own domains. The research community dedicated to investigating the climate system is somewhat, but not completely, distinct from that which studies biodiversity.”