Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

The Dark Side of Green

Are you heating your home entirely with local firewood? Cordwood Image: Flickr

Larry Plesent

Worried about your health? The health of your pets, children and the planet? In the end, it’s the con in convenience that screws everything up. Forget about diabetes, obesity, and immune-system breakdowns. How about just getting outside for some fresh air, sunshine and exercise?

We often joke about the dark side of green. If you are heating your home entirely with local firewood instead of heating oil, here is a good portion of what you might need (picture) to get through a northern winter. By the time you cut down the sick and damaged trees (greatly enhancing the health and future health of your woodlot), de-limb and cut into rounds, split, move to the woodshed, stack and bring inside to burn, you will have touched each piece at least six times.

At 4,000 pounds a cord (a basic firewood measure), multiplied by eight cords for the year, that is 32,000 pounds. Now move that weight six times. In the end you will have handled nearly 200,000 pounds of wood! How much easier is it to turn a thermostat and pay the delivery truck? That’s the hidden con in the convenience.

Doing your own firewood keeps one physically strong and mentally awake. You live a longer, healthier life, often with far less doctoring required. You spend time outdoors getting sunlight in your eyeballs and fresh air into your lungs. Plus, there is that gentle satisfaction that repetitive physical work brings to those who learn to appreciate it. No gym membership required. The world is your exercise room.

You are also using a local renewable resource, improving the forest if done correctly and saving the oil for more important things like making the plastic in battery casings.

We live off-grid on solar power and wet cell batteries. I tell guests, “We are running on batteries, like a submarine!” We use cheap golf cart batteries which require water to be added every season. So, you might say that our house runs on water, but that is kind of stretching it. When you make your own power, you are an active member of the process, monitoring and adjusting the system and turning off lights as you move from one area of the house to another. You think about amperage use of devices and charge times for hand-held battery-powered tools. Not a lifestyle for sleepy-minded people who just want to drink cold beer and watch TV, although you can do both of those things successfully on solar power.

But yes, electricity is cheap and currently abundant. So why bother?

We bother because we care about the future of people and our relationship to our little planet. We bother because we want to be more a part of the solution than a larger part of the problem. We bother because outliers and pioneers are often decades ahead of modern culture memes. We bother because we can and we will.

And so can you.

One way to be part of the solution and get on board with the Vermont Soap program is to systematically replace yucky stuff with yummy stuff one product and one body at a time. We see “green” as a process, and the result of the process is an increasing focus on sustainability over extractive technologies. “Green” is what and who we are, and what our society will look like in fifty years if it is to exist at all.

We do it because even the dark side of green is better than no green at all.

This is the Soapman encouraging you to make small relentless changes to business-as-usual and to make the greenest and most healthful choices available in everything that you do.

Larry Plesent is a writer, philosopher and founder of the Vermont Soap Company; dedicated to replacing yucky stuff with yummy stuff for all the girls and boys who care. Thanks for reading. Learn more at and

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