I spent part of the recent Fourth of July weekend in central Pennsylvania, with one of the stops being Lancaster, home of one of the largest concentrations of Amish people in the U.S. The Amish are well known for eschewing modern technology as they shun the use of electricity, private automobiles, and many of the conveniences we take for granted. But what on the surface appears to be a backward way of life has an upside: the Amish champion "green" living.
During a guided tour of a restored Amish home, it became clearly evident that the Amish have us beat as far as environmentally-friendly lifestyles. As electricity use remains virtually non-existent, there's no concern over electric grid outages. In Amish homes, propane gas runs home stoves and hot water heaters, and gas tanks run wringer-type clothes washers. Air compressors run the power tools needed on Amish farms.
Although the Amish do now use cell phones, they don’t own iPods or other portable electrical devices; thus they don’t consume massive quantities of disposable batteries that clog and pollute our landfills. And, as PC usage is almost non-existent, they’re not throwing away hundreds of lead-containing CRT monitors and don’t need banks of power-gobbling servers.
Because the Amish don't own automobiles, they're not concerned about automotive company financial problems or gas prices. And you can keep your hybrid-electric or diesel gas vehicle, thank you. The Amish continue to rely on the time-honored horse and buggy for transportation.
Mind you, the Amish partake in these practices not out of a stated desire to be "green", but because they believe modern technology is not compatible with their simple, Bible-centered way of life. It somehow works. The Amish have existed in this country for over 300 years and remain a healthy, thriving population.
I'm not advocating driving horses and buggies and shutting off the electricity in my house anytime soon. But we can draw inspiration from the Amish by applying their conservation-oriented mindset and clever use of existing – albeit dated - technology to solve everyday challenges.