The Cost of Going Green
With all the Earth Day events this past week, the topic of making green choices is all over the news. The benefits of going green are numerous, but can you afford it and are you willing to make the choices so necessary to literally save our planet and save ourselves?
The first decision has to do with your willingness. Do you care about your environmental footprint and the future of the planet beyond today and perhaps even beyond your own lifetime? And, if so, are you willing to do your part to ensure the future generations of humans and creatures have a sustainable and healthy place to live their lives? It really does boil down to that. The bottom line is that we are all connected and what one person does has a ripple effect across the planet.
I get a lot of snarky comments from family on this topic. No matter how much I love them, though the argument “Well I’ll be dead long before that [insert global warming of 2 degrees, melting of all the glaciers, or any other deplorable possibility] happens” doesn’t cut it with me. It is a cop out of epic proportions.
The arguments that going green means sacrifice in terms of quality, convenience, or cost don’t hold water when you look at the big picture.
First off let me say I’m a realistic person who looks at dollars and cents. I don’t believe in spending more money than I need to unless I really want to (you know the splurges). Yet, while buying organic and eco-friendly products often costs more initially there is definite benefit in the long run in terms of our health and the overall well-being of the planet. In our house since we went 100% eco-friendly cleaning products my partner has had exactly zero problems with her asthma and my allergies got notably better. Coincidence? I think not.
Before you get crazy with guilt and email me to say that you can’t afford to make green choices, let me say that I am not saying you need to do every last thing. If everyone did what they could do with just a little effort we’d be so much better off it’d blow your socks off. On Saturday while we were paddling at a local lake, they had garbage bags available for people to do any trash cleanup they felt called to do. We didn’t go out of our way seeking out trash, but in the course of a several hour paddle we managed to fill a large trash bag with trash. As a side benefit we got to practice our paddling strokes as we maneuvered to pick up the stuff. If everyone did just the little bit that they could, imagine the combined impact!
So, enough of my $.02, what do other people have to say.
In “Let the Organic Reckoning Begin” Mir brings us face to face with the conflict and guilt so many of us feel when faced with budget vs. values:
I’m a huge believer in the “putting your money where your mouth is” credo. Manufacturers understand nothing so well as cold, hard cash. The theory is that if more people buy organic, if more people eschew overly processed and modified foods, market demand will increase and supply will follow suit–with a concomitant price drop.
In practice, well. Um. Hi! I’m a single mom on a tight budget. While I do prioritize my children’s diet, I simply cannot afford to buy all organic. The selection of organic produce, for example, at my local grocery store averages twice the cost of the non-organic. Many items which I’d love to have as staples in our diet aren’t even available at that store; I have to drive an hour round trip to a speciality store, and the price there isn’t much better (and now I’m adding in gas money).
The result? I buy organic milk. (It probably increases my grocery budget by about $15/month, and I rest easier at night believing that it will keep my 8-year-old from sprouting breasts.) And I keep the overly-processed foods to a minimum. And I have guilt.
Guilt I can afford. An all-organic pantry–at this point in my life–I cannot.
Part of the whole challenge here is that people live with an all or nothing mentality. Or, rather than look at the true trade offs of living on the planet, they buy into rhetoric. Biblioklept shares:
In fact, I am going to argue that Earth Day and other instantiations of mainstream environmentalism serve to obfuscate the very problems that they intend to address. People buy into (both figuratively and literally) the rhetoric of mainstream environmentalism as a defense mechanism. The seduction of the phrase “going green” proposes a fashionable, celebrity-endorsed lifestyle that enables a person to resist, deny, or otherwise marginalize the fact that their continued existence on the planet costs–that they will always exist at the cost of something or someone else.
I want to make clear then that I’m advocating nothing here except a resistance to illusion, a resistance to rhetoric that resists the reality of these costs. I’m not indicting people for jumping on the idea of “going green,”nor am I suggesting that their intentions and actions are ignoble or ignorant. I’m simply arguing that the rhetoric of mainstream environmentalism that the boomers and post-boomers are now recapitulating and buying into is part of a corporate shell game that masks the systemic problems of industrialized agribusiness and deflects responsibility away from those corporations and onto individuals.
Whether you take the frugal and green route or jump on the Green Products brigade, there most certainly are things you can do to be greener and healthier without breaking the bank. Our Family Budget writes in “Why Going Green Can Save You Some Green”
Perhaps many people don’t initially make the switch to greener living because they are concerned about the environment. It may be that many are actually seeking to live a more simplistic and frugal life because they have limited resources and a limited budget. Or perhaps they always knew that going green and living frugal were practically synonymous. Either way going green can really save you some green in the long run. Being kinder to the planet can also mean being kinder to your wallet and who wouldn’t want that?!
From tips to growing your own food to driving less, the article ties every option into an argument of how the very act of marrying frugality with green leads to overall cost savings (money and environmental). Not to mention the added benefits of less overwhelm and more intentional living.
How we choose to spend our money is indeed a personal choice. The options for going green are varied and extend far beyond the marketing and rhetoic. If you’re looking for a variety of ideas, check out “Earth Day or Going Green” where kktaylorcc talks about Going Green from A-Z. Here are two examples to get you started:
Avoid Fast Food.
Most fast food is overpackaged and most fast-food companies are responsible for producing mountains of trash. By avoiding fast food whenever possible, you’ll help reduce this needless waste.
Create A Compost Pile.
It’s easy to do. Find a corner of the yard that’s out of the way. Carefully throw food wastes (leftovers, eggshells, coffee grounds, spoiled vegetables, etc.) into a pile and mix with dirt. Every week or so, turn the pile over with a shovel to give it more air. In a few weeks, it will turn into a rich, nutrition soil that will help plants grow. Just think: What used to be “garbage” is now a valuable substance!
There is a cost and ripple effect to everything in this life– every action we take and every dollar we spend. So do what you can do and get back to the basics, the rest will take care of itself.
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, works with lesbian business owners and professionals who are ready to create their lives and businesses the way the want rather than how they were told they “should”. Get the free 12 part eCourse “How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin” http://www.coaching4lesbians.com and start taking charge of your own success.