Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Green Living takes effort but can be rewarding

Business Week had a cover story this week about corporations being environmentally friendly, titled 'Little Green Lies'.

We've written about "green living" numerous times during the last year. I'm a big believer in the power of numbers – I can go completely "off the grid", but it wouldn't have much of an impact on the overall energy consumption in the Greater Phoenix area. Heck, it wouldn't even cause a blip on Peoria's radar, or even the Fletcher Heights area's usage! But if we could get everyone to consume 5% or 10% less energy, that would have an amazing impact across the valley.

I always try to use the best alternative that meets my needs. But it can be challenging, because sometimes the best alternative can cost a whole lot more than the "regular" option. And this gets compounded because the energy-efficient providers are always touting their cost savings.. Fluorescent light bulbs, low-e windows, solar water heaters, artificial turf, digital thermostats, ceiling fans, front-loading washing machines, rainwater capture systems – where does it end? You can spend tens of thousands of dollars today, all with the promise of saving more than that over X number of years – but without any guaranties of that savings..

Some things are easier to implement than others, and there are some things you can do that don't cost any money at all. But sometimes doing the right thing for the environment isn't about saving money; it's about leaving the world the way we found it so our children and grandchildren can enjoy it as well. What's the line most hikers and campers use – "Pack out your trash!"

Back to Business Week's cover story. It's a great read (click here), and discusses how businesses are more often motivated by profit than environmental concerns – as if that's a new story! Many corporations jumped onto the "green" bandwagon as a way to generate more profits, but as time passes they're learning that being green generally competes with ROI, rather than complimenting it. Spending large sums of money to retrofit a factory, or to build using renewable energy, may never pay off in terms of ROI – and most corporations cannot justify the extra risk or expense to their shareholders.

It's too bad they can't use real, long-term vision and couple it with some common sense.  They should start by looking for the same 5%-10% reductions and grow (or shrink) from there.

- Chris Butterworth

[tags] green living, Little Green Lies, Fletcher Heights [/tags]