People are spending more green to go green

Robert Belfiore

It’s not hard to tell that “green” ways of living have been dominating our lives for the past 10 or so years. Every time you turn on the TV there is a new eco-friendly car or an energy saving refrigerator available for purchase. This eco-friendly movement began as the result of new problems that our world has had to face. Rising fuel costs, the threat of global warming and pollution have created a sense of hysteria and a need to clean up and conserve.

From this need comes a great market. Today, nearly all companies are trying to sell their “eco-friendly” products. Poland Spring now makes their bottles with smaller caps and thinner plastic walls, accounting for 20 percent less plastic. Car companies are constantly competing over who sells the most fuel-efficient hybrid cars. Currently, the 2010 Toyota Prius leads the pack with a fuel economy of 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

It’s great that companies and consumers are favoring these types of products, but we have to realize where the motives behind this need to conserve lie: money. Cold hard cash. For them, there are two direct benefits of “going green.” Less plastic means less plastic purchasing. As an added bonus, they know that the typical shopper will be more likely to buy a product that’s “green.”

If we all legitimately cared about the environment, we would go green even if it meant spending more money. However, the sad truth is that the mass consumer would never go through that trouble. It is completely reasonable and understandable to not go green unless it saves money.

For example, we’ve been hearing about solar panels for so long now. So why doesn’t every house in Fairfield have solar panels? For the normal consumer these panels are incredibly expensive as well as inefficient. Discovery News reports that commercial solar panels convert anywhere from only 3.3 to 15 percent of the sunlight into usable electricity. To make matters worse, they need to be maintained because of dust accumulation clogging the system.

Although, according to Popular Mechanics, the government will provide an incentive of 30 percent tax credit on solar equipment, for most of us the price is still not worth the benefits. No reasonable person would buy an expensive solar panel if they knew they weren’t going to make their investment back, and then some.

The mass consumer needs a tangible benefit for their “green” actions. The thought of saving a fish from a pond is not nearly as exciting as the thought of a new iPod. I’ve come across some people in my day that may not agree with my logic. Just make sure that you are not hypocritical.

For example, I was introduced to a website called which is the eco-friendly version of Google. The screen is primarily black, because the white background generates more light and thus more electricity. Under the search box there is a box that displays exactly how much energy was saved. According to the website, this number is just over 2 million watt-hours. The Energy Information Administration lists average U.S. residential electricity prices at 11.23 cents per kW, as of Feb. 2009. With some simple math, I discovered that Blackle has saved the public a whopping $225 since its inception.

At this point, if you really want to do your part, your best bet is to e-mail the Chinese government and tell them to clear the smog in Hong Kong.

Robert Belfiore is a columnist for the Fairfield Mirror at Fairfield University.