Going Green to Save Green

One of my clients who recently bought in the City of Charlottesville sends this note –

We are officially a 1-car family now, I sold my car and bought a bike over the weekend. Look for me huffing and puffing up JPA Extended and Alderman Road.

That will help financially, plus I would rather burn fat (of which I have plenty) than gasoline. With a 1.5 mile commute I cannot say gas prices have been hurting me, but every bit helps. What’s more, it will be very satisfying not to pay the stupid city car tax and insurance too.

My unsolicited two cents: As a consumer, let me say that I don’t give a rip about the environment. However, I am cheap. All this green marketing is going right past me, unless they focus on cost savings. Show me how my new windows will pay for themselves in 8.5 months, and keep the feel-good environmentalism to yourself- the only green I care about is the stuff with portraits of dead presidents.

Bolding mine. He’s not alone.

If you save electricity, you save money (Bad link now)

Led lighting poised to take on CFLs this fall

In some instances, the LEDs might still win out. The New York Times cites, in a recent story, a company that spent $12,000 more than the $6,000 needed to light a buildin’s exterior with a mix of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. The energy trade-off is quite dramatic, though, and the purchase pays off far faster than that trendy rooftop solar panel: the company saves $7,000 a year in energy costs, will earn back its investment in under two years, and won’t need to change a bulb for 20 years.

10 Cost-Saving Tips for the Home

Go Green, Live Rich

It is a simple theory: do all the little things we prattle on about, like improving your car’s fuel economy (save $884 per year); sealing the leaks in your home and save a little on energy ($129); turning back your thermostat ($85) and brownbaggging your lunch. ($1,560). Take that $3,758 and invest it. What have you got in 30 years? $ 678,146.

Suddenly the genre and going green looks very, very interesting.

Update 08/21/2008: Andy points out in the comments that one survey shows consumers are willing to spend more for green stuff.

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  1. Andy K August 20, 2008 at 07:55

    Wow, that first comment is so disconcerting.

    “As a consumer, let me say that I don’t give a rip about the environment.”

    That is one of the most ignorant comments I have read. It is a sad situation when people don’t care about their surroundings, community, and the globe. I wonder what value system our country is teaching the youth when dollars matter more than ones impact on the world. It is that egocentric American thinking that makes me ashamed of the American way of life.

    Is it marketing and corporations who brainwash these individuals into thinking that money and posessions are more important than the environment and community?

    I’m glad he is riding his bike and saving money, but no matter how much money he saves he will always be a poor man.

  2. Spokes August 20, 2008 at 08:04

    Thanks for posting this – I am seriously considering a similar move since I can bike the mile I commute to work as fast as I drive it (though the trip home is longer as it is uphill). Harder to figure is how to get to the Richmond Airport twice a year when one car has been sold. He fails to mention one other cost savings – maintenance on the existing vehicle. While this cost may be lower for a vehicle not driven much, the cost per mile driven seems to go up. For example, the oil still should be changed regularly, whether or not you use the vehicle very much. I seem to be paying just as much to maintain my current vehicle.
    I’m not sure I buy the lunch savings you have listed, though. A $1,560 savings represents a $7.80 daily savings (figuring 200 annual work days). That means lunch must run at least $10 daily, as the implication is you are bringing lunch from home, rather than skipping the meal. I work next to Bodo’s and do not go over $4 daily unless I am buying a large drink. I don’t think it is worth the time and effort to bike a homemade lunch to work for the small savings I would incur vs. Bodo’s.

  3. Jim Duncan August 20, 2008 at 09:25

    Andy –

    Thanks for the comment. I think his perspective is probably representative of the vast majority of consumers. My clients generally don’t necessarily care about their carbon footprints, but do care about saving money.If saving money means green, so be it.

  4. Andy K August 20, 2008 at 10:10


    Although your observation is anecdotal (and not backed by any data) and as much as it pains me to believe….I, unfortunately, believe it.

    It may be potentially true, but is unfortunately the American mindset that has to be changed. I only hope that as some people change for solely monetary reasons that they also start to see the value of living responsibly and begin to focus outward instead of on themselves.

  5. Mark August 20, 2008 at 10:31

    I am the ignorant, poor man who doesn’t care about the environment. I was really hoping someone would write something like the first post.

    Andy K, I think people like you are just as stupid and misguided as you believe about me. ‘Environmentalism” is a New Age religion whose purpose is at least 49% to feel good about yourself. Nature abhors a vacuum, and as humans have abandoned traditional religions, they have latched onto environmentalism as a way to attain spiritual fulfillment.

    The parallels run deep, from absolute intolerance of heretical opposing views (did humans really cause GW? Is the global temperature really even higher?), to Earth Day ceremonies on Sunday (of all days!). Nowhere is this more evident than C-ville, home of many emptyheaded idealists

    Whatever has caused “global warming,” I don’t buy the narcissistic thesis that we humans have much ability to reverse it.

    Regardless, RESULTS are all that matter. If I said I love the earth and was a committed environmentalist, you would be praising me for my virtue. Because my intentions are no correct (according to you) I am somehow “sad” and ignorant. Just remember, when you’re commuting to work on your Prius, I still have a smaller carbon footprint than you. And in the grand scheme of things it’s .000000000000000000000001% of the things that warm the earth anyway.

    If you truly care about the environment, you’ll stow your Puritanical streak and focus on giving we “ignorant masses” economic incentives to pursue your so-called virtuous ends.

    As for your pity, your New Age religion, and its stupid symbolism, feel free set it atop your bicycle seat and sit down hard.

  6. Andy K August 20, 2008 at 12:35

    Thanks Mark. I actually don’t own a Prius, just a 1993 2 door Saturn that I put about 2,000 miles on a year since I commute to work everyday by bike.

    You can rationalize your ignorance and inability to understand scientific data with the rest of your Republican friends. You are one of the ignorant sheep that buys into everything that the marketers are selling you. Unfortunately capitalism doesn’t take into account finite resources such as drinkable water, viable soil, and energy. It makes me sad that our descendants will not have the chance to enjoy rivers free of flame retardants, PCBs, heavy metals, and dioxins. Our oceans are full of dead zones and enourmous plastic trash islands. This is not the legacy I want left behind.

    You are correct, people like you need to be coerced by economic means to change. It’s a sad fact and speaks volumes of your character. There is clear and scientifically proven cause and effect data concerning humans’ impact on the environment; however, the spin masters on Fox News have seemed to have you under their spell.

    Congratulations on your bike purchase and new mode of transportation. Safe travels.

  7. Jim Duncan August 20, 2008 at 13:19

    Passion is a very good thing.

    With respect on both sides, bicycles seats and Fox News aside, I think that we all have similar results in mind.

    With intentions aside – we’re getting to the point where saving money and living green are going to be the same thing.

    If you truly care about the environment, you’ll … focus on giving we “ignorant masses” economic incentives to pursue your so-called virtuous ends.

    And this is the message that needs to be delivered to local, state and national politicians. Offer incentives to save money (and go green) and the masses will follow.

  8. Fred August 20, 2008 at 13:32

    WEAR A HELMET if you’re going to bicycle. And a neon vest.

    Politics, ignorance aside, let’s be practical. “Going green” is great–but not at the expense of physical safety.

    I fear for the lives of cyclists who don’t wear helmets. See them everywhere. And I fear for their loved ones who will have to see them in a persistent vegetative state if they’re not killed by that idiot driver yakking on the cell phone.

    If I had unlimited funds I’d carry extra helmets in my trunk….

  9. Jim Duncan August 20, 2008 at 14:13

    Fred –

    I was behind a bike rider – sans helmet – who I had to go around (on my bike) on JPA who was pedaling/driving/riding erratically. As I passed him, I saw that he was talking on his cell phone!

  10. Mark August 20, 2008 at 15:02

    Andy K- you forgot to compare me to Hitler.

    I would respond fully but there’s really no point trying to reason with a fundamentalist member of the Church of the Environment.

    Plus, I need to go down to the Rivanna River and dump the mercury out of some old thermometers.

  11. Andy K August 20, 2008 at 19:47

    Yes Mike and Jim, I took the bait, you both got the response you were looking for, and Mike was able to unload his pre-packaged Republican talking points and rebuttal. I know he has been working on that a while.

    It is now clear, huge markets will develop and industries will profit from focusing on environmentally friendly products and energy systems. The practice of fighting for oil and paying our enemies $700 billion a year is being rejected. Just take a look at T Boone Pickens.

    Mike, you might want to tighten up your story in your first post. You question the fact that humans are causing global warming and then you state that cars do have a role in global warming.

  12. Jim Duncan August 20, 2008 at 20:25

    Alright. We’re done. Please. I wasn’t seeking any response other than a discussion about why people are going green and that in order to reach the masses, the environmental aspect only goes so far.

    People were buying hybrids when gas was $2.50 a gallon. People were really buying them when gas was $4/gallon. That’s it. For me it’s not a matter of party or anything else – it’s economics.

    Regarding the fighting for oil and paying our enemies part – I absolutely agree with you.

  13. Andy K August 20, 2008 at 20:26


    I forgot about the above link. It is a consumer poll showing that consumers are willing to spend more for a more environmentally friendly consumable.

    “In particular:

    64% said they would be willing to pay more for a hybrid car
    63% indicated they would spend more for organic, fair trade, or local food
    62% would pay for green/organic cleaning supplies
    And 57% said they would pay the additional costs for products made from recycled materials.”

    Without knowing more details to the poll, besides ~2,000 consumers were included, I can’t make any major conclusions, but the trend is clearly opposite of your (Jim’s) observation. Consumers are willing to pay and do care about the environment.

  14. Jim Duncan August 20, 2008 at 21:04

    Andy –

    Thanks sincerely for the link; I had not seen that and stand corrected.

  15. Bret August 21, 2008 at 07:41

    I believe that between doing what we need to do to survive financially and altruistic sacrifice for an ideal is a big middle ground. And part of what may be missing is a communication of the long-term economic effects of environmental damage, not just those that affect us today.

    Perhaps if there was a better understanding of the future costs of certain lifestyle choices we make today then when finances permit people would be more inclined to “do the right thing”. I think most European countries understand this far better than we do.

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