Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Green

Going Green? What is it? What can you do now?

“Going Green”. Well, what the heck does that mean? Does it mean maintaining ones current lifestyle with less impact on the planet or changing ones lifestyle to reduce ones footprint on the planet?

I think that it means consuming less and making smart choices about consumption. Is a hybrid luxury SUV green? No. Is a green cellphone green? No. So, what is green anyway?

There is no definition of green and as such people are throwing green around like crazy. Its great marketing and every marketing company is focused on dressing up the “1000 pound gorilla” for its customers to ride the wave. When have you trusted marketing in the first place?

Green, I think, does have a definition. It would be the process that consumes the least energy. This notion is not easy to understand, but, if you deconstruct each process and evaluate its energy requirement you can get a better idea of what Green is. For example: you need to go to the farmers market to pick up some locally grown organic stuff. Do you take your car or walk. Easy, walking is the Green solution. Well, not every example is as easy as that, but, follows the same basic process of analysis.

The Green products out there are the ones that have the best ROE; return on environment. Let me define this. Return on Environment can be defined as the energy consumed per unit of time. So, going to the market has an ROE value. By walking you use less energy, but, more time. By driving you use more energy but less time. But, aside from the gas and wear and tear on the car, energy is required to build it, maintain the gas stations to fill it, the oil exploration to keep it going, the energy to maintain the factories that make replacement parts. But, wait, walking to the store you need food energy, you need shoes, clothes, etc. By adding up all these factors, you can approximate an ROE. Sounds complex, well it is. This complexity is the wiggle room that marketers use to exploit what is Green.

Complexity in the global market adds to the confusion of this analysis. There are math algorithms that count energy and companies use these to make themselves “more green”. Well, so what. If a company that sells a non-utilitarian product, say televisions, makes its operations “more green” it is still producing products that are non essential. Is a television green? No volunteering in your community is probably more Green. So, can a television company ever be Green? In my opinion, no. If we label something as Green, we exclude a more environmentally beneficial activity like volunteering.

I think at this point, we need to draw some lines in the sand and understand that we must grade products on their usefulness to life. There are essential products and nonessential products. So, going green means not buying lots of nonessential products and use essential products wisely. Make sense? Another example: the luxury home with solar panels. Green? No. Over-consumption, yes. So, throwing good Green money after over-consumption is a bad premise. Allowing the over-consumer to maintain a energy wasteful existence is Greenwashing. So, there needs to be some balance. Putting solar panels on a modestly sized house seems to be a better ROE. Understand? I hope it is getting clearer.

So, aside from learning thermodynamics, kinematics, chemistry, manufacturing, materials science and crunching numbers all day, what can everyone do to go Green. Simple. Simplicity. Simplify your life and use less products. Conservation is the best tool for going Green. The recent recession reduced carbon emissions globally because people were buying less stuff. I do not own a car anymore, I do not own a cellphone. Those things work in my life. Make the changes you can and use less stuff. Simplify first, then going Green will become clearer as you go.


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