Why Sustainable Products Face an Uphill Battle, My mom is a pretty good barometer in my mind of whether something will be viable with regards to sustainability. Three years ago she was trying to determine whether to lease a Prius or not. Her primary needs were for transportation. She wasn’t planning on hauling heavy loads, driving in difficult weather, going off-road, or combating mountainous terrain. She needed a car to get her to and from work, plus errands.
The Prius lost out. She chose something that handled better and was more conventional. Three years later her lease is about due and we have had a similar conversation. Many of the same issues persist. She’s also looked at the Volt (and test drove it), as well as the Lexus 200ct hybrid. With two months remaining before she has to make a decision, I don’t know which way she’ll go. This is a microcosm for society in my mind.
Why Sustainable Products Face an Uphill Battle
The reason I write this though is that she contacted me asking about sustainable chocolate. Apparently the Costco near her in California is only carrying sustainable chocolate chips now. She asked me about them and I gave her the answer that there isn’t a national set of standards for sustainable products, only organic, at this point and that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
What it suggests is that the growing practices for the cacao and wages paid to farmers are less detrimental than traditional methods. However, she mentioned that the they just didn’t taste as good (when eaten by themselves) as the previous brand. What goes into those other chocolate chips? Good question.
What goes into these? Also a good question. The label itself is mostly meaningless without some sort of certification. However, the point is that if they don’t taste as good (and are still more expensive), they will not win over people like my mom, and then we’re in for a long, difficult shift to sustainable products.
Grandmother’s Rant About the Good Green Ol’ Days
My mother, the grandmother of eight grandchildren, periodically includes me when she sends around emails to her friends. Her latest missive is about an unknown grandmother accused of not living a green and sustainable life. If you can look beyond the sarcasm and hyperbole, you’ll find some thought-provoking kernels of truth. Here it is:
In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”
The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment.” He was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn’t have the green thing back in that customer’s day.
In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she was right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.
Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.
Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you.
When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power.
They exercised by — this is the Honest-to-God Truth! — working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; they didn’t have the green thing back then.
They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn’t have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
But isn’t it sad? The current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn’t have the green thing back then?
How to Find Deals and Be Green at the Same Time
While out shopping, we’re constantly on the lookout for the best deals and savings. In the mad rush to save as much money as possible, we often forget about our responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint.
But does the shopper have to choose between the best deals and a means to go green? Is there a way to save money and both the environment?
Luckily, it doesn’t take an extensive amount of research or enrolling in environmental engineering courses in order to know how to go green.
There are a variety of ways in which shoppers can find the best deals, all with the environment in mind. The following are just a few examples on how to find deals and be green at the same time:
Choose Eco-Friendly Options
While searching for deals and coupons, try to find sales on eco-friendly, “green” products. Whether made from recycled materials or labeled as energy-efficient, there are eco-friendly alternatives for nearly every product out there.
While it may be a bit more expensive, finding coupons and bargains can greatly bring down the price, making the item affordable. Keep in mind – every purchase you make is essentially a vote, as you are demonstrating to vendors and producers what type of items you value. With a single purchase, you can show the importance of saving both money and the environment.
Find Coupons Online
You don’t need to relay on the Sunday newspaper to find coupons; in fact, there are a variety of resources online that can help you find the best bargains. For example, a simple search can provide you with a list of blogs dedicated to finding the best deals available, and where to use them.
In addition, there are a variety of communities and forums that are centered on couponing, providing their members with coupon trades and bargain recommendations. One major benefit of turning to the Internet is that you’ll be able to go paperless, a great way to help the environment.
Before your shopping experience is swayed by bargains, deals, and savings, take a step back – do you actually need the item? If you don’t actually need to go shopping, then it’s questionable whether you’re actually saving money. Instead of buying the product, think of alternatives that will serve the same purpose, and help save valuable resources.
For example, instead of buying movies, use online services such as Hulu or Netflix. By taking some time to consider whether you need the item, you can save money and the environment at the same time.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, as vendors frequently offer lower prices in exchange for purchasing large quantities of items. If you purchase large amounts of essential items, you can reduce the need to buy the item in the future, as well as distribute them among your friends and family.
This practice is a great way to help the environment, as it decreases travel costs as well as cuts on resources. But as mentioned before, consider whether you actually need the item before buying large quantities.