Is going Green really expensive?

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.
~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

There is a perception that being environmentally responsible costs more money, and that most people will naturally choose less expensive options over “green” alternatives. But such a perception is misleading. If costs of a product are truly taken into account, the green option is nearly always the economic option. The reason that some green products are more expensive is that pricing mechanisms do not accurately reflect the true cost of the product.

For example, organic farmers need to charge more for their produce compared to industrial farms. But industrial farms require huge nitrogen inputs. The numerous researches have proved that the pollution cost of nitrogen is three times the value of the crop yield. So how does industrial farming get away with such an uneconomical activity? This is so as gains are private while losses are socialized. In other words, the application of fertiliser onto farmlands is far too cheap because its price does not consider the complete cost of its use.

“Going green isn’t expensive – neither in terms of short-term financial output, such as for materials, nor for long-term benefits where environmentally sound practices inherent in green design result in lower energy and water bills, as well as other operating and maintenance costs,” says Bruce Kerswill, executive chairman of the Green Building Council of South Africa. Most of us would also go with this thought that going green is really not expensive; many green building practices are simple, financially accessible and beneficial for the future.

For example, native vegetation can grow in natural weather conditions, with no extra watering. Also, the setting up of a rainwater tank to amass rain water for use in the garden can cut water bills and reduce the strain on our tanks. Choosing a dual flush system that provides the option of a full cistern flush or partial cistern flush can save water without being expensive. Also, installing flow restrictors in existing taps can reduce the water use when washing hands and doing the dishes. This practice is also not at all expensive.

With raising electricity and fuel charges; going green is better than using conventional products economically too. A recent study by the School of Planning, Design, and Construction at Michigan State University found that a green-certified work habitat meant a 60% decrease in allergies and asthma in staff, and a 30% drop in absenteeism resulting from depression and stress. Greater access to daylight was a major factor, because it cuts the need for artificial lighting, and also makes the environment more welcoming and attractive.

If it’s a choice between saving money and saving the environment, the environment will lose. However, we need to change how we price a product and the price should actually reflect the costs of products and services. When this is done being green will not be expensive. Actually going green by reducing, reusing and recycling is 100 percent free.


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