Everyone it seems is obsessed with Going Green. Is it legitimate? If you’re old enough you might remember those energy commercials where the narrator described some massive energy generation project—years in the works and costing billions—that would provide “barely enough energy to keep the lights on in North Nowhere, Kansas—population 309—for one hour”. No REAL progress on reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil, but that company is hard at work on it!
Did you ever get the impression that those energy commercials were more about improving the energy company’s public image than on reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil? Or on a darker note, that what they were really trying to do was educate us that there were no solutions to the nations energy problems, and we needed to get comfortable with business as usual? (History has proven the legitimacy of that last point!)
That’s precisely the way I feel about the current Going Green obsession.Everyone it seems, is going green and “cleaning up” the environment. But is that what they’re really doing—or like the energy companies of yesteryear—are they mostly just trying to get us to think better about them?
And—if I may add on a more sinister note—are they claiming to go green as a cover for either charging us more or by shifting expenses over to us, they’re loyal consumers?
Here are a few examples of where I think that may be happening, and I’ll bet you can come up with a few more.
“Paperless” or pay online
What this really means is that if you want a paper copy of your monthly statement—or of any document—the company is shifting the printing cost over to you. And in the process, they’re also saving on postage.
Eco-friendly? Maybe. A financial win for the company? Most definitely.
Paper cups made from “30% recycled paper”
The minority portion that’s recycled is the marketing hook. It makes it look as if the company is environmentally-friendly. But the fact is that no matter what the cup is composed of, it still has to be processed, and that takes resources—to say nothing of the 70% of the cup that isn’t recycled.
Ceramic cups would be more environmentally friendly (can be reused, no ongoing manufacturing processing, no waste for landfills), but they would have to be cleared and washed, requiring labor—and that costs business money. By shifting to paper cups, all that labor—and the cost to pay for it—disappears.
Eco-friendly? Could actually be a negative. A financial win for the company? Absolutely.
Cheap single-ply, recycled bathroom tissue
I know, polite people shouldn’t discuss this in public, but someone has to say something about it. The poor quality of it no doubt saves companies money on an equivalent amount of conventional paper. But since it’s such poor quality you have to use at least twice as much.
Eco-friendly? Doubtful. A financial win for the company? At least a little.
Automatic hand dryers – what does this even have to do with going green?
This one’s a bit complicated. Sure, no paper towels means a) no trees were cut down and b) no additional waste for landfills. But automatic hand dryers are powered by electricity, and from the sound and feel of it, I’d guess it takes quite a bit to keep them blowing. And what does it take to generate electricity? Coal, oil, natural gas. It sounds a bit like trading trees for fossil fuels and acid rain.
The benefit to business? No staff needed to refill paper towel dispensers or to empty the trash, which means lower labor costs. And I’m speculating the added electric costs to power the hand dryers is probably less than the monthly cost of paper towels to stock the restrooms.
But back to paper usage for a moment…drying our hands isn’t the only reason we might use paper towels. And what do we do when one or more of the hand dryers doesn’t work, or when an underpowered dryer doesn’t quite get the job done? We go into the bathroom stalls and pull out the cheap, single-ply, recycled bath tissue—and a whole bunch of it because it really doesn’t work either, right?
Eco-friendly? I seriously doubt it. A financial win for the company? Almost certainly.
Is the hybrid car—running alternatively on both electricity and gasoline—little more than an attempt to get a new technology out into the market before it’s ready? I can’t escape that feeling.
The electricity being used to power a hybrid car is highly likely to be generated by fossil fuels, especially coal. Add to that the fact that the hybrid still uses some gasoline! Meanwhile the environmental impact from manufacturing the car isn’t much different from what it would be to produce a gas powered car.
The hybrid 2011 Toyota Prius lists at a base price of about $29,000, and gets about 42 miles per gallon. A gas powered 2011Hyundai Elantra lists at a base price of about $21,000, and gets about 40 miles per gallon. The cars aren’t 100% comparable, but it seems that the fuel efficiency of the hybrid is more than a little overblown.
The environmental impact of a hybrid may be only slightly less than that of a gas powered car, but is that advantage worth paying an extra $8,000 for? I’m not convinced.
Eco-friendly? It’s heading in the right direction, but it’s not there yet. A financial win for the company? Absolutely, and we’re talking big dollars here!
What do you think?
Does a store painted green, or at least generously appointed with green highlights make you go warm and fuzzy on the place? Are you more likely to buy what they’re selling? (hint, hint)? Are you willing to pay more for what they’re selling because they’ve “gone green?” (Another gynormous hint?)
Is “Going Green” a legitimate movement or a marketing hoax? Or is it an attempt to shift costs from the company to us, or to make us pay more for what we’re buying? Do you have other examples of where the practice looks suspicious?
Or am I the only one who’s thought about this???