Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Guide to Eco-products Pt2 - "eco-efficiency"

At the end of last year I promised some posts on what makes a product 'green' - see the summary here.

The first way a product can be green I mentioned was "using less stuff". The technical term for this is 'eco-efficiency' - the amount of use we can get out of each unit of natural resource. For example, if you buy a more fuel efficient car, you will get more miles (the use you want) out of each gallon (the natural resource required). Other examples of efficient products include efficient lightbulbs, lightweight packaging and multi-function products.

The main problem with eco-efficiency is that it requires reciprocal eco-friendly behaviour from the man (or woman) in the highstreet. I've mentioned the rebound effect before - if you save money by being efficient, an then go and blow your windfall on eco-nasties you might as well not have bothered. Another type of rebound is in the use of the product itself. If you leave your house at night and look back and notice you've left the bedroom light on, then you are much less likely to go back and switch it off if you've got an efficient bulb in.

Another problem is just sheer materialism. My mobile is a phone, PDA, camera and MP3 player all in one tiny box, which sounds wonderfully efficient, but I already had a digital camera and an MP3 player, so I haven't actually reduced the amount of resources I have consumed, no matter how hard I try to persuade myself I've done a good thing.

The same is true with longlife products - yes, they are eco-friendly if you use them for their entire lifespan, but many products get binned because we fancy a new model, rather than because they break. Again, mobile phones are a great example of this with people upgrading several times a year - I used my last one for four years (despite people openly laughing at it towards the end), but when the battery went on the blink, I upgraded rather than repairing.

I did some research on this once and came to the conclusion that we have to increase the eco-efficiency of our lives massively before we get even moderate reductions in our eco-footprints. Or we need to earn less money...

So, eco-efficiency isn't everything it's cracked up to be we'll have to look at other solutions in Parts 3 & 4 of this series.

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At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Kaz said...

interested in your earning less money as an option this a suggestion towards a different polititical system.....socialism.........? is this a greener option?


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