Monday, September 08, 2008

Eco-Living Myth No 1: Going Green Will Save You Money

I read this again and again - "save the planet and save money"! Hurrah! Fantastic! What could be better? Friends of the Earth even published a book called "Save Cash and Save the Planet" (I like their priorities).

OK, some eco-living options will save you money: buying a smaller/more efficient car, cycling, insulating your house, switching to low energy lightbulbs etc. Others won't: organic food, higher quality clothing, microrenewables etc. But all of this misses the point - eco-living is about your whole life, everything you do and everything you consume, not just how much you spend on, say, fuel.

An example: in 2003 I wrote off my Ford Ka (40mpg) and replaced it with a VW Golf TDi (55mpg). The Golf cut my fuel consumption by 28% and saved £250. Fab. But if I spend that money on a flight to New York, then I've just doubled the emissions from the Ka. To reap the benefits of that fuel efficiency, I have to either donate the 'saving' to a green cause or spend it on very low impact goods or services (eg an antique chair or a haircut).

So saving money is irrelevant to the eco-living debate, as it just goes back into the pot. What is important is that, overall, you purchase fewer high impact goods and services (air travel, meat, concrete) and instead go for their low impact equivalent (cycling, local veg, locally sourced wood). So don't listen to the "save money" brigade and look at the big picture instead.

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