Posted by: bkoles on Apr 27, 2011
When somebody asks me what I do for a living, I usually say something like “I help people ‘go green’ by matching them with companies who can help them with green technology projects.” About half the responses are “What does it really mean to ‘go green’?” It’s a complicated question to answer, especially without sufficient context or audience attention span, so I usually just cop out with “We help them get proposals for things like solar panels or energy efficiency retrofits.” The conversation typically trails off from there, but it is apparent that the majority of people don’t associate ‘going green’ with environmental responsibility as a lifestyle. They just see it as branding spin for a fad that enables major corporations to sell goods at inflated prices when there’s a leaf on the label.
My new response to the “What is ‘going green’?” question will be “I’ll send you an article that explains it better than I can right now.” So…here is that article.
Going Green is Saving Money: Using less means saving money, and preserving rather than wasting is also good for the environment. Simple enough, but most people equate ‘going green’ with purchasing, not saving. Yes, some green products are more expensive than traditional alternatives, but using less of everything – meaning only the minimum amount necessary to get the job done – will save you money in all walks of life. Making your residential or commercial building more energy efficient through insulation and automated controls is ‘going green’. So is using less gasoline by reducing the amount you drive. Exhausting less energy and resources means lower bills and less to buy later.
Going Green is Making Money: Besides the “a penny saved is a penny earned” nature of the above, there is ample opportunity to actually produce income from green technology via Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) (a.k.a. ‘Green Tags’), Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and other various power trading vehicles. Yes, government subsidies are largely responsible for the profitability of being a renewable energy producer in most markets, but that’s what it takes for new industries to compete with established behemoths such as the fossil fuel industry, which continues to be largely subsidized despite decades of enormous profiteering. Many utilities are required to utilize renewable energy sources as a portion of their total energy output mix – sometimes even specific types of renewable energy, such as ‘solar carve-outs’ – which puts savvy renewable energy producers in a position to collect a premium for services of their assets.
Going Green is Considering Consequences: Starting with the basic principle of physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, living a green lifestyle means making conscientious decisions about what you consume and how it is discarded. Let’s take the example of something as simple as drinking water. Drinking directly from a pure natural stream is probably the mode of consumption with the least amount of consequences, but this isn’t a reasonable habit on many levels. On the opposite end of the spectrum, buying chemically processed water in thick plastic bottles and discarding it on the side of the road is very convenient, but it’s a potentially devastating practice on a global scale. Whatever you choose to consume must be produced and discarded, each process having an environmental impact. So, going green means finding ways to reduce the impact of your consumption decisions.
Going Green is Making Yourself Comfortable: A largely un-touted motivation behind many energy audit requests is to relieve comfort issues within a given space. Whether it is draftiness, temperature modulation difficulties, lack of adequate light or unsatisfactory air quality, greener structures use less energy to provide a more pleasant habitat. In fact, the USGBC’s LEED certification system heavily rewards occupant comfort. Automating building controls for on-demand ideal conditions is a large part of saving energy too, and reducing the time spent arguing over thermostat adjustments is something everyone can agree is a positive.
Going Green is Sending a Message: Forget the granola-chomping tree-hugger image of yesteryear. Today’s greenies are ‘doing good by doing well’, meaning they understand that living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle has to make long term economic sense in addition to saving the planet for the benefit of future generations. That doesn’t mean making the green decision is always the easy decision. Far from it. It just means making public choices showing you’re willing to try harder in order to do better, which is an example anyone can be proud to set.
There you have it. What is going green? It’s sending a message that you choose to be comfortable in the environment you are dedicated to protecting through economic and social responsibility.Tweet