I recently wrote an article on ways to increase business profit by going green. Each suggestion was something that was relatively cheap when compared to the possible return on investment.
However, relatively cheap doesn’t cut it at a time when we are going through a global recession. With unemployment above 9% and economies crashing from Mexico to Iceland to South Africa, many people think it isn’t the best time to go green.
And they are right, going green costs a lot of money.
But, like most things in life, it isn’t a black and white proposition. There is a grey area. Converting to a sustainable economy starts somewhere, and here are 3 of the popular ways we are doing so right now:
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “going off the grid.” This means making your house self-sustainable in regards to energy so that you don’t have to be connected to the electric grid. In fact, some people create a surplus of energy and pump it back into the grid.
According to The Solar Guide:
A robust solar electric system will cost about $20,000. You can spend as much money, to receive as much solar electricity, as you feel comfortable with.
Depending on your states current incentives, they may be able to offset some of the cost.
But what if you don’t want to spend $20,000 for a robust system, but still want to offset your power usage somehow? You could always get a smaller setup that is rigged to cover some of your basic needs. For $5,000, you could get a system that covers the average houses water-heating needs. The typical breakeven point is about three years, so you need to be thinking near-term.
You want to go even smaller? You could get a solar setup for all of the equipment in your home office. For $1,000, you could power your computer, fax machine, printer/copier, lights, conference phone, etc.
The options are plenty, and you don’t have to go “all or nothing.”
Environmentally friendly buildings are certified using a system called LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED measures energy savings, water efficiency, emissions, and air quality. It is voluntary at the moment, but as green building code gains popularity that may change for new construction.
For new construction, Clean Air Cool Planet [PDF] estimates that the soft costs plus greening costs for a LEED certified building add somewhere between 4% and 11% to the costs of construction.
Clean Air Cool Planet also hypothesizes that:
Over time we expect the cost impact of LEED certification to decline as a percentage of total construction costs as architects, contractors, and consultants become more familiar with the process.
Right now, as the construction sector is already suffering, it would seem that increasing the cost of construction is counterintuitive. However, the return on investment and increased economic sustainability is a valuable return worth looking at.
Cap & Trade
Cap & Trade programs set limits on pollution. There are international cap and trade programs, and also more localized programs. Different countries have different cap and trade programs. For example, the United States is focused on reducing Acid Rain. The European Union focuses on greenhouse gases.
What is the idea behind it? Companies in developed countries purchase unused credits from companies in non-developed countries in order to offset their emissions. If the program is more localized, instead of developing countries and undeveloped countries you have large companies and small companies.
The goal of the program is obviously to encourage companies to think twice about their environmental impact and thus curb pollution increases. However, that doesn’t seem to be what is happening in practice. Right now, if a company can buy $1 million worth of credits or spend $20 million on retooling and reconstruction, they will most likely spend the $1 million on credits. So now we have a bunch of companies (who feel guilt free because they purchased credits) delaying environmental improvements.
The World Bank reports that there were $30 billion in traded allowances in 2007.
To Go Green or Not to Go Green
Going green is an expensive process. And right now it may seem to be counterintuitive. However, there are a lot of cost savings associated with going green that are worth looking at.
Have any of my readers installed solar panels? Anyone LEED certified and have first hand knowledge of the cost savings that come from making a building LEED certified? Thoughts on the cap and trade programs?