Saturday, May 3, 2008

economic green

Over the last year I have noticed a sizable shift in the general public's movement toward environmentalism. Friends, family, community, media, whether it be local, national, or international, seem to really be shifting to a more green approach to life. While I am certain that much of this is just posturing in response to Al Gore or high gas prices, there has seems to be a marked change in every day exposure to everything green. What a noble and worthwhile endeavour, but can saving the planet be accomplished?

While normally I tend to stick to issues relating to personal finance, stocks, and the market on this blog; I believe the answer here lies in a related realm. I think this one simple fact seems to be forgotten by many policy makers, green activists, and other environmentally concerned...

Being Green Must Be Economic, Otherwise Motivation Of The Masses Is Lost!

Here are a few examples of what I am getting at:
  • Ontario's The Beer Store, which interestingly is actually owned by Labatt, Molson, and Sleemans, runs what is probably the best example of 'Economic Green' I can think of. The Beer Store's returnable bottle system claims a re-use rate of 99% for regular beer bottles. Each bottle is typically used 12 to 15 times. I wonder how many bottles would make it back to the store or find their way into blue boxes if customers could not receive the $0.10/bottle that The Beer Store doles out? What a fabulous success story of environmentalism. So that Heineken that we all drank to celebrate the moneygardener's one year birthday could have been swigged on by 14 people before toasted to Walgreens and Household Savings Rates, that's about as green as it gets. All of this because most people won't turn down an easy dime.
  • The City of Woodstock, Ontario's garbage collection program has residents paying $1.25 to purchase a tag that they affix to each of their weekly garbage bags in order to have them picked up at the curb. This is 'Economic Green' at its best. Every city should implement such a program and perhaps we'll all use the first 'R' more often (REDUCE). Don't charge me a flat fee for collection inside property taxes, instead a pay-per-use system like this is true green motivation.
In summary, it's ridiculous to think the masses will recycle, reduce, re-use, and use less carbon out of the goodness of their hearts. Green Must Be A Win:Win Proposition, Or It Will Never Work!


Phantasmix said...


Anonymous said...

I agree to a point.However I'd like to think that most of us would be motivated by more than the bottom line or the economics of being green.Hopefully we are doing this for those yet unable to voice an opinion....... our children.

Anonymous said...

How about the public giving a nice strong message to the manufacturers about excessive packing? Then we'd all have less garbage for tagging.

MG said...

Great Points.

anon, It's a noble though but I think that might be looking at the world through rose coloured glasses.

anon2, Manufacturers will reduce packaging if given some incentive to do so. An incentive might be cost cutting or people not buying their products unless they are satisfied with the level of packaging. Another, weaker incentive might be government regulation.

Traciatim said...

" . . . but can saving the planet be accomplished? "

Does it actually need to be? We've only been here for around 200K years or so that we know of max. That's about 0.000004% of the time the earth has been around. We've only been tracking climate for around 500 years or so, which is around 0.0000001% of the earth life span. We know during the time that we were not here CO2 and temperature both have fluctuated wildly. We also know that you need a certain amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to sustain life on the planet. We also know there will be another ice age. Perhaps what we need is to come up with a solution so that when that comes around in 3000 years or so (or next year, did you see all the stories of record slowfall this year?) that we are ready and we don't become extinct.

"Ontario's garbage collection program has residents paying $1.25 to purchase a tag that they affix to each of their weekly garbage bags in order to have them picked up at the curb. This is 'Economic Green' at its best."

Actually, this is 'double dipping' at it's best. Your property tax already included charges for garbage pick up and then they are charging you again? Since it is a flat fee, this is also not in line with our tax system of progressive taxes.

Why not ban non-biodegradable packaging instead? Then it all goes in the compost rather than the garbage. In fact, why not ban packaging all together and all plastic products. Plus you could ban breathing since we make CO2 like there is no tomorrow. You could ban eating meat since it has the largest impact on Carbon Dioxide and Methane of any of the solutions I've seen so far.

Ban and Tax, Ban and Tax, Ban and Tax! I can see all the eco-loons out on the hill chanting it now.

Dividend Growth Investor said...


I strongly recommend that you watch Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth". Scientists have managed to find the Co2 emissions by studying the ice rings in the antarctic over the past 650,000 years.

Traciatim said...


I have watched it, and the great global warming swindle, and the 11th hour, and that one of the story of if we all vanished. I've read the IPCC AR reports, and I read AT LEAST an hour daily, articles and blogs and journals.

CO2 follows temperature by about 700 years in the graph he was showing. Al didn't tell you? I guess maybe because it didn't advance his career. I bet he didn't also tell you that CO2 was far higher in the past, and that plants thrive at CO2 levels between double and triple what it is now (About 600 - 1000PPM. I bet he didn't also tell you that the doubling of CO2 doesn't double it's warming, it's a logarithmic curve and we're well beyond the point of diminishing returns. I bet he didn't mention that the earth seems to have stopped warming since 1998, and that warming of the troposphere (one of the major tenets of the Anthropogenic Global Warming theories) isn't actually happening. I bet he even pulled the Katrina card to have the USA populace eating out of his hand, even though no storms have ever been directly linked with global warming, and storms follow incredibly well with the 11 year solar cycle while the cycle is in it's up-swing and down-swing. I bet Al didn't tell you that polar bear populations are increasing or are stable in all the populations in northern Canada. I also bet he didn't mention that the arctic sea ice is actually above the mean surface area this winter, and that it melts every year, so any time you want dramatic images of sea ice crumbling you just have to hang around in spring.

Instead of watching sensationalist fiction, you should do some real reading.

rab said...


Wow, I guess it must just be you and about...say 15 other scientists on the planet that don't believe that human C02 emissions are harming the environment. Those same 15 scientists also claimed that smoking didn't cause lung cancer.

But whatever, I don't care if you or anyone else believes in Global Warming. It's true we are 'very' close, on a geologic time scale, to another ice age. So the warming may be balanced out by the potential cooling. Depending of course that we don't warm up too much by the time the conditions are right to start another ice age.

What I really care about, and what I try to get everyone to care about, is our planet. It's the only one we have. Why should we be supporting Suncor, and the others, when they are destroying northern Alberta, and potentially the entire Athabaska water shed?
If researchers had had proper funding for the past two decades we would likely have a viable alternative energy available for mass use by now. Instead we coddle the oil and gas industry and are far from any sort of large scale use of renewable energy for homes or automobiles.
We should be encouraging governments and people to go green so that we protect the few, truely, wild places that we have left on this planet.

We have the brain power and the money to come up with an energy form that does not hurt the environment. Let's do it for the planet so we, and our grandchildren, can still enjoy nature in the future.


Sarlock said...

Everyone's entitled to make their own interpretation of the myriad of opinions out there, but there are certainly a lot more informed minds on the global warming side of the fence than there are on the other side. It's well beyond any of us to really debate whether global warming is or is not actually occuring, as we're all just armchair scientists spouting off material from a few blogs and news stories. I don't see anyone here that works for 40+ hours per week researching this stuff. We're just stuck picking and choosing the commentators that make the most sense to us.

I think the larger question, going back to mg's post, is that environmental damage will continue to occur under our economic model. We (consumers) reward companies who cut corners to cut costs and those who attempt to take a more environmentally friendly (and thus costlier) approach take it in the chin. I am highly doubtful that the consuming public will make the choice to choose more environmentally friendly products on a regular basis, as cost is still the #1 determining factor in choosing which company's product to buy. There will always be the few pet stories of the day that cause the public to shy away from certain products, but as a whole, we make our primary decision on price... and since companies know this, the company that cuts the most corners is the one that is the most successful.

It will come down to responsible governments having the guts to stand up and force consumers and companies to make environmentally sound choices by making poor choices the more expensive one. But while political parties continue to be funded by large corporations, this is unlikely to occur on the scale that it needs to.

Sarlock said...

To continue...

Globalization has made it much more difficult for governments to enact legislation that will force corporations to make environmentally friendly decisions, as these corporations can easily jump to another country that has lax environmental laws and continue to make the same product for cheap. Governments risk losing jobs for their citizens if they push too hard, so I appreciate the cautious approach that governments are taking.

Over the next decade or two, this is going to be a very large issue. Many emerging economies have much more lax environmental laws and until their citizens stand up and demand action from their governments, their water and air will become more and more polluted. We are going to do a lot of damage to our planet over the next 20 years... let's just hope it's reversable.

Dividend Growth Investor said...


I really care about people on the earth. I am not a scientist however, so to me this movie was helpful in motivating me to try to do the right thing.
Things like don't waste too much water, drive fuel efficient vehicles, commute to work with other people. I am a big fan of green energy - solar or wind as long as it doesn't affect the ecosystem like biofuels are..
So traciatim, what would you recommend that I read in order to "educate myself"?

Traciatim said...

Well, you could just watch the great global warming swindle. Though this youtube video that's 8 minutes or so long sums up the whole movie:

You could also browse through some of the comments here:

or maybe even watch the CBC documentary here:

That's just to warm up, but there are piles and piles of great stuff out there.

I'm all for helping humanity too . . . you should take a look at this speech from TED that shows what we should probably be doing:

The problem is we are making policies and spending money fixing something that we don't know what's wrong. Climate change needs time and science to figure out to see what's really happening. We know of piles of problems on the planet that we can fix quickly and cheaply.

variableinterest said...

It's funny how personally people can take the call for earth sustainability, as if we're asking them something impossible and offensive! I have had some hilarious replies to posts, like people asking me what I thought about my "lifestyle based on a farce" etc...even though my post was clearly about ecology.

All we're trying to tell people is that change is okay! For example:

Middle Class Millionaire said...


“In summary, it's ridiculous to think the masses will recycle, reduce, re-use, and use less carbon out of the goodness of their hearts. Green Must Be A Win:Win Proposition, Or It Will Never Work!”

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve actually had this debate multiple times with an environmental biologist friend of mine. Everyone says they want to go green but most won’t unless there is some kind of financial benefit to doing so.