What’s Wrong With “Green”

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Last night I posted an interesting article on considering “end of life” costs when calculating your retirement savings. Afterward, I started thinking about my recent posts and realized there may be an unintended trend emerging.

If you’ve been reading my articles, there’s a certain “negative” vibe to each of them. On the surface it may appear I’m a NO kind of guy and my aim is to tell you everything that’s wrong.

This could not be farther from the truth.

I’ve been making an effort to establish my baseline. More important than offering little nuggets of information you may use once, I want readers to question what’s considered conventional wisdom.

Changing our behavioral errs starts with us, and unless we make a fundamental mind shift in the way we perceive money, it will continue to be an uphill battle.

Enter EngineerYourFinances Pillar #1 – EDUCATION.

With that said, I’ll launch into my final* negative post.  *For the time being, I’m sure I’ll think of something else down the road :)

While I commend people’s efforts to turn green, I find myself shaking my head more often than not. Despite their best intentions, some people are missing the point with being green.

Case in point, I was flipping through articles on Bankrate and stumbled on a video about 5 Green Myths. At first I thought, “maybe I’ll learn something new from this”. How wrong I was….

PROBLEM: Green is too hard.

SOLUTION: Buy recycled napkin products.

My eyes tripled in size….

Here’s a quick production chain scenario. That recycled napkin probably came from an individually wrapped plastic package. And that individual package was probably shipped to the grocery store on a palette full of individually wrapped packages wrapped in plastic as a unit.

Being green has become more about looking chic, then actually striving to make changes. Going back to what I noted in the beginning, we need to make FUNDAMENTAL changes in the way we think in order to evolve our habits.

In line with my belief that information should be free, I’ll refer to you iTunes U. The Stanford Engineering series, Energy Crossroads: Building a Coalition for a Clean, Prosperous, and Secure Energy Future, provides some food for thought.

Within the engineering field, there’s been a break from the term “green” and more of a focus on “sustainability”. Being sustainable means that you are green, but being green does not necessarily mean you are sustainable.

Used loosely, “Correlation does not imply causation”.

For my undergraduate research project, I did a comparison of the energy consumption between LEED and regular non-certified buildings. An interesting outcome, I learned that those who focused their attention on being more RESOURCEFUL with their existing systems were able to reduce their consumption to the same order of magnitude as those who revamped their outdated systems with renewable technologies.

The green technologies and products available to us will not make us green by themselves. Until we make a fundamental mind shift towards resourcefulness, our efforts to change will always be countered by our consumptive nature.

You may have read how I missed out on an opportunity to profit $14,000 in a few days. Although this was a special scenario, there will be other opportunities. I’m more interested in you reading the post on why you need to earn more AND spend less.

And here’s the tie to personal finance. There’s nothing magical about MAKING MONEY, it’s not about special products or the hottest rates, but simply being more RESOURCEFUL with your money. It’s the equation everyone knows, but the hardest to implement:

EARNED INCOME (salary, investments, freelancing, whatever)

minus

EXPENSES (life costs, entertainment, obligations, whatever)

equals

SAVINGS

And with that, we’re off to bigger and better things. My next few posts will focus on providing tidbits of useful information. I’m starting to realize the value in effective blogging. Personal finance sites are very similar to military scouts.

Sent ahead of the unit to perform reconnaissance and bring any useful information back to the troops, PF sites search through the weeds to find useful information to share.

BONUS MATERIAL:

Here’s an extremely EASY and CHEAP way to insulate your home. How many times have you thrown away bubble wrap from packaging? Turns out, you can shave a few degrees off what’s permeated through your windows with this “trash”.

In order for this to work, you need wrapping with relatively small bubbles and firm backing (not sure how well it does with over-crinkled material).

STEP 1: Spritz your window with water. Don’t dose it, a light covering will do.

STEP 2: Apply the bubble wrap to the window.

STEP 3: DONE

Why it works: Similar to how wetsuits keep divers warm, the voids between the bubbles create an insulating layer. The outside air becomes trapped in this layer, and instead of passing into your home, it helps to prevent additional air from coming in.

How it works: The surface tension created by the water adheres the bubble wrap to the window. The contact angle formed between the plastic bubble and water keeps the wrapping up on the window. This is why smaller bubbles are required. If too large, the water can’t form a proper bond around the bubbles.

Photo by: nsobject

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7 Responses
  1. First…I found your post inspiring. There is a real problem with the way “green” is sold, when what is selling isn’t really sustainable. I believe there is a disconnect between advertising for profits and actually changing the way we do business for the sake of actually using resources responsibly. LEED houses may not be more efficient than conventional design, but we need to figure out how to use materials that we can produce indefinitely without taking out other species, ruining our air and otherwise making the place we all live uninhabitable over time. And the idea of LEED is to do just that as well as conserve energy. The challenge is in executing the idea in a way that works without raising costs through the roof. Unfortunately, when something is new or trendy, it is also usually costly.

    Change is always tough and usually happens in bits. I hope (in my glass is half full kind of way) that we are, as a global community, at least trying to get on the right track. Resistance is expected and debate is an excellent tool for solving problems, so I remain hopeful for the future.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Money Saving Tips That Happen To Be Green =-.

    1. Fin Engr

      @ Tracy.

      Wow – thanks for the first sentence :)

      One problem is that its very hard to create a nationally accepted program and then apply that to every single scenario. LEED has come a long way since I researched its point program. You used to acquire points uniformly, no matter how small/large your “green” component was. Installing bike racks is WAY different from flushing & balancing your air system.

      Each structure is different, just like people. It was no big deal to throw on multiple safety factors and churn out over-designed structures. Slowly things are going back to designing systems that “fit”. This reconfiguration of how power is utilized could, by itself, dramatically change the amount of wasted resources.

      Green provides a good supplement to resourcefulness, but until we stop the hemorrhaging of power, IVs of green are simply not enough. This goes to my idea of personal finance optimization. You have to control the flow from both ends in order to truly maximize your returns.

      Fun Factoid: There’s also been a rebirth of “ancient” technologies like aligning along E-W axis to capitalize on natural sunlight and allowing air flow through rooms for cooling.

  2. So you mean if I drive my hybrid even more than I drove my regular car it might not be sustainable? But by driving the “green” car I’m saving the environment… right? haha. This all goes back to just THINKING about what you’re doing… I wonder if we could create a class in our school system simply titled: “Why?”
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..Seeds of Knowledge 2.5.10 =-.

  3. nextstage

    Lots of times, when I read about “Green Living”, it’s not about what you can do to reduce your consumption, it’s about what (expensive) item you can buy. I think there’s

  4. nextstage

    Yes. I think there seems to be a push to get people to buy “green” instead of doing “green”. I wonder if there is a subliminal push in this country to keep everybody, even people in serious debt, wanting things, especially items that have a “halo” effect around them (ie, good for the planet). It’s a lot easier to buy a product and believe that you have made the world a better place, rather than, say, ride your bike to work. What I worry about is that we have become a nation of people who pay lip service to the idea of being green, but who don’t have the energy? desire? to do simple cost effective measures that have been around for a while, like lower your thermostat or turning down your hot water heater. There’s also the whole idea that it is OK if you want to do it and I will applaud you, but I definitely do not want to deprive myself of whatever luxury I can afford. Yikes! I hope I don’t sound too harsh, but I read another blog last night that had me wondering about the future of America!

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