Friday, February 29, 2008

Go green to save green

When the talk turns to environmental sustainability and so-called "green" standards in business, one of the major counter arguments tends to be that it'll be too cost prohibitive, cut into a company's bottom line, and therefore be bad for business and the economy. I'm always tempted to fire back with "But you're putting profits before the long-term health and survival of the planet!" which, really, just tends to put people off. No one will ever convince anyone to change their ways by insulting their humanity.

Here's the thing, though: the more I research green technologies, the more I'm seeing that many of them actually save companies money in addition to saving resources. Ingenuity and a greater focus on sustainable practices have produced a whole slew of products and processes that are good for both the planet and the bottom line, but we seem to be falling short on actually promoting them. We have to get the word out, so that when it comes time to discuss new, greener ideas, the "it costs too much" argument will be mostly moot.

Right here at our very own UW-Madison, a man by the name of Marjid Sarmadi has developed a more sustainable way to make carpeting. I'll be honest; it's not something I'd ever thought of before. Apparently, however, making one square yard of carpet requires 50 gallons of water, significant amounts of energy and harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. Plus, it's the number one textile found in landfills.

However, Sarmadi has hit on a way to make carpeting that is 100% recyclable, doesn't use some of the more harmful chemicals, and actually costs less:

...the most surprising part of the project has been that the final project not only saves water and energy, but lasts longer and costs much less. Sarmadi’s carpeting standards have a 30–year warranty, as opposed to the typical 10— to 15–year warranty, and have saved the LACCD the equivalent of $40 million.
And there are stories like this one cropping up all over the place. Plus, green technologies create green jobs (y'know, that thing the presidential candidates have been gabbing on and on about). The renewable energy industry, for instance, has been seeing substantial growth, even in the midst of the current economic downturn.

Again, the main ingredient for seeing more successes like this one is will power: willingness to research and try new things, willingness to properly fund the efforts, willingness to place more emphasis on long-term benefits than short.

We've got opposable thumbs and big, squishy brains, and we've proved that we can make just about anything happen if we put our minds to it. In this case, it's both good stewardship and good business.

(h/t Isthmus Daily Page and TreeHugger)

1 comment:

John Das Binky said...

It's a mild aside, but my general reaction to the cost-prohibitive argument is that one of the most financially devastating socio-economic moves in American history was the abolishment of Slavery. The economy of the South was in ruins for decades. Some areas / industries never really recovered.

In the end, abolition was a good plan. Not too many people these days argue that the financial impact wasn't worth it. Is what we're doing to the environment as morally repugnant as slavery? Enter the most loaded debate of the day. :)

That said, if your retort puts people off, comparing them to 19th century slavers probably won't make it any better!

There are lots interesting "green" investment opportunities... mutual funds that only invest in companies doing green research. The returns aren't as good as most index funds, but it's a great way that anyone with a few bucks can make a meaningful investment in helping these kind of green ideas along without having to research every idea out there. Check out sites like

The Lost Albatross