Wednesday, September 03, 2008

If I'm Going Green, I'm Sick, not Environmentally Friendly

My university recently started a series of initiatives to "go green." The ever popular buzz word has grown immensely in the last few years, and many campus initiatives by students have pushed campus into doing things to help the environment. One of the first things the school has done is get rid of the trays in all the school's dining halls; apparently, this saves water which is good for the environment.

Yet while the school attempts to save water in the dining halls, they pour gallons and gallons of water all over the school lawns in an attempt to keep them "green." Why are they even trying to save water in the dining halls at that point?

Trays allow one to conveniently carry many things at once. Some of the dining halls allow one to pick up many items for a single entrance punch, so by getting rid of the trays, one picks up less items. As a result, they make the same amount of money while spending less per customer. Additionally, if water is saved, then money is saved as well. All this "going green" shit has nothing to do with saving the planet and everything to do with saving money. The buzz word gives businesses an excuse to skimp, and they know they can get away with it while making people feel good.

Not only that, it gives them an excuse to sell useless shit. Wal-Mart has been selling "green" shopping bags. These bags cost a dollar and are reusable. However, people who buy the bags are likely to forget the bags after they use them the first time. People feel good if they buy things from a company that's gone green, and though the company has done nothing really different, they can charge more for it.

"Going green" is a buzz word after all. Five years ago, if someone had said they were going green, I would have asked if they needed a bag. It's one of those terms that appears and burns out because it lacks the substance to survive for any period of time. "Going green" won't fix anything, it just makes people feel good.

Environmental problems can be solved entirely by economics, though a combination of economics and regulation could solve the problems more rapidly. No other force--such as guilt, fear, or the value of a clean planet--will resolve the issue unless there's a massive change in the way people think. If the price of gas is high, people will move into cities where they don't have to commute as far and can ride a bike or take public transit. If food is expensive, Americans will quit eating themselves into absurd obesity and less will go to waste. An unsustainable economy will repair itself or collapse, and a stupid phrase like "going green" will mean nothing more for the sum of things than "Abercrombie and Fitch" to anyone over the age of thirty.

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