Five Ways To Help Save The Earth–And Money

Commentary, Climate, Frontier Centre

In 2009, if someone doesn’t consider themselves an environmentalist, I’d guess they’re either contrarian to a fault, or too worried about the damage done to the label by radicals.

Or there is the taint of hypocrisy which can tarnish green causes in the manner corrupt preachers bring religion into disrepute.

Last summer, Architectural Digest had a fawning piece (it publishes no other kind) about one of the ranches owned by former media mogul Ted Turner; the article tried to point out Turner’s green bona fides but it inadvertently, and without irony, noted he possessed “not one but many homes where the buffalo roam.” This was in addition to his main residence, in Tallahassee, Florida.

Al Gore too has his many houses. Too bad Gore is often excused by some for his green disingenuousness because he preaches a good game and buys carbon credits.

Or this example. A fervent environmentalist I know once told me what a wonderful time she had in an environmentally-friendly lodge deep in the Sri Lankan jungle. She was a pleasant and sincere lass (who also had a large house to herself in rural Alberta); she saw no contradiction in flying all the way from the West to Sri Lanka only to exclaim about a “green” vacation.

This is the modern version of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” line: if you think global warming is human-caused but are wealthy enough, you needn’t change your way of life; you can always buy carbon credits and push the real tough choices down to the little people.

Still, except for saints, we’ve all been hypocrites at some point so that’s no reason to let the radicals or the Gores discredit legitimate green concerns.

Except for the dolts who chew up meadows with their quads and bikes every spring or who dump trash into rivers, most people want clean water, fresh air, and would prefer to leave a lighter footprint on the earth. Even in a recession, most of us prefer to be thoughtful about the planet as we try and balance our personal books.

In that spirit, here are five suggestions on how to save money and spare the earth a few environmental migraines.

Tip #1: Stop buying bottled water. In Canada at least, it’s a scam as most city water is fine. Buy $2 worth of bottled water daily and that’s a $3,650 bill over five years. Instead, invest that money in now beaten-down stocks; it’ll be a better long-term investment.

Tip #2: Buy in bulk. This is counter-intuitive and plenty of greens hate big box stores. And I fully admit those stores are an aesthetic and architectural blight on the landscape. But ask yourself which makes more sense: to buy many small boxes of Kleenex or cereal (and all the extra packaging that implies) or to buy bigger but fewer boxes?

As long as someone doesn’t squander the extra stuff, bigger packages equal less packaging overall and fewer trips to the grocery store.

Tip #3: Buy quality the first time even it’s more expensive; it’s cheaper in the long run. For example, rather than buy tires that last only 60,000 km, buy ones that run for 130,000; less rubber will be required. Also, over time you’ll save money by not paying for more tires and extra tire installations.

Tip #4: Ask yourself what new technological device you can do without, or postpone buying. Until last year, I used the same bulky, boxy computer monitor for nine years even though nifty new flat screens were long available. But why throw out a perfectly good product if it is still functions? Also, the longer you wait, the device is more likely to be cheaper, possess better technology and be more efficient.

Tip #5: Donate goods that you either can’t use or can’t stand to charity. This act won’t necessarily save you money but it might save someone else cash and is preferable to seeing still-usable goods hauled off to the dump.

There’s nothing glamorous about basic ways to save money and to save items from the landfill. Nor will you win the Nobel peace prize. But there’s little danger of the Turner-Gore-Antoinette syndrome either.