Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We’re All Environmentalists – When It Costs Money

Sure you use your office’s blue boxes for recycling paper at work, and you probably separate your trash, recyclables and in some municipalities, even your compost materials at home.

These are things we do because we have too – most offices and municipalities have strict policies on what can and can’t be put out for garbage, often with consequences.

Municipal governments can fine and in some cases jail you for failing to recycle. Some offices have environmental cops, which leave nasty Post-It Notes on your desk if you’re caught trashing that stash of old papers, instead of recycling them.
One office I worked at, if you got three or more notices from the environmental cops, you had to wear a giant green witch’s hat for an entire day, as punishment for your green sin. The idea is that you’re so embarrassed by being singled with the giant green hat out as the one who doesn’t recycle, you’ll start too.

But nothing can make us more green for the planet, than money. When it simply costs more to do the non-environmentally-friendly thing, suddenly we’ll go green.

Take one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions in North America – to lose weight –and combine it with this winter’s brutal El Nino cold spell circulating the globe. Many parts of the world are experiencing unusually brisk temperatures, affecting regional growing crops.

In Mexico City, kids played in the snow for the first time ever, while Florida farmers have been watering their fruit crops non-stop to prevent them from freezing over due to below freezing temperatures.

This means one of the world’s staple food crops – sugar – is suffering. Mother Nature just didn’t design the sugar cane for a cold climate.

So all those people that made a promise to themselves to drop some excess weight this year are in luck – foods with sugar are starting to cost more at the store, thanks to a global shortage of sugar, brought about by an environmental mess.

Though fresh fruit – especially world famous Florida oranges – are also costing us more at the grocery store. And fresh fruit is good for you – an apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the saying goes.

But too much of a good thing can harm you. If you drink too much fruit juice, or even if you eat too many fresh fruits in a day, you can increase your triglycerides by consuming all that natural fruit sugar, which can lead to diabetes, or even stroke and heart disease.

Still, the most influential factor in making us see green is in many cases green.
Major metropolitan areas such as New York City, U.S.A or Toronto, Canada report a direct correlation between increased ridership on their public transit systems when gas prices climb, and a similar reduction in ridership when gas prices decrease. So when it costs more to fill up your gas tank, you are more likely to take public transit.

Public transit, although not the best environmental solution, is better for the environment, as most of us drive all alone to work and back in our personal vehicles. But when you hop on a streetcar, bus or subway train, suddenly you are doing a very environmentally-friendly thing, as you’re taking your single occupant vehicle off the road, and replacing it with one multi-occupant vehicle. So instead of having thousands of single occupant vehicles on the road, you end up with one big vehicle with many occupants.

But the greatest cause for the fluctuations in public transit passenger load are money-based.

Kind of sad when you think about it. Although we all know being environmental citizens is good for all of us that call this planet home, it still takes money to make most of us be those good environmental citizens.

Be it a fine from your local town or city, or the cost at the pumps to fuel your car, money makes anyone an instant environmentalist.

Watch, as sugar prices rise, causing a jump in sugary food costs, more of us will be on diets . And those diets won’t necessarily be due to a New Year’s Resolution.

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