Eco Meets the Economy

Editor’s Note:

When economy is good everyone knows how to spend, have a good time, find the best place for vacation, best dinner, clothing, music, fun and the rest. Lights are on all night and a lot of positive energy is in the air.

Historically our economy had its ups and downs but usually after each down there had been an up. Without a fundamental change in peoples life. Factories were working. People had jobs and benefits. Young couples can get a job and afford a place for living on their own.

As professor Richard D. Wolf pointed out in 1976 the following six major historical changes began to happen.

  1. The birth of new technology era (computer) and automation, required less human labor.
  2. Globalization meaning migration of job in peruse of cheap labor.
  3. Reshaping of economy by the new competitors in technology in the world especially in Asia.
  4. Entry of woman to the work market.
  5. Stagnation of wages based on supply and demand of human labor (job exit, excess work force, and diminishing job. The working Americans began to work even harder than ever and longer hours. To compensate lower wages and than began to borrow meaning going to debt.
  6. Diving for the bottom line by the rich people of the world and gradual ongoing development of two-class society with different speed through out the globe. The results are ignoring the hearts and minds of billions and protecting the pockets of a couple of millions internationally.

Now the question is where we stand as a whole on this planet ? and where are we heading ?,toward progress, justice, and humane treatment of each other or continue to ride on to the slippery road of greater  disaster. You may call it  another kind of depression with a new meaning that extends far behind a simple economic term. The choices are ours and the actions as well.

Eco Meets The Economy

Saving money while saving the planet calls for scrimping and creativity

Source: Steven Kurutz

IN August, Lloyd Alter came up against the limits of his environmental convictions when he had to replace the leaky roof on his house in Toronto. “For years, I said I would install a reflective metal roof,” because it helps to reduce heat and lower energy costs during the summer, said Mr. Alter, 58, an architect who writes about design for Treehugger, the sustainability-focused Web site. But “when push came to shove,” he said, “I bought asphalt.”

The asphalt shingles aren’t as good at reflecting the sun’s rays, and worse still, they’re made from a petroleum-based material. But they were a lot cheaper: the total cost of the new roof, including installation, was about $12,000, Mr. Alter noted, while “the metallic roof probably would have cost double.”

It is the kind of reality check that many eco-conscious consumers face these days. And like others, most have resorted to cutting their spending on a variety of items, particularly green products, which typically cost more than their non-green counterparts and can be difficult to justify, or even afford, when budgets are tight.

In a bad economy, what used to seem essential can quickly become optional.

At the same time, what was once merely fashionable can become a matter of necessity. Activities like growing and canning food, raising chickens and making your own clothes and other household goods — which in recent years have been exalted for their artisanal qualities — are now seen by many as a way to economize while staying true to green values.

David Quilty, a blogger in Santa Fe, N.M., has stopped buying organic cotton T-shirts and shopping for produce at Whole Foods. And after years of buying packaged cleaners and soaps from eco-friendly companies like Method and Seventh Generation, he can no longer afford them, he said, so he has started cleaning his home with a solution he whips up himself.

Not surprisingly, the green products industry is feeling the pinch. Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the Organic Trade Association, said that while the organic-goods sector has boomed in the last eight years, going up to $29 billion from $9 billion in sales, the industry’s yearly growth rates dropped to less than 6 percent in 2010, from between 15 and 20 percent previously.

Most people aren’t making a choice between green and cheap. At the moment, however, many eco-minded consumers seem to be wary of both. Not long ago, Mr. Alter found himself in a grocery store, trying to decide between $10-a-pound organic bacon and a nonorganic brand that cost $5. In the end, he didn’t buy either one. “More and more people are doing that,” he said. “It’s like ‘Buy Nothing Day’ all year.”

FOR Erin Peters, a stay-at-home mother of three who began using green products four years ago, the D.I.Y. approach was a response to what she thought was a temporary financial hardship. When her husband’s company transferred him from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh, N.C., in 2008, just as the real estate market collapsed, they were saddled with a mortgage on one home and rent on another, until they finally sold the house a year later.

During that time, her shopping trips took on the aspect of a liberal morality play. “I couldn’t get us into more debt,” said Ms. Peters, 32. “But I felt guilty if I didn’t buy the green products we’d been using.”

Recently, they had another setback: their health insurance premiums went up, which meant “we lost a few hundred dollars from the monthly budget,” Ms. Peters said, and had to make more spending cuts.

For now, at least, that means no organic produce. They are also renting a smaller house within walking distance of her husband’s office and the children’s school. By driving less, they save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

Ms. Peters has also begun gardening and canning vegetables, and although she once thought of thrift stores as selling clothing that was “rotten or falling apart,” and would never have dreamed of shopping there, that’s now where she buys clothes.

But despite forgoing things like green cleaning products and organic food, Ms. Peters said, she thinks she is living in a more sustainable way than she did before. “I think the economy has forced people to be greener,” she said. “Even if they didn’t intend to.”

From a co-worker at TerraCycle, the recycling-design firm in New Jersey where she works, Ms. Yarnall learned about the so-called “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables most susceptible to absorbing pesticides, based on data from the United States Department of Agriculture. Ms. Yarnall now saves money by buying organically grown produce only if it’s on that list. That means splurging on things like strawberries, apples and lettuce, but not on thick-skinned fruit like bananas.

Mr. Quilty has come up with his own accommodation: to afford grass-fed meat, he buys fruit and vegetables at a farmers’ market, which “is much cheaper than Whole Foods,” he said.

And if the produce isn’t organic, at least it’s local. “It is a tradeoff, but it’s worth it to me to eat the healthiest meat I can get.”

Some worry that all this frugality may result in what Gita Nandan calls “short-sighted knee-jerk reactions,” namely, passing up green products with high upfront costs, despite the long-term savings and reduced environmental impact.

“People say, ‘I only have $3 in my pocket, I should buy the incandescent bulb because it’s cheap,’ ” said Ms. Nandan, 40, a partner in Thread Collective, a Brooklyn design firm specializing in sustainable architecture. But “in the end, the math doesn’t work out,” she continued, because using more energy means your monthly bills will be higher.

Earlier this year, Ms. Peters and her husband test-drove a Leaf, the all-electric car from Nissan. Buying it would be an energy-efficient upgrade from the couple’s 2004 Honda Odyssey, and it’s something Ms. Peters said they might have done not long ago.

“Like most Americans,” she said, “I had the mind-set that if I wanted something new, I could run out and get it.”

Instead, she and her husband have entered a contest to win the car and have put off buying anything. When the economy recovers, she said, they hope to be driving a new fuel-efficient vehicle, but “it’s out of reach right now.”

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