The Problem with Green

Cross-posted at Fred’s News.

I can’t stand most “green” products. They don’t work very well, they cost more and people who use them generally take a “holier than thou” opinion of themselves, just because they’re using some crappy green product.

Green products are Lifestyle Products. They are meant to make somebody feel better about who they are simply because they are being “environmentally responsible.” At least, they think they are, but let’s look at “green” initiatives:

  • DDT – Proved safe even before it was banned, the possibility of it being a carcinogen combined with the false belief that it was killing California Condors kept this bug-killer off the market and millions have since died due to malaria and crop failures as a result.
  • Low-Flow Toilets – Intended to save water, these toilets often have to be flushed multiple times to work properly, saving nothing.

Two examples (and there are many more) of ineffective “green” initiatives. Add to this the multitude of “green” products that don’t work as well as their “non-green” counterparts. It seems that just because something is labeled “natural” or “green” you can charge more for it.

I’ve got news: Recycling plastic wastes more energy and petroleum that just tossing it in the trash, and landfills today are designed to keep degraded byproducts contained until they have long-since degraded into their basic substrates. If recycling plastic is “green,” count me out!

Which is not to say I don’t want to save my environment. It’s far more efficient to recycle steel, for example, than make all-new steel. I don’t want lead in my air or PCBs in my water, but those have been proved in double-blind studies to be extremely dangerous to everybody’s health. Controlling those emissions, everyone can agree, is a good thing. Similarly, one kilogram of hydrogen contains the same combustive power as a gallon of gasoline (or near-enough), yet its only emission is water. Just one problem: No one has proved, in a double-blind study, that human beings are causing global warming. Each side develops studies that agree with their own political position because the researchers know who is buttering their bread. One side or the other is skewing its results (or both).

So, I don’t know which one to believe. Do I believe “Big Oil” or “Big Eco?” Most people pick one side or another. I don’t. I just look after my wallet.

And therein lies the problem for purveyors of “green” products. I like, agree and believe in the concept of “riches in niches.” You can charge more for “green” because it’s a lifestyle product; but you’re never going to sell it to people like me (or those Big Oil guys) doing that. We’ve seen how the environmental movement has lied and exaggerated on so many things that we simply won’t pay more for less. So if your mission is to save the world, you’ve got to make it save me money.

This could happen in several ways. First, your product could actually work better: The guys as Green Dragon have developed a green roach bait that works as well or better than anything else on the market. That’s green that pays (full-disclosure: I’m a co-owner). Alternately, products that save energy in the long run, such as Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) pay. CFLs have mercury in them, though, so not so much green as we all thought. The low-mercury ones don’t last as long and cost a lot more. Guess I’ll stick with my incandescents and hope that LED bulbs come down in price by the time I have to replace the CFLs I’ve already got. Still, CFLs are on the right track: Their cost is more than offset by their long lives and reduced energy consumption.

It’s fine if you want to sell green products, and fine if you want to sell them at a huge mark-up to people who want to feel better about themselves. If you want to sell green products and save the world however, you’ve got to make those products both environmentally green and put more “green” in my wallet.