Let me start by saying I care about the planet. I do. Really.
I recycle religiously, even though that means having to store up all of my plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, and whatever else qualifies and physically drive it to a collection point. You see, my town doesn’t have trash or recycling pickup – all trash has to be brought to the transfer station, where you pay an annual fee. Recycling can be dropped off there, or at several strategic locations around town. Food waste is composted at home – free fertilizer!
Almost all of the lights in the house have been switched to CFLs, because even though the bulbs cost more, the reduction in operating cost over the long haul is worth it. I even have some of the super-pricey dimmable ones. I’ve added additional attic insulation, replaced drafty windows, and done all sorts of weather-proofing to maximize my heating dollars and to save energy. It makes sense – both economically and pragmatically – why waste energy and therefore dollars if you don’t have to?
Now we’re getting to my point: People who waste dollars to save pennies because it looks good. There’s a reason I drive a Honda Civic and not a Hummer. Actually, there are several reasons. I don’t need to compensate for anything, I’m not trying to impress anybody, and fuel economy in the single digits does not appeal to me. I bought the Honda because 40 MPG makes sense. It saves fuel, it saves me money, and I suppose it helps the planet in the long run by using fewer resources and emitting less pollution. Good.
Without getting into too much detail, part of my work involves providing our customers with electronic equipment for retail locations. I learned a few days ago that some of these locations are to be LEED certified, meaning they have to meet strict codes and requirements for design, construction, and operation. Part of this requirement is that all electrical appliances be Energy Star certified. Now that the government is involved, things get stupid.
In order to get the happy little green “Energy Star” sticker on a particular refrigerator, the customer needs to cough up an additional $190.00 over the cost of a similar refrigerator that is not Energy Star compliant. I researched the two models in question and found that the annual energy consumption of the Energy Star unit was $39, while the non-certified one was $49. Ten dollars per year. It would take nineteen years of continuous operation for that refrigerator to pay back the cost difference in energy savings.
I suspect that the only real difference between the two refrigerators is the sticker. OK, maybe the Chinese manufacturer added an additional capacitor to the motor starting circuit to save a couple of watts, increasing the wholesale cost of the unit by $.04. They also are probably producing said circuit boards in a coal-burning plant, soldering with pure lead, and happily dumping PCBs into the stream out back while they do it. What planet are we saving, exactly? And who is pocketing that $190.00? It sure isn’t me.
I’m betting that whoever came up with this “green” certification scheme did so while sitting in their Prius waiting in the drive-through line at Dunkin Donuts because they were too lazy to park and walk into the store. Who knows, they might get their Birkenstocks dirty. They were also willing to pay $4.00 for a cup of bitter hot water they could have made for pennies without leaving the house at all if they had cared to consider the environmental impact of their trip. These are probably the same people who leave those styrofoam coffee cups on the shelves in my supermarket when they’re tired of slurping out of them. I’m also betting that these folks use more power than that refrigerator “saves” just by leaving their iPad chargers plugged in while they’re not in use. Can we say “hypocrite”?
I’m not for clear-cutting the rainforests.
Or clubbing baby seals.
I’m not for dumping our garbage at sea.
I’m also not for Big Oil.
Or “Drill, baby, drill!”
I’m for common sense. For doing things not just because they are popular or they make you feel good about yourself, but because they do real good. Separating my trash makes sense. Using energy-saving lights makes sense. Buying an expensive hybrid today because they are politically popular, while ignoring the fact that in twenty years the toxic pile of expended lithium-ion batteries will far exceed any perceived energy savings is short-sighted in my book. So is spending an extra $190 on a refrigerator to save less than $.03 a day on your electric bill.
Take that $190 and do something useful with it. Donate it. Feed the Children. Help the Homeless. Save the Whales. Heck, buy ten cases of beer. Just be sure to recycle the cans.
If you really feel the need to be “green” and spend the extra money for that refrigerator, put those three cents a day to good use. Maybe turn on a light and read a book.