Op-Ed: Going Green to Save Money or to Stop Climate Change?


I was talking climate change recently with my non-believing friend, Bill. He looked straight into my environmentalist eyes and said, “What gets me is all the so-called believers who yell at me for washing my car in the driveway when those same people can play golf all day with no thought of the resources needed to maintain the course.”

He has a point. It often is difficult for believers and non-believers alike to feel that their daily choices and routines for commuting, playing, and shopping have a significant impact on the melting of polar ice caps in the Arctic. The global warming crisis is systemic much the same way as the mortgage crisis and the rise of obesity. The symptoms—from droughts to floods—are highly interconnected, and the scale of the crisis is enormous, requiring the concerted actions of many.

How can we make a case that draws a closer connection between severe weather events, business decisions and individual lifestyle choices to prompt action? Seeking answers and inspiration, I recently attended Al Gore’s Climate Project Leadership Corps., a conference organized by The Climate Reality Project. The former vice president—with unwavering passion for exposing the inconvenient truths of climate change—led a full day of training for 1,000 attendees from all around the world. He talked in detail about the science of climate change, the challenges of population growth, scarcity of drinking water, and the economic, social and health costs of our current path.

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After many conference panels and discussions about converting the non-believers, it struck me that the issue might be less about converting and more about communicating urgency among the believers who are on the cusp of taking action.

If you compare my eco-lifestyle to that of my non-believing friend, Bill, there are no glaring differences in the way we manage our use of natural resources. What differs is our motivations. He prioritizes saving money, I prioritize saving the planet, and we somehow reach the same result. While I’d like to think that one day he will agree that global warming is real, I realize that he and many others will take action only if it makes financial sense.

So, while Bill charges ahead with installation of energy-efficient windows and other home efficiency measures that save him money, it seems the message of urgency will gain more traction among the believers who already are on the path to sustainability but aren’t clear about the best options.

Whatever the motivation, the implications of inaction are huge. Global warming risks our water and food supplies, endangers our health, and affects our national economy and security. To close the gap, I see my role in the community as helping others make informed choices as fast as possible (Thinking about solar? Call here! Greening your company? Here’s a link to free resources! Want to switch to energy-saving light bulbs? There’s an app for that!). We’re already seeing the impact of climate change, and “making a difference” can’t wait.

Should it matter that you go green because you want to save money, but don't actually believe in climate change?

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.

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Andrea Nylund is a principal of Eco Hatchery, a technology firm specializing in sustainability and the developer of the EPA award-winning Light Bulb Finder mobile app.

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