I'm Not Easy... but I'm Cheap

Today I sat in on a presentation about how the company I work for is "going green" with a more eco-friendly policy. Besides saving the earth's valuable resources, the new policy will reduce our energy bills and establish us as leading environmentalists in the industry. This, in turn, can produce additional revenue as eco-conscious customers look forward to doing business with companies that share similar beliefs. I know the decision-makers in the organization pretty well, having been associated with them for more than 15-years, so I have no doubt about their passion for "doing the right thing", but I am also sure that the additional revenue makes it a little easier to do it.

This was also my feeling when I bought our new car in 2006. If you would make it easy for me to do, I would get a lot of pleasure from reducing my carbon footprint. The main driving factor for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle, however, was the money I would save in the long run. Due to the steady and drastic increase in fuel costs the "long run" was shortened quite a bit.

I have forgotten most of the details but had it all worked out when I made my eco-friendly decision to buy the Toyota Prius-- the most fuel-efficient, standard hybrid car available at the time. Sure-- the upfront costs were a little higher but with the federal government tax credit the difference between this and similar, non-hybrids was minimal. In fact, I figured out that if I averaged 14,000 miles per year, I would make up the difference in less than 16 months.

Increases in prices at the pump brought that period of time closer to a year and further increases have allowed me to save, most recently, about $30-$35 per week. Through the life of the car, I have averaged almost 48 miles per gallon but on my last full tank, I reached the best milage yet, with 50.1 mpg. There are computer readouts in the dashboard that feed you all kind of information as you are on the road so you can really learn how to drive to get the best mileage. Factors like how you start and stop and if the air-conditioner is running make a huge impact in this automobile.

The Prius, in particular, has become very common on the roads but I still get a couple of questions a week about it. The main thing people ask is what kind of mileage I get and "How long can you go before you have to plug it in again?" I try to explain that it doesn't have a plug or need an electrical outlet, instead it has an gas engine that supplies power to the electronic engine that makes the car go. That's when they lose interest again so I go back to "50 miles per gallon" instead of how the braking system recharges the batteries.

The bottom line remains, if you can make it easy and inexpensive to do-- I will be as green as Kermit but it is, primarily, because I am cheap and, secondarily, worried about the environment. I can't and don't want to speak for others but, I would think, many would feel the same way.

I am happy to wear a sweater in the house in the winter and knock the heat down a few degrees to save a couple of bucks; or go through the trouble of separating my trash and put it recycling bins as long as the waste disposal company doesn't charge me extra to pick it up; and I am pleased (and you would be too) to use these cool canvass totes to haul groceries and such instead of paper or plastic, but ask me to spend too much time, money or effort and honestly I am going to conveniently forget about Mother Earth, most of the time.

I feel bad that I can't be more of a tree-hugger after seeing all of the evidence that we are destroying our planet in the presentation today. As a father now, one statement in particular, really hit home: We did not inherit the Earth from our parents... we borrow it from our children.

When you look at it in that perspective-- I figure, with as much as I will spend on my kids over a lifetime, I can afford to take a little credit out on their Earth. In addition, I know my kids, and probably their whole generation are going to be much, much smarter than me. Let them come up with a way to save the world-- I'm too old to make too much more of contribution than I already am in my little electric car.

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