Is Going Green Worth It?

Little Italy Farmer's Market - San Diego

Little Italy Farmer’s Market in San Diego

Now that it’s football season I spend most of my Sunday’s watching the NFL RedZone channel on the couch.  But once I get tired of that in a couple months I’ll probably go back to my normal routine of waking up early and strolling down to the local farmer’s market.

I’m not sure what’s so attractive about farmer’s markets but I love going just to check out all the cool vendors, sample food and of course I usually end up buying a ton of stuff.  Farmer’s markets in my area have evolved from selling just groceries to all different types of products like cheeses, butter, nuts and even restaurants are getting in on the action now.

I usually go for the food and produce though, everything is super delicious and a lot of it is either locally grown, organic or pesticide free.  Almost all of it looks and sounds tasty and healthy but at the end of a 1 hour shopping trip I’ve usually spent at least $50 on one or two bags of groceries.  I like supporting local businesses and buying healthy fruits and veggies but at a certain point you have to wonder is it worth it to buy a tomato that’s four times the price of a regular non-organic tomato?

I’ve never been the type to obsess over whether veggies are organic or not and anyone who tells me they can taste the difference between an organic and non-organic fruit is full of it.  I’m no scientist either though so I have no idea just how bad pesticides and things like that are on fruits.  But I do know that just like with everything else in life, as long as you consume these products in moderation you’ll probably be just fine(I learned just the other day that there are actually acceptable levels of radiation that can be present in our bodies).

It seems like I’m faced with dilemmas like this all the time since it’s usually more expensive to ‘Go Green’ as they say.  Here are some of the most recent encounters I’ve had and whether I thought it was worth it or not to spend the extra money to save the planet.

Buying Solar Tiles

Since I’ve had more free time lately, I’ve been helping out one of my family members remodel their house.  One of the things that I spent a lot of time researching was solar roof tiles.  Solar technology has evolved a lot in the past ten years and the cost has come down enough to make buying them cost-effective.  There are obviously some ancillary benefits too since harnessing solar power allows you to produce less carbon.

I’m all for saving the earth but I also want to save some money too.  In this case, it made sense to go with the solar tiles since there was a financial incentive too.  My uncle plans on being in the house for the rest of his life so the 6 year break even point seemed reasonable.  For most people, that might not be the case though, especially considering the average length of home ownership is only 7 years.

Buying Organic Produce

This is one time where my cheapness comes out since I rarely buy organic produce.  Honestly, I really only care about what tastes the best.  If an organic peach tastes 2x better than a non-organic peach and only costs 2x more, then I’m all for it.  But too often, I’ve found that most organic products don’t taste much better than non-organic.

I think it’s more important to eat a healthy and balanced diet than it is to worry about organic vs. non-organic.  If you only eat organic fruit and veggies but then go and stuff your face full of McDonald’s two nights a week I think that probably negates any savings you might have gotten from buying organic.

Recycling

I’ve always made an effort to recycle because everyone told me it was good for the environment.  But at my last job, I heard a story that even though they had recycle bins and regular trash bins, they would just merge the two when the trash man came.  I thought this was kind of funny actually since I’ve also heard that sometimes in order to recycle paper and things like that with a lot of colored ink on it, they have to use chemicals that are pretty harmful to the environment.

Either way, I usually make a point of recylcing because it’s just so easy to do.  I mean how hard is it to put paper and plastic in one container and trash in the other?  We actually have it easy here in the US compared to other countries.  When I visited Japan two years ago, I was amazed to discover the Japanese government actually had multiple trash days for all different types of trash.  In Japan, you even have to split up your recycling by color(clear plastic vs. colored), glass vs. plastic, etc. and you couldn’t even recycle caps and bottles on the same day haha!  That would never fly in America.

Readers, so what do you think of ‘going green’?  When is it worth it and when is it not?  I’m sure there will be some good opinions on whether or not it’s worth it to buy organic so let’s hear ‘em!

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-Harry @ PF Pro

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

Comments

  1. says

    I know with some food there is a huge difference in taste (grass fed beef & butter for example) but the costs is a bit too high for me to make it a constant staple. For now it needs to remain a rare treat. This doesn’t apply to organic but I normally hate seeing the label “all-natural” on any food product. It just gives them an excuse to increase the price for no real difference. All natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Take arsenic for example, all natural, but it will definitely kill you.
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    • says

      I’m sort of with you since generally I will pay more for things if the quality is there. Although I haven’t tried grass beef, maybe I should? And isn’t all butter delicious haha? You’re right about all natural though in fact I saw some all natural maple syrup the other day and it’s main ingredient was high fructose corn syrup. I went for the good stuff out of the tree.

  2. Mike L says

    The benefits of organic food is not just limited to you as a consumer. It’s also about soil and water quality. I want to avoid supporting companies like Monsanto as much as I can.
    Local is also important, since transportation is such a huge piece of the carbon footprint in food.
    While getting food that is local AND organic is great, if you can get one or the other, it’s a good thing.
    Luckily, I’ve found Costco is making organic food easier and cheaper to buy. There are more and more organic products available there. At first, they might be slightly more expensive. But I’ve noticed as more people buy, the more they stock and the more affordable it becomes.
    In the end, you are what you eat. This is one area where I don’t mind spending a little extra, if it comes to it.

    • says

      That’s a good point, I forgot about that. I’ll be honest I don’t know a whole lot about Monsanto but they sound bad haha. I’m all for organic I just don’t think it’s smart financially to buy an organic tomato that costs 4x the price of a regular one. I don’t mind paying more for the reasons you mention but it’s gotta be at least close for me to consider it. I’ll have to look a little harder next time I’m at Costco for their organic stuff, thanks for the tip.

  3. Mike L says

    Regarding recycling, it is nearly impossible to speak in absolutes. Programs can vary drastically from city to city and hauler to hauler, and it’s easy for a bad experience in one place to leave a mark that carries over.

    Yes, there are programs out there with programs that mix materials. It’s a bad practice, but luckily–in my experience–a rare one. If you find this is occurring in your area, my suggestion is to voice your concern to the local authority (usually the Public Works department).

    As an industry insider, thank you for your diligence. It is just as easy, as you point out. And yes, it is worth it. If you ever doubt that, visit a landfill.

  4. says

    Thanks for your post, Harry. I do a lot of analysis about energy-related matters and strongly concur with your assessment about “solar tiles” or what I refer to as Solar PV. I’ve written about it at some depth at my blog (http://www.sandiegocan.org/2013/03/01/to-pv-or-not-to-pv/).

    As for the organics, I will buy organic vegies and fruits that are leafy or have skin that you consume. However, produce like melons, avocados, pineapples do not pose as much of a health risk because you wouldn’t consume any of the chemicals on the rind. Also, onions, potatoes and other tubers are also not as effected by pesticides, so I don’t pay the “organic premium” for them. I do pay extra for grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and hormone-free poultry because, over the long run, they will likely be healthier for your body.

    Finally, in my mind, going green is really about being efficient. As most businesses are finding, being efficient means cutting costs — less waste. Being efficient usually results in savings, so I generally find that I save green by going green.

    • says

      Interesting post, thanks Michael. I definitely plan on going solar tiles when I buy a house some day but it’s tough because like you mention in the article, the price keeps going down haha.

      I never thought about the leafy vs. skin argument but it makes a lot of sense. I’m definitely starting to lean towards hormone free meat type products though because I just don’t want to eat a bunch of juiced up chickens.

  5. says

    We have our own garden and try to buy from local farmers, as well. Buying locally means less fuel to transport the produce.

    We are still considering installation of solar panels on our house. I think we would have done it awhile ago, but natural gas prices dropped so much that our PG&E bills have never been lower. I need to talk to our next-door neighbors who just installed solar panels to find our what their installation cost was.
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    • says

      Oh that’s a cool idea, I have a few spices like basil and rosemary growing outside but all I have is a balcony.

      The only problem with solar panels is that like I mention above, the installation cost keeps going down every year. So the longer you wait, the more you’ll save. Good problem to have I guess..

      • says

        Before we were married, my wife lived in a single-bedroom apartment with a balcony. She grew some potted herbs and also had a large cherry tomato plant in a large pot with a conical wire support. As long as they get a lot of sun and water, cherry tomatoes are hardy and prolific. She had lots of sweet tomatoes throughout the summer. They really enhance a salad. I know it’s too late to start a tomato plant this year, but you might consider planting one next spring.

    • says

      Hmm I never thought about if organic veggies lasted longer but I don’t see why they would? I would think it’d be the opposite actually. Anyways, it’s a fine line but I also look at it from a more macro view. If you eat all organic veggies/fruit but aren’t very active in other aspects of your life I think you’re a lot worse off than someone who eats all non-organic but exercises often and takes good physical care of their body.

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