Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Green Dilemma

I am an Earth-hugger through and through.

I was the nine year old that boycotted McDonalds and Burger King when they were serving their burgers in Styrofoam packaging. I was the ‘tween who informed everyone I knew about the danger of CFCs and the hole in the Ozone layer. I was the teenager who searched out the school recycling bins and inquired if each of my classrooms didn’t have one next to the trashcan. I am now the sister who packed up all of the “un”recyclable items during our Thanksgiving vacation and drove them home from North Carolina to ensure that they were in fact recycled. It is no surprise, then, that my kids are the ones who check their unopened toy packaging for evidence of post-consumer recycled content and whether or not the package itself can be recycled.

We try our hardest to make as small a footprint on this world as possible. We recycle, turn the heater down, leave the windows open, combine errands, grow our own vegetables…you get the point. As a family, we are doing what we can to try to make a difference.

In an effort to improve the aesthetics of our home, and hopefully increase our home’s appeal when we try to sell it several years down the road, we decided to give the walls a fresh coat of paint. This facelift was planned in conjunction with the installation of new flooring in our great room (after experiencing hardwood flooring in Washington, carpet just isn’t the same).

Our mini-remodel came upon one big roadblock…cost. Being as eco-friendly as we are, we knew that our best flooring options were bamboo or cork and that our best paint options were no or low VOC paint. After much research, we were humbled by the cost of these eco-friendly options. Bamboo hardwood flooring was priced three times higher than laminate flooring and no VOC paint was twice the cost of traditional paint.

As with many other good VS bad products on the market, I was disheartened by the extreme price difference between the more eco-friendly home improvement products and the more harmful/less helpful products. Whether it is food, cleaning supplies, or now home improvement products, I am upset at the cost difference between the helpful/healthful products and the polluting/contaminating products.

Being the naive person that I am from time to time, it is hard for me to understand why a company would 1) create a product that is harmful to people; and 2) continue to sell it when there are more environmentally friendly and/or healthy options available. I personally would be the first company to want to scrap the old product line in order to provide a more positive product to my customers/consumers. I guess that’s just me.

In the end, because of cost restraints, we decided to go with laminate flooring and traditional paint for our mini-renovation. We are pleased with the flooring, although it isn’t the same as hardwood, but much better than carpet. I enjoy the wall color (Behr’s Brown Teepee); it’s warm and inviting. Had we just needed one gallon of paint, I could have afforded the no VOC variety, but when purchasing 8 gallons at once, the cost was more than we could afford at this time. I’m considering painting Jolie’s room some time this spring, and hope to be able to “spring” for the no VOC paint (I looked at the brand offered by Home Depot…FreshAire…and the colors look wonderful).

I hope that companies will consider cost when marketing new, more environmentally friendly products. Making those products affordable will allow more consumers to purchase eco-friendly alternatives and compel other companies to either transition to “greener” product lines or force them out of business. I guess I can continue to hope that someday, environmentally friendly products will be affordable for all.

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