We’re All Environmentalists – When It Costs Money

public transportation
Photo of Toronto public transportation by Amber Dawn Pullin

Just how much of an environmentalist you are might depend on how much it costs you to not think green.

Sure you use your office’s blue boxes for recycling paper at work, and you probably separate your trash, recyclables and in some municipalities, even your compost materials at home.

These are things we do because we have to – most offices and municipalities have strict policies on what can and can’t be put out for garbage, often with consequences.

Governments can fine and in some cases jail you for failing to recycle. Some offices have environmental cops, which leave nasty Post-It Notes on your desk if you’re caught trashing that stash of old papers instead of recycling them. In one office I worked at, if you received three or more notices from the environmental cops you had to wear a giant green witch’s hat for an entire day as punishment for your green sin. The idea is that you’re so embarrassed by being singled out with the giant green hat out as the one who doesn’t recycle, you’ll start too.

But nothing can make us more green for the planet than money. When it simply costs more to do the non-environmentally-friendly thing, suddenly we’ll go green.

Take one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions in North America – to lose weight –and combine it with a brutal El Nino circulating the globe. This causes many parts of the world to experience unusually colder or warmer temperatures depending on the hemisphere of the globe you are in, affecting regional growing crops.

A few winters back in Mexico City, kids played in the snow for the first time ever, while Florida farmers had to water their fruit crops non-stop to prevent them from freezing over due to below freezing temperatures.

Last winter, we experienced wild snowstorms that shut-down cities across the North-Eastern United States and Canada, as there simply was too much snow to manage.

All this wild weather is affecting one of the world’s staple food crops – sugar. Mother Nature just didn’t design the sugar cane for a cold climate.

So all those people that made a promise to themselves to drop some excess weight are in luck – foods with sugar are starting to cost more at the store, thanks in part to a global shortage of sugar, brought about by an environmental mess.

Though fresh fruit – especially world famous Florida oranges – are also costing us more at the grocery store. And fresh fruit is good for you – an apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the saying goes.

But too much of a good thing can harm you. If you drink too much fruit juice, or even if you eat too many fresh fruits in a day, you can increase your triglycerides by consuming all that natural fruit sugar, which can lead to diabetes, or even stroke and heart disease.

Still, the most influential factor in making us see green is in many cases green. Major metropolitan areas such as New York City or Toronto, report a direct correlation between increased ridership on their public transit systems when gas prices climb, and a similar reduction in ridership when gas prices decrease. So when it costs more to fill up your gas tank, you are more likely to take public transit.

Kind of sad when you think about it — although we all know being environmental citizens is good for all of us that call this planet home, it still takes money to make most of us be those good environmental citizens.

Be it a an increase in sugar prices to improve our diets, a fine from your local town or city, or the cost at the pumps to fuel your car, money makes anyone an instant environmentalist.