Green building’s biggest misconception is that it is too expensive.  Many say “I wish I could go green, but dadgum, I just can’t afford to!”  Well folks, I’m not buying it… when it comes to crunching #’s, the converse is actually true.  Building green is one of the smartest financial decisions that can be made.  A great resource for discovering the economic benefits of eco-building is, a website that tallies the return on investment of various sustainable strategies and technologies…

Let’s take a peak at the bottom line of some of these ideas:

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From the examples listed above, it’s pretty clear that some big money can be saved with a minimal premium….

So why isn’t this information common knowledge to the masses?  Well, because quite frankly, it goes against how we’ve been trained to consume.  We are a culture that demands the lowest prices at any cost.  And my friends, there are costs… externalized costs that we don’t directly see.  It’s cheaper to pollute, clearcut, and underpay than to do the right or ‘sustainable’ thing.  It’s cheaper to throw everything in a landfill than to set up a recycling program.  Cheaper to run hazardous manufacturing waste into the river than properly treat it, etc.

Low pricing has a partner in crime who’s equally brutal… that being a lack of long term vision.  When we buy our homes (often the biggest investment we ever make), we try to maximize the square footage to cost ratio.  Operating and maintenance costs?… Obviously not as important as having a 600 sq. ft. home theater room or that second living room, right? …Not many realize that only 10% of the energy that goes into a home is used to construct the building, with the remaining 90% dedicated to operating the home.  The cheapest and cleanest kilawatt of electricity you’ll ever buy is the one you don’t use… Make your home as energy efficient as possible… it is one of the best investments you could possibly make.

Let’s consider a couple larger scale examples… geothermal heating/cooling system.  A $15,000- $20,000 premium over forced air, but can save $60,000 over twenty years.  Anyone want $45,000?  How about an on demand or ‘tankless’ water heater… $450 more than a normal water heater.  Saves $120 year, so you break even before year four.  Ten year savings come to $1200… Energy Star windows will pay for themselves in less than 2.5 years, then you’re ‘making’ money.

A project I worked on in Minneapolis, previously blogged about HERE, utilizes geothermal wells and insulated concrete form construction… We calculated an annual heating/cooling bill to be $200/yr!  People pay three times that for January alone in Minnesota!  Again, think long term savings on that one.

My hands are getting tired and my brain is getting worked up… Please spare me some stress and start recognizing green as a financial opportunity, not obstacle.



About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.