Making green cent$

Bloody hell, what a month! I’m not sure what’s more unsettling: watching the ANC two-stepping through a presidential re-shuffle (step-scuff-scuff-step); or seeing my paltry investments deflating like a punctured balloon (fffftthhhhhppppppphhh…).

Still, where there’s life, there’s hope, god damn it (I say, desperately, through another white knuckle day on the markets). But if there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s that money usually comes top of the modern survival guide, so if we want to go green, it’s going to have to make business sense.

Not necessarily in the money-grabbing, profit-or-be-damned, no-holds-barred, control-free, laissez-faire capitalist growth that got global markets in this mess in the first place, but in a level-headed, smart-business kind of way.

Here are a few ideas from around the world that might help us start fixing the problem at home:

Retrofitting the digs

In an ideal world, we’d live in buildings that are built to be energy efficient, but most of our homes were put up before the energy crisis, and they guzzle power for heating, cooling, cooking and powering our electrical toys. “Retrofitting” houses to be more energy efficient is pretty costly, and who wants to extend the bond with interest rates what they are?

The UK is considering a good idea: allow people to get “green loans”, possibly from the local council, specifically to cover the cost of making their homes more energy efficient (insulation, double glazing, solar heating, that kind of thing). Home owners pay the money back over a period, and at the same time make a savings on their energy bills because they’re drawing less power from the grid.

Electricity quid pro quo

In Germany, anyone who feeds green energy into the national grid from a renewable source such as solar panels, will get a reduction in their monthly electricity bill because of the state imposed “feed-in tariff”. This means that a solar water heating system, for instance, might pay for itself in just two years rather than eight. How’s that for an incentive to go shopping for photo-voltaics!? Now we just need Eskom to see the wisdom of it.

Green cuisine

Something like 90 percent of Havana’s fresh produce is grown within the capital. Cuban urbanites turned to food gardens because of fuel shortages – but it’s an excellent model for how cities can cut down on the emissions-intense food miles clocked up by transporting food from farms into our urban centres.

Here’s an idea: suburban folk with garden space to spare put aside a bit for veggies. If they don’t have the time or energy to tend the beds, they hire their patch out to a roving gardener who farms the neighbourhood’s veggie patches and splits the produce or the profits with the each landowner.

The waste mountain

A month or two ago, when oil prices were still on the up-and-up, The Guardian ran a story about how the cost of oil was driving up the cost of producing plastic – which in turn was making it more economical to recycle plastic.

If the recovery and re-use of our waste can be done in a way that makes business sense, we’ll have more people opening up recycling centres, and we’ll have fewer raw materials taken from the bank of natural resources.

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