How to Use Pocketbook Environmentalism to Convert the "Non-Greenies" in Your Life

zip cars photo

photo: Timothy Vollmer/Creative Commons
The following is a guest post from SunRun by Lynn Jurich.

We all have that one person in our lives (or maybe more) who thinks going green is just not their thing. Perhaps it's your roommate who just can't seem to tell the difference between the trash bin and the recycling bin. Or maybe it's your talk radio-loving uncle who thinks global warming is just a lot of hot air. With Earth Day coming up later this week it's time to try a new strategy for converting those "non-greenies" in your life. I call the idea behind this strategy Pocketbook Environmentalism, and it's all about emphasizing the financial benefits of going green. Ironically, this new way of talking about the environment means talking less about environmental benefits. The Pocketbook Environmentalists are your friends who are more interested in the cost of gas than in greenhouse gases.

As the president of SunRun, a home solar company, I wish more people were excited about discussing atmospheric carbon, but anyone on my team can confirm that the vast majority of people going solar now are switching first and foremost because it's affordable and they want to lower their electric bills. The part about saving the Earth makes them feel good, but it's not their primary motivator.

This is Pocketbook Environmentalism in a nutshell: More and more people making green lifestyle choices and buying eco-friendly products because it is good for their wallets. We are finally at a point where, increasingly, the green choices are the best choices for cost, quality and convenience.

So, how can you get your friends to embrace and take pride in their inner Pocketbook Environmentalist? Here are a few suggestions:

  • If your friend lives in a city that has ZipCar and doesn't need a car on a daily basis, ask them if they're worried about gas prices going through the roof. Tell them how much money they can save using this convenient car-sharing service instead of relying on their own vehicle. One recent study showed that 30 percent of households who joined a car-sharing service ended up selling their car and 66 percent of those who were planning on buying a new car changed their minds.
  • Next time you notice an economy-size case of disposable water bottles in someone's kitchen, try mentioning how much money they can save by spending a few bucks on a Klean Kanteen (or several Kanteens, if they have kids) and a Brita filter. Believe it or not, bottled water can cost more per gallon than gasoline.
  • If you have a friend planning an event, let them know they can save a lot of time, money and hassle with Paperless Post. This new email stationery provides a more formal way to send an invitation than Evite or Facebook, and it's saving a lot of trees, particularly for those 300-person weddings. And let's be honest - even the nicest invites usually end up in the garbage (although I'd like to think they at least end up in the recycle bin).

Businesses like these are making the growth of Pocketbook Environmentalism inevitable. Not only is it getting easier than ever to do the right thing, it's also becoming the best way to save (and make) money. And it doesn't need to be Earth Day for everyone to get excited about that.

Lynn Jurich is the president and co-founder of SunRun, a home solar company offering a solar power service. SunRun owns, installs and insures the solar panels, and the homeowner just pays monthly for the power they use.

Editor's note: We've got lots more simple green tips like these in our How To Go Green Guides
More on Earth Day
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