Why be green? The cost of my carbon footprint

Consumers, suppliers and product manufacturers, all stakeholders in the value and supply chains, need to take a closer look and understand the entire life cycle of products – what the products are made with, the inputs and outputs of the production process, and where the product goes at the end of its useful life – essentially the life cycle analysis.

But why is this important now? Well, with the staggering rise in food and energy-related costs this gives us more reason to conserve. Can you live with $4 per gallon gasoline? Industry analysts seem to think it will remain at this level.

Politicians seem to be listening to the voice of the consumer, elevating the issue on the political platform. Throughout the presidential primaries, it was interesting to hear how the candidates were turning "green." But really, is this just a temporary political hot potato that will cool after the November election? Or will it be taken more seriously such that heightened consideration is given to minimize fossil fuel consumption, exploring alternative materials, recycling, and so on. Who knows…maybe we will see the resurgence of the electric car.

With a greater share of our discretionary income being eroded by energy cost, how much will it change our behavior? Will we be more environmentally conscience vis-à-vis reducing our demand on fossil fuels and the like? Being green does cost a bit more in upfront building cost, but over time a greater return on this investment is generally realized.

Earlier this year, a recent survey shows that nearly seven out of 10 U.S. consumers are willing to pay more for products made with renewable resources. The nationally representative survey, sponsored by DuPont and Mohawk Industries, queried 1,001 U.S. homeowners to identify consumers' personal attitudes and behavior toward environmental responsibility.

The survey also revealed that global warming and helping American farmers were important drivers for consumers. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they would consider purchasing renewably sourced products that are more expensive to help deter global warming, while 33 percent of respondents said they would consider doing the same to help American farmers. Renewably-sourced products on the market today include carpets, textiles, personal care products and others derived from renewable, farm-grown sources rather than petroleum.

The survey confirms that people are becoming much savvier, with a growing understanding that being environmentally responsible is more than just recycling or buying products made with recycled materials.

Other key findings of the survey include the following:

– Women tend to be more environmentally responsible than men. Eighty-six percent of women said environmental responsibility is important, while 74 percent of men said the same.

– Income and age demographics have no significant impact on

environmental responsibility.

Surprisingly, the survey found that there was no significant disparity among various income groups in recognizing the importance of environ- mental responsibility. Across all income levels, the concern for envi- ronmental responsibility and degree of action to achieve environmental responsibility was similar. The samewas also true for various age groups.

– Consumers take part in a wide variety of activities to help the

environment, but some activities still are not popular even with the most environmentally committed.

Respondents were asked what environmentally responsible actions they take in their households. Most U.S. consumers cited recycling (60 percent), using less water (56 percent) and using less energy (53 percent) as behaviors they do "all the time." Behaviors that were the least popular were likely the hardest for consumers to carry out. They included doing business with environmentally-responsible companies, using alternative energy and assessing their carbon footprint, all at nine percent.

So, we're at nine percent…kind of low but as the wallet gets squeezed, the percent will increase. At the end of the day, whether we elect to be green to help the environment or to save a buck, it really doesn't matter. The net effect is it's a win-win.

Have a question or comment for "Ask the Builder?" You may email Mike Ferraro at mike@ferrarobuilders.com.

Mike Ferraro is president of Ferraro Builders and past president of the Home Builders Association of Grand Traverse Area. Ferraro Builders is a full-service design and build firm and Certified Green Builder and Energy Star Partner specializing in Custom Homes, Timber Frame Homes, and Remodeling.