Saturday, February 23, 2008

Greening Products Locally?



Poland Spring's Eco-shaped bottle made it's debut recently. I found out about it by seeing an ad on the television. There were various ecologically friendly activities portrayed in the ad, riding a bicycle as a commuter , driving a hybrid, recycling, etc. We are informed that these are "green" activities since the people partaking in the activity have flowers grow out of their heads (kind of like the Whos in Whoville). Of course, your friendly neighborhood consumer walks out of the store with the new eco-friendly Poland Spring bottle and the flower sprouts from her head as well. It uses ~30% less plastic, which must be a good thing, but what percentage is recycled? There are certainly advantages to its design, but is it enough? The negative environmental externalities are still not contained in its price.

Boston's local Fox affiliate reports on the new bottle...

On a somewhat related topic, if we think about what goes into our bodies and where it comes from, which is certainly related to bottled water, Boston area suburbanites appear to be more interested in buying locally produced food; (image from www.environment.nau.edu) This is good news. Local farms benefit as more suburbanites buy food grown close to home. What's the cost difference? Is this something limited to those in the upscale neighborhoods that can afford it (assuming that there is a higher price associated with this wholesome goodness)? Again, externalities play a role here. Imagine if the average piece of shrink-wrapped food that travels 1500 miles from source to purveyor of said goods included the true cost of fossil fuel? Locally produced good would be that much more affordable (or at least competitive) depending upon one's income level.

There IS a way to do business without compromising the world we all share. Gary Hirshberg shares his story in a new book, Stirring it Up, and talks about it briefly in a recent Newsweek article.

So much greenery to read about, though my head is filled after a five hours Econ study session; Pareto improvements, market failures, auctions, profit rate, etc...

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