The cost of going green

I was depressed this weekend to pick up a copy of the Times and read (in the Money section) an article, “Can you really go green and stay out of the red?” claiming that the cost of choosing ‘green’ options was £2500 a year for the average family. Shopping for organic food, choosing an ethical current account and savings account and an ethical mortgage etc can cost you more compared to going for the ‘best buy’ options, and the article urges you to choose the cheapest options and donate your extra money instead.

I found this rather defeatist and annoying. Perhaps if your only concern is the bottom line for yourself and your family, you might restrict your ‘green’ spending to the best value options. But making even a few ethical choices does help. We re-mortgaged recently through a green mortgage broker who planted 50 trees in our name – it was a simple process, saved us time and hassle and didn’t cost anything at all!

Also, a lot of ‘green’ choices aren’t about chucking money at the problem but trying to live a less wasteful existence. Growing your own vegetables and herbs (which we do, admittedly in a rather desultory fashion), taking holidays in the UK or Europe (I haven’t flown for two years), not using the car for short journeys and switching off lights all help conserve energy and save money. So does insulating your house better, although I have to admit I haven’t got round to sticking foil behind the radiators, draught-proofing etc as I hate DIY of any kind. Perhaps living without hot water or central heating, as my parents did for years when I was a child, is a little extreme ….

But the most startling statistic I came across recently was that 40% or more of the fresh food that people buy gets thrown away. It’s a rather horrific idea: landfill sites full of decomposing food that could have been eaten. People in every council should be given help to compost vegetable and fruit waste, so that it won’t go into landfill: our council doesn’t offer recycling bins for this purpose although it does make compost bins available cheaply if you’re motivated enough to go and get them (and they’re only useful if you have a garden to put them in of course!). And people should have more help learning to cook and shop properly so they don’t waste food unnecessarily; I learned all this from my mother ( it does help that she is the author of the Pauper’s Cookbook, of course!) who never throws anything away if she can help it but I think cookery lessons at school should be compulsory. Most cuisines are based around the idea of economy (a roast chicken makes stock and soup, for example) and part of the fun of cooking is coming up with new dishes when you have a few ingredients you want to use up.