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Calculate your cost of living to take action for your environment

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To you, ecology may seem "bourgeois-bohemian", good or Utopian, but many of you consider it to be expensive. Indeed, adopting a green lifestyle can sometimes be expensive at the start, but you have to think on a long term basis, by comparing the total cost of eco-friendly goods with that of traditional ones. Most of the time, the eco-device is the least expensive.

Case study 1: transportation

Many people prefer taking the car to the train because travel by car is supposedly less expensive.

For a journey between Denver and Las Vegas (760 miles), they simply add up the toll charges and the cost of fuel. Yet, the more we drive, the more wear our car suffers, hence a depreciation in vehicle value. This vehicle wear implies repair and maintenance costs, potential fines, etc. Similarly, it will be necessary to amortize insurance costs due to the additional risks of having an accident.

Thus, for a car purchased at $30 000 that does 150 000 miles (15 000 miles each year), with an annual insurance premium of $1000, repair expenses of $1000 every 15 000 miles, and a fine of $200 every two years, the hidden costs, excluding that of a driver's license, are the following:

-Vehicle amortization: 760 miles * ($30.000/150 000) = $152
-Insurance : $1000 * (760 miles/12 500 miles per year) = $51
-Maintenance costs = $1000 * (760 miles / 15 000 miles) = $51
-Fines =200* (760 miles/30 000 miles (distance traveled in 2 years)) = $5

That is, a total of $259.

With a 25 MPG car, you need 30 gallons, or $120 of fuel, this one-way trip will cost you close to $379 (The same calculation for an SUV with a mileage of 20 MPG, a purchase price of $60 000, repair fees of $2000 and insurance fee of $2000 a year amounts to about $665). A one-way ticket by plane cost only $100…

Taking the train/bus/plane is in the most case cheaper than taking the car. For a couple, traveling by train is (almost) ALWAYS economical, and for someone traveling alone, the first class option is still an inexpensive solution that pollutes little, is relaxing, and gets you to your destination quickly.

Case study 2: low energy lamps

When you buy any energy-consuming appliance, e.g. a hi-fi system, computer, refrigerator, etc., always think about calculating the total cost of the device: take into account the purchase cost as well as the cost of wear and tear, and not just the price at the time of purchase alone.

Thus, let us consider an example of 2 different lighting options:

1°) 100 Watt incandescent light bulb (lifetime of 1000 hours). Light bulb price: $0.70

2°)18 Watt low energy light bulb (lifetime of 8000 hours ) price: $10.00

At first glance, the 2nd solution may seem the choice of a rich eco-freak who is a little bourgeois-bohemian, cut off from practical reality. But what if we calculate the cost of wear and tear?

For 8 000 hours in service (1 Kwh = $0.14)

Solution 1: 8 light bulbs + 8000 hours * 100 Watts = 8*0.70 + (8000*0.1Kw)*$0.15/kwh = 5.6 + 120 = $125.60

Solution 2: 1 light bulb + 8000 hours * 18 Watts = 10+(8000*0.018 Kw)*$0.15 = 14+ 20.16=$31.60

That is, savings of $94.00/8000 hours, or $11.75 per 1000-hour period.

The second solution is ultimately less expensive and more eco-friendly, allowing you to save almost $94.00 over its lifetime, i.e. $11.75 per 1000-hour period, or a trip to Las Vegas over the lifetimes of 10 light bulbs (or for example3 gourmet meals priced at $157/person for two with the money saved!!!). It is the more intelligent solution from an economic and ecological viewpoint.

Now you might tell me, "Yes, but I need to be able to afford it at the time of purchase. I can't make such a choice if I'm poor." This is untrue for several reasons:

-There are budget light bulbs costing roughly $5 or less that are available, which are affordable to all.

But most of all and on a more prosaic note, if you switch on the lights for 3 hours a day (1000 hours every year), by investing $10, you will save $11.75 the very same year. This amounts to an annual return of 118%; compare this to the 3 or 5% of certain savings accounts, or even interest rates of 18% on a revolving credit! It is obvious that you aren't going to take out a loan to buy a light bulb, but what this means is that even if you borrowed at a rate close to that of wear and tear in order to buy a low energy light bulb without having a cent at the time of purchase, you would still easily stand to gain.

The same applies to fridges and other appliances.

All these little savings may seem negligible to you, but if you save several tens of dollars from avoiding standby modes, a few hundred dollars from replacing your existing light bulbs with low energy ones, several hundred dollars from driving Zen on the road, you could save several hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year, and be able to treat yourself to restaurant outings, travel to Cancun during the spring break, ski trips, haute couture clothes, as you please. I'm not joking: by being eco-friendly, you can increase your spending power significantly and therefore work less for more. Isn't that interesting?

Similar article: Ecological footprint

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