Green Got Ugly

A couple of weeks ago, a conversation about green building in my class turned a a bit heated. The exchange occurred between a student and a couple of the presenters. It was a disagreement around what  buyers are willing to pay for when they are looking for a home. The instructors were trying to present the idea that  you are selling comfort, selling  a healthier home rather than reducing the buying experience to an inventory of price points. It was a good discussion but it quickly devolved with the student saying that for buyers it’s all about the price and instructors responding that green is not anymore expensive than a standard home; it’s just where you choose to invest your money.

Anyway, they volleyed back and forth for several minutes.  Some people began to squirm in their seats, others tried to join the fray and some stared straight ahead waiting for the gale to blow through. It was touched off by a comment by one of the presenters around a $1400 dishwasher and its high level of water efficiency.  This little match sparked a fair degree of indignation. 

It all came down to the question of where do people want to spend their money. We could all drive Pintos but we choose not to, we could watch tv on a standard box or invest in a flat screen, we could buy a dual-flush toilet or stick with our bog standard. For some, there isn’t a choice and price is the determining factor but we make decisions all the time and prices is one of the variable which influences our decisions but not the only. Whether it’s a car, a home, a pair of shoes I don’t believe that our buying decisions can be simply reduced to a single variable – price. Or, how could I possible explain the velvet pants with sequence around the pockets.

I think my fellow student was right to argue that the cost of green can be too high but there are options. The important thing may be that when you are ready to replace your dishwasher, you consider the one rated EnergyStar and that you can probably get from Home Depot for about $500.

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One response to “Green Got Ugly

  1. Janet (Ferguson) Keeley

    What an interesting discussion! It reminds me of a book I read a few years ago called Trading Up. The whole idea of it is that consumers selectively trade up to better products and trade down to pay for other purchases. It all depends on the person’s preferences, what advertising has influenced them, what their neighbors are buying, etc. For example, they might go to the grocery store and buy cheap toilet paper, but have to buy Starbucks coffee. This argument seems similar. Maybe a person would buy the $1200 dishwasher but forego the hot tub. Interesting!

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