Often times, when one thinks of cost effectiveness and the environment, one thinks of how environmentalism and "going green" cuts into cost efficiency. In certain cases, this might be true, particularly when looking at the issue in terms of pure profits. Limiting your design options to those deemed "environmentally friendly" are often more expensive and more limited than their counterparts. Additionally, as one of our previous speakers mentioned, "green" products often don't work as well as those that are more detrimental to the environment. So if you're looking for the most cost efficient option and getting the most bang for your buck, then what's "green" often doesn't cut it. But have you ever considered the value of the environment? Sure, it may not have a set monetary value, but one could argue that the environment is priceless, and worth a bit more than the slightly higher costs of eco-friendly products. With that said, shouldn't we factor in the environment when determining the cost effectiveness of something?
In an article published by Newsweek, it was revealed that a project commissioned by the G8 collection of environmental ministers, labeled the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, was working to discover the dollar value of certain ecosystems. The results, in my mind, were pretty astounding:
"In one example, the plight of island communities dependent on fish protein and ecotourism can be measured. How? Researchers found that every hectare of coral reef--a modest area of land equal to just under two and a half acres--is worth more than $1 million annually.
...And in another example: it would cost $200 million to replicate the services provided by natural springs in New Zealand."
These are some pretty serious numbers, and it doesn't stop there. In a separate Newsweek article, it's stated that:
"For a keynote speaker at a conference on wilderness conservation, Pavan Sukhdev possessed a strange job title: banker. Sukhdev, a high-ranking executive of Deutsche Bank who helped build India's modern financial markets, had a fiscal message to deliver. The loss of forests is costing the global economy between $2.5 trillion and $4.5 trillion a year, he said. Many trillions more in costs arise from the loss of vegetation to filter water, bees to pollinate crops, microbes to break down toxins, and dozens of other 'ecosystem services.' "
It seems pretty apparent that the environment has a rather significant impact on our economy, but it's also pretty obvious that the human population hasn't been doing the best job taking care of it. So the next time you decide to print off 1,000 copies of that awesome gig poster you designed with 23 shades of green, stop for a second and consider what that means for the environment. From a short-term standpoint, the less environmentally friendly option will probably prove to be a bit more cost effective, but in the bigger picture, the "greener" option will probably work out best for the global economy as a whole.
In the end - and from a cost effectiveness standpoint - it's just not realistic to always be "green," particularly in our line of work. But at the very least, we should all try to factor in what's best for the environment when making decisions, both design and otherwise.