Life Cycle Costs

February 12, 2007

One of the biggest concerns about changing to a green lifestyle is, of course, financial. How much does it cost to switch to a green lifestyle?

There is a perception that all of this must be very expensive, and that only altruists and tree-huggers can afford to live this kind of lifestyle. But a green lifestyle needs to be sustainable in all ways.

Something that is more expensive than its alternative will usually cost less in the long run. This is what makes evaluation of green products and green building materials so difficult. But looking at the life-cycle cost (the cost not just of purchasing the item, but also its operation and maintenance over its useful life) can show that the overall cost of the green option is usually lower.

Going green doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and it doesn't have to be expensive. A recent article notes "Eco-Friendly Home Projects Can Be Cheap, and Also Stylish." While it is possible to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a green remodeling project, some influential steps, can be undertaken for only a few dollars. We've mentioned a couple of different checklists that can be used to start a green lifestyle and evaluate what steps you can take.

There's been a lot of talk about compact fluorescent light bulbs recently. It isn't just you should use these because they will reduce carbon emissions (though that is one of the reasons to use them). It's unlikely to expect that people will switch over for this reason alone. Altruism is a good thing, but most people switch over because the compact fluorescents also use less electricity. So a bulb that uses 14 watts rather than 60 watts is using only one-quarter the energy, and that translates into financial savings, as well as being better environmentally. And, because the compact fluorescent bulb lasts longer than an incandescent, there is less waste going into landfills, as well.

A lot of these steps can pay back their cost in a short period of time. Adding insulation to the house, installing and using a programmable thermostat, using EnergyStar appliances, are all good steps. If there is an energy benefit to choosing a green product, look at how quickly it will pay for itself. If $1000 of attic insulation will save $150/month in heating (and you have 4 heating months a year), then it will pay for itself in less than two years. Unless you expect to be out of that home in less time than that, it just makes financial sense to do the improvement, and gain the savings through lowered energy cost and lower energy use.


USGBC – 16 Ways to Green Your Home
Global Green USA – Top 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies