Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Dollar Spent

I ran across an interesting piece of information in a book I was reading recently. In a study done by Charles Hall, a professor at Syracuse, he determined that for every dollar spent (American dollar) a half-litre of petroleum is consumed. His study looked at worldwide spending, so it's not just determining the impact of spending in America, or North America. The half-litre of petroleum takes into account the full lifecycle of the product; resources, production, transportation, etc. Obviously not every dollar will have the same impact, the half-litre is averaged out over all types of spending. I'm fairly certain that spending a dollar at your local yard sale, bake sale or Goodwill store doesn't have the same ecological impact as spending a dollar on, say, oil for your car. This study shows how a green lifestyle and a frugal lifestyle are often closely related, and gives us another way of looking at our purchases.

The book Your Money or Your Life asks it's readers to consider purchases in terms of 'life-energy', or how many hours you'd need to work (trade away) to purchase a $400 iPod for example (based on how much you actually clear after all your work expenses are taken into account). Thinking of purchases in terms of hours worked really lets you decide how badly you want/need the item. Now I'll be thinking in terms of petroleum impact as well. Here's a few examples of purchases along with the petroleum impact. For fun, I also included how far I could drive on that many litres of gasoline.

Night at the movies (for 2)
Cost: $40
Environmental Cost: 20 Litres
Trip in my car: 260 km

New 40" television
Cost: $1099.99
Environmental Cost: 550 Litres
Trip in my car: 7150 km Enough to drive from BC to Newfoundland!

Basic cable
Cost: $30/month
Environmental Cost: 15 Litres/month
Trip in my car: 195 km or three trips to my parents per year

Haircut (women's, no colour)
Cost: $35
Environmental Cost: 17.5 Litres
Trip in my car: 227.5 km

Definitely a new way for me to look at purchases, and another good reason to try and reduce!

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