Going green—becoming more environmentally aware and then putting that awareness into practice—is increasingly common among both individuals and businesses. Advocates say it saves money and helps the planet. Others, however, call the green movement an overhyped fad.
Green practices can save money. The EPA recommends shutting down your computer if it will be inactive for more than a day. According to Microsoft, turning off your machine every night, or putting it into "hibernate" mode so that the screen uses no energy, can save $90 over the course of a year.
The upfront cost of going green can be steep. Solar cells have become more efficient over the last 20 years, but still take around three years to pay back their upfront costs in the form of lower power bills, according to the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Pro: Going Green is Good for Business
Many companies make a virtue of their environmental awareness, building advertising campaigns around it in the belief that customers prefer dealing with socially responsible businesses. Ben & Jerry's ice cream is a prominent example.
Con: The Green market is small
A recent article in Harvard Business Review argued that "brands that truly appeal to the environmentalist consumer can't reach the mainstream." It cites research showing that protecting the environment is rarely the key reason why people choose to buy a product.
The 2009 federal stimulus bill contained approximately $50 billion in funding to promote clean energy. Among the incentives are tax deductions for businesses that can cut their building's energy consumption by 50%.