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6 ways to make a difference with your dollar.  Once again, well sourced, thoroughly researched, and thoughtful commentary on the environment and the economy. Here are the helpful suggestions:

1. Purchase used as opposed to new items, or items made from recycled materials. Used items, available at antique or thrift stores as well as private sales, are often very affordable and will last just as long as new materials. This is especially true of toys, lamps, and other furniture that is often thrown away because it is outgrown or not needed, rather than because it is old.

– Where in Rochester? Goodwill, Salvation Army, Second Season Clothing, Godiva’s, Art’s

Used Furniture, Volunteers of America, Play It Again Sports, Rick’s Recycled Books

But what about all those jobs that won’t be created if you don’t buy new stuff? (I’m pointing out an inconsistency, not making that argument – see point #2, for example)


2. Shop local! Support local businesses and cooperatives (co-ops), which keeps more money in the local economy, and avoid spending money at large/national chain outlets that may outsource business and profit. Smaller stores usually pay better wages and are more responsive to the local community’s concerns and needs.

– Where in Rochester? Click here to find local businesses in Rochester!garage sale

So what we have here is simply yet another “anti-big company” slogan dressed up in bad economics. It would be nice if we were just honest about it. I love the empirical evidence that small mom and pops pay better wages. I once worked for a mom and pop and made, off the books, about $6 per hour. Smaller stores are less profitable, have less capital and technology and hence are less productive and likely less able to pay higher wages (and don’t forget the payroll tax burden, health care cost burden and other cost burden that the regulatory navel gazers have imposed on all firms – which is far easier for big firms to deal with than small ones due to scale economies. The average wage at Walmart exceeds $11 per hour. I encourage you to go to a Volunteers of America, or some local toy store, and determine what their average wages are, how good their health insurance and retirement plans are, and the like. And this is not again the place to rehash the tired and uninformed arguments about “keeping money in the community.” Start here. And what about the assertion that smaller stores pay more attention to the local community’s needs? What a bunch of undemonstrated baloney. Do the small restaurants in your town support the emerging food truck renaissance? I’m sure of it. Yup – they care so much about the smaller entrepreneurial guys. Here is the latest egregious example. And so the national chains and large stores don’t give a crap about the communities they locate in? What, do all of the employees, at say the local Home Depot, get trucked in from Vancouver each day, and then return home, and not pay attention to the needs and wants of Rochester area home improvement people? Is the local home depot full of docks and ocean-front hardware needs, for example? Go to Home Depot (I admit I do not love their knowledge) and launch a complaint about something they are doing – they will go bananas trying to make it up to you.


3. Go organic! Organic in the produce world means food was grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and processed without additives or radiation. For animal products, it means no hormones or regular antibiotics were used, and the animal was fed organic feed. Many non-organic practices could be harmful to you, the farm workers, or the environment. Because of the price of certification many small farmers can’t afford to get USDA certified, but if they use the practices they are still organic farmers. When shopping for organic food items make sure to look for the certification “USDA Certified Organic” or ask to make sure the food was grown with organic standards.

– Where in Rochester? Lori’s Natural FoodsNatural Oasis Market & Café, most Farmers

Markets (South Wedge, Westside), and some vendors at the Public Market (always ask!).

You can rest assured that once a month a “greenie” website claims that organic is good. It ain’t. Plain and simple. Show us the evidence that organic is better for the environment? It ain’t there. Show us evidence that organic foods are healthier. It ain’t there. But hey, at the U of R, we just get to make sh!t up, that’s what universities are for, right? And look at how scientific this statement is, “many non-organic practices COULD be harmful to you, the farm workers …” What is completely ironic about this is that they mention the farm workers … it was thnic of course) baloney.


4. Avoid excess packaging. Most items that you buy in stores are packaged not because they need to be packaged, but primarily because the packaging is a point-of-sale advertisement. Do brussel sprouts really need their own foam tray? Think of what you’ll be throwing in the landfill the moment you get your product home, and try to find items that come packed lightly.

Hard to think that the author took the time to explore the possibility that packaging actually … reduces … waste. Nah, why would they do that? After all, they implore us in point 6 below to “try to see the indirect costs” … And aside from the possibility that packaging reduces waste (we lectureorganic farm industry that exempted itself in California from regulations such as the use of short-handled hoes that were pushed through by the heroic efforts of Cesar Chavez. Yup – it’s about protecting workers. What a bunch of (orga on this in our 238 class) heaven forbid we ask the question about whether packaging has been becoming more or less materialized over time, or heaven forbid we ask the question of whether it actually makes life more convenient. That’s not allowed of course. Only “green” preferences matter.


5. Choose products that are made with sustainable materials, and avoid plastics and other petroleum-based products. Not only are they not renewable, but they use a lot of energy in the manufacturing process. Plastics are also less biodegradable than other products such as wood and most metals. While the plastics industry has improved upon the recycling of plastics in recent years, reducing production is always more efficient than recycling afterward. Try to avoid plastic and foam products you know have more sustainable alternatives, like thick paper plates over plastic. Remember, there is always a better option than plastic!

How’s this for science, “there is ALWAYS a better option than plastic!” So once again not only is there simply a bias, yes bias, against plastic, there is an utterly unscientific position taken in favor of some pollutants/environmental problems over others. Does the author know whether paper or plastic or even renewable products use more energy? How about water use? Water pollution generated from their production? How about runoff into watersheds and land degradation? How about air pollution? Once again, there is actually a literature on this that could be referenced. Even foam cups have advantages over paper and they have disadvantages. It depends on what pollution you are most worried about. I’ll keep you hanging until 238 to see some data. Here’s another scientific statement, “reducing production is ALWAYS more efficient than recycling afterward.” Well, I suppose if you make up the definition of efficient that can be true. Extra credit for my students, what definition of “efficiency” is being used here?


6. Buy energy efficient. When you buy something, try to see the “indirect costs,” rather than just the direct ones. Consider these two questions;

1) How much energy does it take to make a product?

2) How much energy will it take to use this product?

When you buy a car for example, you are not only signing up to use the energy and fuel it takes to fill the gas tank, but you’re also purchasing the energy used to mine the ore, make the steel, assemble and ship the car, and build the roads the car drives on. This is an example of what it really means to be aware of your energy footprint – what matters is not just how you use it, but how it was made and where it will go when you’re done with it!

Looking for Energy Star products when buying new appliances is a great first step, but remember to ask these questions before purchasing a product and you will save yourself – and the world – a lot of unnecessary cost!

Breathtaking. Truly. So we are implored to look at the indirect costs in a post that would make Bastiat turn purple. And then as an example, we are given something that precisely makes this error. Do you think any of the authors of stuff like this actually asks their question #1 when it comes to the construction of light rail? Of the building of LEED buildings? Of the production and operation of electric (i.e. coal) cars? And of course, anyone who has vomited their way even through the most rudimentary Eco 101 course knows that the paragraph that starts, “When you buy…” is what basic economics is all about.

Furthermore, do we know if the Energy Star designation has done any good? Are those products as energy efficient as they claim? I am sure there is a body of research on that too, and I’m totally sure it was consulted before the claim was made that Energy Star products are a “great” way to start. Finally of course, energy is not the be all and end all. I’ll repeat what I’ve said dozens of times – if you compare two pairs of pants, does it make sense to automatically choose to buy one over the other because its zipper was cheaper than the zipper on the other?

I am sure this is not being very collegial on my part. I don’t have time to be nice, it takes a lot of time for me to spill chemicals, drown penguins and plan non-native species in my yard.

3 Responses to “In This Week’s Edition of Just Making Sh*t Up, or Just “Recycling” the Same Talking Points …”

  1. […] In This Week’s Edition of Just Making Sh*t Up, or Just “Recycling” the Same Talkin… […]

  2. Harry says:

    One reason I am a TUW fan is that WC spends his full time, at least during his day job, about these subjects, adding his expert economic perspective.

    Whoever posted the six helpful hints clearly not thought beyond his/her web browser; maybe there is a career for him/her writing for Parade or the AARP magazine.

    WC spends some time brewing beer, though, when he is off the grid.

  3. Michael says:

    I just love how “radiation” gets tossed around (in the organic section) as a scare tactic. Without scary evil radiation (such as the sun), it is impossible to grow any veggies or cook (yes, heat and light are also forms of radiation).

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