Green Costs Green

Green--nearly everyone wants to be green. Lots of people who would hardly consider themselves "tree huggers" have realized that investing in green products and technologies can pay dividends in both personal and global ways. But there's one problem: To be green, you often have to have green (as in money). In almost all product areas, green products cost more (and sometimes much more) than their energy- and environment-wasting counterparts. Sure, new PCs, servers and other technology products are slightly more energy-efficient than their older siblings. But I'm not sure that making small improvements in efficiency qualifies a product as green. To my way of thinking, a product or technology has to change the terms of the game in some meaningful way to be green. And most products that fit this definition are relatively expensive.

Jim RapozaGreen--nearly everyone wants to be green. Lots of people who would hardly consider themselves "tree huggers" have realized that investing in green products and technologies can pay dividends in both personal and global ways.

But there's one problem: To be green, you often have to have green (as in money). In almost all product areas, green products cost more (and sometimes much more) than their energy- and environment-wasting counterparts.

Sure, new PCs, servers and other technology products are slightly more energy-efficient than their older siblings. But I'm not sure that making small improvements in efficiency qualifies a product as green.

To my way of thinking, a product or technology has to change the terms of the game in some meaningful way to be green. And most products that fit this definition are relatively expensive.

Look at most of the green products out there. Tesla, which is seeing some serious effects from the economic downturn, makes a very interesting electric car that only the superrich can afford. Even the current generation of hybrid cars has a significant cost premium compared with similar nonhybrids cars.

This is also true in IT. Green technology of any significance costs quite a bit more than conventional alternatives--whether you're talking about fuel cells in the data center or high-end environmental and power-monitoring systems, or some other game-changer.

Of course, the classic response to this problem is: "Sure, these green technologies cost more money now, but you'll make it all back and more from the energy savings you'll get down the road."

OK, that makes logical sense, but most businesses today don't seem to be looking any further down the road than their next financial report. The same goes for the CIOs and other executives who are probably not all that confident that they'll still be with their company for that much longer.

In this kind of environment, it's much more job- and investor-friendly to say, "Look at all the money we saved this quarter by not spending on new green technology" instead of "We just spent a load of money on new green technology, but, don't worry, we'll make it all back and then some in two years."

Of course, there are green technology success stories. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are quickly replacing old-school bulbs in homes and businesses. And LED lights have become a popular alternative for lots of special-purpose and utility lights. In the component area, PC, server and other electronic makers are adopting new energy-efficient components for their systems.

But all of these technologies have one thing in common: In general, they are not that much more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

Hopefully, we will start to see more movement in this area and green technologies will continue to slide in price. Because, when it comes to green, most people and businesses will choose to keep the green in their pockets.