January 24, 2011
With the best intentions in the world as a green consumer, it’s easy to get put off when you compare the price of organic food with regular mass-produced products. People who are on a limited budget may have the inclination to buy their groceries ethically, but when we stand in the store and check out the prices of our ethically-produced food, it can be tough to make a decision to stay green and add on an extra twenty percent to our weekly grocery bill.
Just as free-range foods cost more than battery-farmed produce, or Fairtrade products can cost up to thirty percent more than other types of foods, so organic produce tends to be significantly more expensive than other forms. There are a number of reasons for this, and understanding the rationale behind it can make it much easier to make an informed purchasing decision and reduce the sting of the increased cost.
Compensating for reduced crop yields
On average, an organic crop yields approximately twenty percent less than a conventional crop, due to the fact that the growers do not rely upon pesticides and chemicals to enhance the return on what has been planted. This means that agricultural methods are less rewarding when it comes to gaining value for money through the farming process. Some crops such as potatoes can yield as much as forty percent less when farmed organically, and this cost has to be recouped from the sale of the produce.
Accommodating higher production costs
It costs more to grow organically than it does to rely on chemicals, and this cost is incurred through the labour taken to produce a decent crop. Factors such as weeding add to the overall time and effort taken to produce a great organic crop, and labour-intensive farming needs to be funded. Onions and carrots need to be carefully looked after when they are grown to organic standards, taking up much more resource than conventional mechanisms.
Mitigating the cost by balancing it with environmental risk
This said, the cost to the environment is significantly higher when it comes to traditional famring methods. Pesticides and fertilizers can make our living expenses shoot up through increased medical treatment needs, and experts suggest that using agrochemicals such as methyl-bromide can deplete the ozone by up to twenty percent. This in turn leads to higher risks from skin cancers, so the price overall is balanced by going organic. When we look at the cost of producing a crop such as strawberries using chemicals, people do not factor in the expense of treating people who have adverse medical reactions, so the true weighing up of organic versus traditional methods of farming is not currently an accurate figure.
When all the hidden costs to the environment and our health are taken in to consideration, buying organic suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive, does it? It’s an established fact that buying organic produce is better for the environment, and better for us in the long term, so it’s worth stretching the budget a little in order to buy green, ethically-produced and healthier foods.
January 17, 2011
We’re all interested in financially sound investments which help our money to go further. But how many of us are concerned about the ethical nature of our investments? And how can we be sure that the institutions and financial agents responsible for managing our money are using the financial resources we’ve entrusted to them in a transparent, responsible and accountable way?
If you are committed to leading a more green and ethical lifestyle then it probably makes sense to review your financial investments. Making the right investments will ensure that your money is working hard for you – and also for the environment.
A niche market?
There’s a common misconception that ethical investments are a niche market. But things are changing, and financial markets are beginning to recognize the demand from consumers for green investment products. Just as you can now expect to choose from a range of ethically sourced produce in your local grocery store or supermarket, you can now also access a range of financial products with strong ethical credentials.
The First Affirmative Financial Network, LLC (FAFN) is an independent investment advisory firm registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and operating in all 50 states. It support a nationwide network of investment professionals who specialize in serving socially aware investors, and can help you find an adviser near you. From savings accounts to investment funds, pension schemes to mortgages, there is a wide range of ways to secure a positive social impact from your finances. Ethical investments are a powerful way to invest in the future, reaping sustainable, cleaner and greener profits with considerable potential for long-term growth.
In the UK, the Sustainable Investment & Finance Association (UKSIF), recently co-ordinated National Ethical Investment Week – using it as a platform to promote and highlight opportunities for ethical investment. They also devised an ethical investment quiz to encourage people to reflect on their existing financial investments and attitudes towards ethical financial products. According to UKSIF, there is ample evidence that well-managed green investments can perform as well as, and in some cases, even better than other investments. A great reason to diversify your portfolio!
Micro-financing: A uniquely social return on your investments
Micro-financing has also taken off in recent years, and KIVA is one non-profit that has taken the concept of ethical micro-finance to a whole new level. KIVA aims to alleviate poverty by connecting social investors with ambitious social entrepreneurs. Through a global network of ethical micro-finance partners, KIVA enables social investors around the world to learn about local community projects that require investment. Currently there are over 700 community projects awaiting investors – and the sheer diversity is incredible. From restaurants to taxi services, education projects to housing loans, there’s an ethical investment opportunity for everyone!
Investors can pledge money online to support their chosen project, and this is transferred as a loan to the local entrepreneur, who is then supported to invest the money and eventually repay the loan in full. This enables the investor to either withdraw their original investment, or re-invest in another project.
To date, KIVA has facilitated over $175m in social investment loans, and funded almost half a million social entrepreneurs to set up or further enhance their own businesses. To find out more about KIVA, and to start your journey towards a greener financial portfolio, visit www.kiva.org/.