Daily Dish: The Challenges of Going Green

I've been meaning to mention this story from Sunday's New York Times because I think it says a lot about America's effort to "go green."

Detergent companies have been forced to radically reduce the phosphates in their products due to new environmental regulations. This is causing some problems with consumers:

“Low-phosphate dish detergents are a waste of my money,” said Thena Reynolds, a 55-year-old homemaker from Van Zandt County, Tex., who said she ran her dishwasher twice a day for a family of five. Now she has to do a quick wash of the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher to make sure they come out clean, she said. “If I’m using more water and detergent, is that saving anything?” Ms. Reynolds said. “There has to be a happy medium somewhere.”

What it comes down to is that many people want to make the environmentally responsible choice—as long as it has no consequences. They want to recycle, as long as it doesn't mean any cumbersome extra steps. They want to eat organic, as long as it doesn't cost too much more. They want to live in energy-efficient homes, as long as they can still run the A.C. as much as they like. And they want to keep our water healthy, as long as it doesn't mean spotty dishes. 

Or, as the Times put it:

Yet now, with the content reduced, many consumers are finding the new formulas as appealing as low-flow showers, underscoring the tradeoffs that people often face today in a more environmentally conscious marketplace. From hybrid cars to solar panels, environmentally friendly alternatives can cost more. They can be less convenient, like toting cloth sacks or canteens rather than plastic bags or bottled water. And they can prove less effective, like some of the new cleaning products.

“Most Americans want to do things that are good for the environment, but not everyone wants to pay the price,” said Elke U. Weber, director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University.