Going Green Goes Mainstream


The nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is on a green campaign. It's built a demonstration store in Colorado, showing off efforts to cut consumption of energy and other resources. Wal-Mart is also moving into the organic food market in a big way. Rice Krispies is now sold in an organic version.

But do people want to pay more for green products? That organic food is generally more expensive. Those hybrid cars cost more too. In many states, consumers now have the option to purchase wind and solar power from companies like Green Mountain Energy, but it's a few dollars more per month.

"One of the reasons why organic and green things do cost more, they're more valuable," Danaher said. "They're better for you. So a product that's going to last longer and have a better impact, it should cost more, that's a market mechanism. Better products do cost more."

Americans may still need some convincing. In the CBS poll, we found fewer than half said they'd bought a higher-cost, environmentally-friendly product in the past year, although a majority say they do things to help the environment at least a fair amount of the time.

"That was a goal, to have people walk in and say, 'Oh, this is green. I can do this,'" Donald Albrecht, the curator of the National Building Museum in Washington, said.

When it comes to what you put in your house, there are lots of options, from high-cost to low-cost, on display right now at the Museum. There are kitchen countertops made of recycled paper and low-energy lights, low-flow toilets, and lots non-toxic everything. Albrecht brought an entire prefabricated house into the museum.

"The kitchen cabinets, for instance, are free of toxic formaldehyde," he said. "We're trying to say that you can go green, you can go sustainable. It's not very expensive. It's easy to do. You can do small things. You can do large things. You can change your behavior. That's the goal of the show."

Michelle and Jason Sullivan decided to make a big change. Amid the open fields of their central New Jersey neighborhood, they installed an array of solar panels.

"Rather than just saving a little bit of energy here and there, we could create our own energy," Michelle Sullivan said.

But it wasn't cheap — about $180,000. Government subsidies helped bring the cost down. The Sullivans estimate they'll break even in 7 or 8 years. After that, whenever they sit down to play computer games with their two little girls, the electricity will be essentially free.

"People are thinking a little bit longer term. We certainly were when we put this together," Michelle Sullivan said. "It's not a one year decision. It's not a two year decision. It's coming to a ten year decision."

In Wyandotte it's long-term thinking that motivates Father Morris.

"We, as 5 percent of the world's population, use up 28 percent of the world's resources," Father Morris said. "That's not, there's something really out of kilter here. Is that what Jesus would have us do?"

Father Morris isn't putting in solar and wind power just to save money. It's spiritual for him too. His church has joined 2000 congregations of all faiths across the country in an organization called "Interfaith Power and Light," dedicated to the environment.

"We are part of creation not apart from creation," he said. "And as a consequence everything else follows. And we forget that at our own peril."

Even death can have an environmental impact. At Greensprings Natural Cemetery in upstate New York and in half a dozen other states, you can now have a natural funeral. That's what the family of Joleene Uticone chose for her this summer, after she died of cancer.

Funerals like hers use a biodegradable casket or shroud, and no embalming fluid or tombstone. Instead the burial site is left in a natural state. You can find it using GPS.

"It can be a celebration almost," Greensprings trustee Matthew Pearson, said. "And you feel like in your death you're actually contributing toward something that you think is important."