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The rise of the eco-concierge

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Stephan Savoia/AP/File

(Read caption) In this file photo, Len Bicknell walks from his house to his garage where his solar energy panels are mounted on the roof in Marshfield, Mass. Will "eco-concierges" soon be on hand to help us go green?

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As Tom Friedman and other wise people ponder what jobs will remain in the U.S, the New York Times offers a new industrial category for the NAICS to incorporate. They introduce the "eco-concierge". Could there be tens of millions of these consultants buzzing around in the near future? In past blog posts, I have discussed the Good Guide and other information websites that talk to your smart phone and provide information focused on what products are "naughty and nice" from a green's point of view. This article appears to take this concept to the next level.

To quote the article:

"They will run your errands by bicycle, recommend a spa that gives vegan manicures or buy organic clothes for you and your dog. They will even book you a dream vacation and buy the appropriate carbon offsets.
Green living is just so much easier when you have your own personal environmental concierge.
“The problem with going green is that people think it takes so much work, so much effort, so much conscious decision-making,” said Letitia Burrell, president of Eco-Concierge NYC, a year-old business in Manhattan that tries to make it easy for people to rid their homes of toxins, hire sustainable-cuisine chefs and find organic dry cleaners.
Memberships range from $175 a month to $3,500 a year, depending on the level of service. Or you can opt for à la carte service at $25 to $50 an hour.
It is a niche business, but a clever one. At least a half-dozen services of this type have sprung up around the country in recent years, both to help time-starved consumers manage their lives and to assuage the guilt of those who worry that they are letting the planet down."

Will this business emerge in any poor parts of town?

There is at least one demander out there;

"Tracy Stamper, a fitness instructor in St. Louis, hired Herb’n Maid a few years ago for green cleaning after products used by a conventional service aggravated her husband’s asthma. That set her on a slippery green slope. Ms. White referred her to a hairstylist, within walking distance, who would color her hair with natural dyes. Instead of using Drano to unclog bathtubs, Herb’n Maid gave her a less harsh product.
Then Ms. Stamper’s husband bought a solar-powered fan for the attic; the neighbors wanted one, too. Next up for the Stampers may be switching to organic clothing made with no chemical dyes or pesticides.
“My husband and I both look for ways to up the ante,” Ms. Stamper said."

Will the planet notice such "small deeds"? Will Gernot Wagner notice?
Here is another quote;

"Do such small steps add up to a larger difference? Some climate experts say not really, explaining that only nations and industries have the collective might to dial back global warming.
“The changes necessary are so large and profound that they are beyond the reach of individual action,” Gernot Wagner, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, wrote in a recent New York Times Op-Ed article. Eco-concierges see it their way — that every contribution counts. "

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To be serious for a moment. We live in a diverse world. A gross exaggeration is that there are liberal/greens who want to "walk the walk" because they internalize the social costs that conventional living causes (think of power generated from coal). There are other Rick Perrys of the world who do not concern themselves with such issues. This doesn't mean that Perry is bad. He simply needs an incentive to be good and the right incentive is a pollution tax.

Can liberal/greens save the world on their own? They could if there is a strong enough contagion effect such that the Rick Perrys of the future will embrace the liberal Berkeley lifestyle once they have given it a try or seen their friends on Facebook vouch for it. Alternatively, if green products become cheaper to produce and become higher quality, then some Rick P's will substitute to them merely out of self interest. This general topic of "Greens as guinea pigs" fascinates me.

But note, that this article is all about Rich Greens trying to optimize their lives. Tomorrow, I will teach my undergraduates from UCLA's Institute of the Environment and I will start my class by asking my students whether they want to work in the Eco-Concierge industry.

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