Friday, July 18, 2008

The Ecobill

I logged on this morning to the Comcast website to check out my latest cable bill. I’ve been getting bills sent to me electronically for a while now, and when the new bill is due, I receive an email notification. It’s not exactly rocket science, is it? All my bills now arrive electronically, and they are all paid electronically as well. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check—I think I have a checkbook somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure. Not only is this convenient, but it saves a lot of paper and reduces the cost to transport all that mail around the country.

I don’t know how long it has been up there, but today I noticed that Comcast now refers to their electronic bill as their “Ecobill.” Actually, they make it green, so on the website it says, “Ecobill.”

How corny is that? Calling the electronic bill an Ecobill is perhaps a bit too clever for your own good. This kind of green marketing is what annoys a lot of people. It’s the reason for ‘green fatigue.’ When someone is bombarded with so much information about going green and being green and recycling that they just give up and drift into apathy, they are suffering from green fatigue. And in America, there is nothing we do better than bombard people with too much information.

My first reaction, then, was to be slightly more annoyed with my cable company than I usually am. But you know what? I’ve changed my mind. I’m glad they are calling it an Ecobill, lime-green lettering and all. Why? Because it shows that being eco-conscious and reducing your paper waste is not incompatible with good business.

Yes, Comcast doesn’t want to send you a bill. It costs them money to print, and those stamps aren’t free either. It’s in their best interests for you to sign up for electronic payments, and if they can take advantage of people who want to go green by renaming their service the Ecobill, they’re going to do it. That is what they should be doing—they are a business. But it is also in my best interests to not write out those checks and pay $0.42 just to send in my bill.

In the end, we live in a capitalist society and we are going to need business to be a major part of creating a more sustainable world. While the Ecobill may be hokey and even a little bit annoying, it more than makes up for it in reduced paper waste. That is a trade-off I can live with.

As for green fatigue, I don’t really have any good advice for you. I mean, I am writing to you on a blog called The Going Green Project, so clearly I have not contracted green fatigue just yet. I do think it needs to be addressed, however, because green fatigue is a dangerous trend. I promise to delve into that one in more depth in the future. Until then, stay (lime-) green!