Placing value on something means a little more than just not wanting to spend money on it. When you value something, you find benefits to it that aren't wholly expressed in it's monetary value. You value it because it makes you feel good. I value my family and friends, bicycling, eating good food and drinking good beer and wine, good music, traveling, living sustainably, etc. I value these things when they are free and when they are expensive. I value them no matter the cost because all of those things mean something to me.
For the entire time I've been writing posts on this blog I've always struggled with one main question: "How do you get people to care about saving energy and water and living more sustainably?" In truth, I know the simple answer; which is just raise the price of energy and water above a certain pain threshold so people would actually make dedicated efforts to conserve them. But a better questions is: "How do you get people to place value on living sustainably?"
James Brew of the Rocky Mountain Institute addresses this issue in his great TedX talk on "The Value of Energy Efficiency" seen below
There is a bunch of great information in his talk like the HERS rating, efficiency vs. conservation, importance of efficiency first (insulation, lighting) before installing clean energy (solar, wind, etc.), and Passive House Standard. In regards to getting people to value taking care of the environment, James mentioned a great quote attributed to the Welsh novelist Raymond Williams :
To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing
James closes with, "What is the value of clean air, of clean water, of clean soil? What is the value of less cancer, less asthma, less strokes? What is the value of energy efficiency to you?"
I value living sustainably because I genuinely care about a clean environment; both for selfish (air I breathe and water I drink) and unselfish reasons (welfare of wild animals and health of others). I am hardwired to seek out efficiencies; it's why I became an engineer in the first place. I was probably born this way, but let's face it, most Americans are not....or maybe they were but they lost their way?
So how do we get people to place value on living sustainably without trying to force it upon them with guilt?