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Sustainability Series

The Cafe is launching a new series, for now titled “Made More Sustainable by Markets.”  (I’m not wedded to this title; perhaps I’ll change it in the future.)

The idea occurred to me when I received an e-mail today from my former GMU Econ student Zenon Zygmont, now a professor of economics at Western Oregon University.  I recently sent Zenon birthday wishes.  (He’s ten days younger than me.)  Here’s part of Zenon’s reply:

Did a tour of the Coors plant in Golden and learned that the company invented the recyclable aluminum can in 1959. I thought the capitalists were supposed to despoil the environment!

Zenon’s e-mail reminded me of one of the best talks that I ever heard.  It was by former Coca-Cola executive Harry Teasley, and delivered at the 1991 regional meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Bozeman, MT.  Harry explained how Coke, constantly driven to keep its costs as low as possible, spent tons of money and time to incessantly lighten the packaging of their products.  One effect, of course, was lower packaging costs – and a happier bottom line – for Coke.  Yet an another, less-intended effect was less resource use per unit of packaged-product sold.  The profit motive drove Coke to act more (I dislike the word) “sustainably.”


So here’s what this new series is about: you send me, as you encounter them, instances of how the profit motive within private-property markets leads entrepreneurs and firms to conserve resources.

I realize that this effort isn’t novel.  I realize also that the number of such instances is huge.  Many are mundane; others not.  I’ll not post all, but I will post, from time to time, the instances that I believe to be most interesting and telling.