Paying people not to pollute

No, I do not refer to cap-and-trade systems for controlling industrial emissions. I speak of an ad I spotted last week for the eco-fabulous Richmond grocer Ellwood Thompson’s, which is offering customers 25 cents off their bills if they walk, bike or take the bus to the store. It’s called the EnviroCredit, and the company’s website hints at more such initiatives to come.

I’m kind of allergic to marketing in general, but this is definitely easier to get behind than that other approach, the one where a company takes a product they’re already selling and crows about some vaguely environmental reason that people should buy it.

But would you actually ride your bike for a measly quarter? I must say that for me it wouldn’t make the difference. I’d have to be already over the mental hurdle of leaving my car behind, and then I’d take the 25 cents as a small symbolic bonus. Getting cheaper coffee, when I’ve brought my own mug, seems like a more meaningful tradeoff. (After all, 25 cents times 300 cups a week is what, like, $75? Now that’s a savings a miserable caffeine junkie can really appreciate!)

Wonder if any Charlottesville businesses will follow Ellwood’s lead. I’d love to see fleets of bikers headed up 29N to Whole Foods, ready to claim their quarters.

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