Dave Killion — July 4, 2012

In my experience, few people appreciate the role of liberty in promoting resource conservation. In a free enterprise system, competition provides a never-ending impetus for market participants to produce more goods with fewer resources. At Slate, Seth Stevenson gives us a real-life example when he seeks the answer to “Why Are Poland Spring Bottles So Crinkly?” –

“If you’ve bought a bottle of spring water recently—a little, half-liter one, the single serve kind—you may have noticed how fragile it was. Cellophane-thin walls, so easy to squish and crinkle. Tiny, fiddly caps that seem to come off without any effort. Why have these bottles become so insubstantial?

The answer: environmentally friendly operations. Or, less charitably but perhaps more accurately, operations that cut down on raw material use and, along the way, have environmentally pleasant side benefits.

Often, we think of operations management as a quest simply to cut costs, or speed up processes, in the name of ever-larger profits. And it is that. But when companies tweak their operations to save money, they often end up having a positive environmental impact as well.”

Not only are the new bottles better for the environment relative to what they used to be, they are also less resource consumptive than the pop and juice bottles with which they compete. So despite complaints that bottled water is bad for the ecology, to the extent that they motivate people to choose water instead of another beverage, they lessen the damage caused by other containers. Free enterprise is just full of win!

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