U.S. Mint promotes going green with use of coins over bills

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In an effort to become more environmentally friendly, the U.S. Mint is encouraging the use of coins in place of dollar bills.
    According to an Oct. 20 article in USA Today, “the U.S. Mint is spending about $12 million on a pilot to promote the presidential dollar coin by appealing to Americans’ duty to protect the environment while saving the government money.”
    The campaign claims coins are “greener” because they are recyclable, last longer — and therefore can remain in circulation longer —  and, if more Americans used them, could end up saving tax dollars.
    In 1995, the Federal Reserve estimated that replacing one-dollar bills with coins “would save $500 million a year,” and with the increase of dollar bills in circulation since then, that figure likely would be higher, according to the article.
    However, there are those who think this conversion might not be a success.
    “I don’t think it will be that effective,” said DaNesha McNeely, senior in animal science and vice president of SEA. “I don’t necessarily see changing from a one-dollar bill that’s been out there for years to using a coin as really doing that much towards benefiting the environment.”
    The Mint has more than 92.7 million Sacagawea dollar coins that have remained uncirculated since they were created in 2000 and 2001.
    In addition, the Mint started making presidential dollar coins in February 2007, but they have not taken off, and sales are far below what was expected, according to the article.
    “I think a lot of the advertisements for the dollar coins in the past have been for more of a celebration, and they haven’t been put into more practical use,” said Bjai Rice, fifth-year student in nutritional science and pre-medicine. “But if they do more advertisement saying these are for everyday use and not just for celebration, then people might be more willing to use them.”
    Some think overcoming the cultural reliance on dollar bills will be the Mint’s biggest struggle.
    “Even if it is greener, you’ve got some cultural issues to fight,” said Ben Champion, K-State director of sustainability. “As long as we still have the one-dollar bill, then the one-dollar coin is a difficult sell.”
    Rice agreed, saying change is always hard for people but added that promoting the eco-friendliness of the coins might cause people to be more inclined to make the change.
    There are other ways to create more environmentally friendly currency without asking Americans to change to coins, McNeely said.
    Soy-based ink or using hemp or other fabrics in place of the current dollar bills would be greener, McNeely said.
    Champion said other countries like Australia have options for bills that are more durable and therefore stay in circulation longer, decreasing the amount that need to be produced.
    “Australian bills are not fabric or paper,” Champion said. “They are out of a form of plastic that is flexible but not tearable, so we could continue with our cultural preferences of using bills instead of coins.”
    With the manufacturing of all the dollar coins, it is also up to debate as to whether any energy is really saved, said Champion.
    “It takes a lot of energy to process metals, and it would be difficult to calculate how much energy is saved versus paper,” Champion said.
    While the effort for the Mint to go green is appreciated, there are other ways to go green that will be more easily recognizable, McNeely said.
    Ultimately, though, it comes down to the fact that Americans don’t seem open to the change.
    “[The Mint] has tried to sell it twice now, and neither of them went anywhere,” Champion said. “I think that’s still going to be the case.”

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