Well, next Monday marks the beginning of what is now ‘Earth Week’. Forty years ago Earth Day began in the US, largely due to the efforts of US Senator Gaylord Nelson. Forty years ago being an ‘environmentalist’ was generally looked down on, a title bestowed upon those radical hippie types with whom ‘normal’ people did not want to associate. How times have changed, and for the good of all of us, too! Daily Planet for example is hosting ‘Be Kind to Earth Week’ on Discovery Channel, but if you’ve signed up for the Biomimicry Institute’s Great TV Rebellion of 2010, you won’t be watching television, electing to go outside more instead.
The title for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post comes from a Twitter hashtag – #howgreencanweb from @eight bottles – people are invited to post ideas and methods for being greener with this tag attached. How green can we be? It’s an interesting question. Note the question is not, “How green should we be?” because today the general answer is that we should all strive to be as green as possible.
One of the dilemmas of being involved with the green movement is that one can become mired in these questions. I still remember, years ago, Dr. David Suzuki lamenting that he invested so much time on airplanes and being on television (especially with his show The Nature of Things) in order to make people aware of the effects of those same actions on the planet we inhabit. In his view he had in a way become his own enemy, using the same tools he was speaking against. There was a tweet yesterday by the Biomimicry Institute that said, “RecycleYourDay has a CD giveaway for The Great @TVRebellion2010: http://bit.ly/a6uKgR Another way to enter? Tweet that you joined the GTVR!” When I asked them if this wasn’t counterintuitive to the idea (giving away a CD for a project inviting people to turn off their electronics), their response was, “Alas, we must use screen time to get people time away from the screens. Use the positives of tech for good, then cut the fluff out!” I’m not sure who decides what ‘fluff’ is, and I’m not trying to pick on them, but their response echoes the sentiments professed by Dr. Suzuki.
The larger issue, of course is that we must use the resources of the planet in learning how to make wise choices about how we use the resources of the planet. Some people are already asking, “Will we do it in time?” or “Are we already too late?” Personally, I don’t think we are too late. Yes, the earth is changing. There’s no question about that, nor has there been for some time. Yes, humans are having an effect on global environmental systems. There’s no question about that either. But set against that is the rising level of awareness and willingness among people to make efforts to change the way they interact with each other and the planet. One of these ways is making a choice to reduce one’s ‘footprint’. In the 1980s words like ‘carbon offset program’ were never strung together in the same sentence. We as a species have remarkable capabilities to adapt, to invent and to create. I was talking with a woman in the hardware store last week who told me that she’s switching all of her lighbulbs to CFLs. It’s an admirable step for her and her family. I still remember, 14 years ago, someone in the southern US asked me, “Is it true they have something in Canada called recycling?” Around that same time I remember reading about a particular family of four, living in a major Canadian city who, in one year, threw out 2 bags of garbage. A decade or so ago there was an ad campaign by one of the oil companies that basically encouraged people to drive, even a block to the store. Nowadays such an ad would be professional suicide. Today we have tax writeoffs and other incentives to encourage people to walk, ride or take public transit. Instead of ‘Bike to Work Week‘ perhaps we should have a “Drive to Work Week’, assuring that what we see now as alternatives become the mainstream.
I’ve been involved with the environmental movement myself for about 35 years, personally and later professionally as well. I didn’t participate in the first Earth Day celebration; I didn’t hear about it until April 22, 1970 had passed. But in those 35 years I have seen and continue to see amazing new breakthroughs in technology and shifts in public awareness and the common paradigms with which we live our lives. And that, to me is something important to remember. We’re all pushing ourselves and each other to ‘do’ more: to cut back more, to change our diets more, to purchase less, to… there are probably a million different ways to change how we engage the planet. But in the midst of all of this we should take a second to stop and look around us at what we HAVE accomplished. In the past few years we’ve made some amazing strides. Is there more to do? Yes, definitely. And creating a sustainable future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children will take more new Ways than we have so far put forth. But we also need to acknowledge how far we have come. Honouring our accomplishments will not detract from our future. And remember (as I saw recently): Think globally, act hopefully.
Okay, the links for this week include:
- USGBC Knowledge Exchange – podcast series
- Greening the Heartland 2010: Conference, May 19-21, Minneapolis, MN
- How companies manage sustainability: McKinsey Global Survey results
- Five Ways to Convince Your CFO that Sustainability Pays
- Energy_Animal: Flexible Wave Energy Converter
- Sublime garden art – convert your swimming pool into an eco wetland
- Timberland Reduces GHG Emissions 36%
- CSR Reporting in China
- What a waste!
- Where Health and Sustainability Meet
- Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative (USDOE, EERE)
- New Opportunities to Improve Commercial Building Energy Efficiency
- MBMA Releases Energy Design Guide for Metal Building
- ED+C magazine: Articles
- LEED EB: O&M: The Building Owner’s and Operator’s Sustainability Solution
- The Best Bulb for Natural Light
- Sustainable Facility magazine: Articles
- Sustainable Facility April 2010 (digital magazine)
- Henkel Among `World’s Most Ethical Companies’
- Earth Beat – Dying green
- Important Notice: Changes to LEED project fees and procedures (.pdf) – from the Canada Green Building Council
- The Sustainability Institute Helps Make the Case for Corporate Responsibility
- Next up for Wal-Mart: Recyclable Stores?
- Food Industry Social Responsibility: Real?
- Creating Value Through Sustainability: A worldwide satellite broadcast and webcast – Tuesday, April 20, 2010
- The Toxic Side of Being, Literally, Green
Walmart Funds Green Supply Chain Research
- Studies Relate IAQ and Productivity
- EcoARK Pavilion made from 1.5 Million Plastic Bottles
- Architects Envision Hawaii-Sized Island Made of Recycled Plastic
- Hack This Car Please
- The Hybrid Done Good
- Green Exhibiting
- Box Harvests Water in the Driest Places
- “One Report” – Is there a Transparency Panacea?
- The CSR toilet
- Voices for Corporate Responsibility
- Facade Stabilization Solutions: preserving the past and building the future – webinar, April 22, 2010
- The Keys to Green Affordable Housing: A Guide for Existing Multifamily Properties – a 3-part webinar from USGBC The first two have completed and are available in an archived format. The third is May 13, 2010
- Straight Up: Climate Politics and Earth Day: April 19, 2010, 12:00pm – 1:00pm, Washington, DC
- Healthy Building News
GBA eLetter: Are radiant barriers a waste of time?
- Living Future: The UnConference for Deep Green Professionals – May 5-7, Seattle, WA
- Defining the Green Economy
- Towards a New Kind of Collaboration – A Networked Approach to Social Change
- inhabitat weekly newsletter
- Enter the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest – until April 28, 2010
- How Green is Your Garden?
- 5 Essential Green Living Skills Our Grandparents Knew
- 2010 Energy Leadership Awards – until May 16, 2010
Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
P.S. For something a little different: Studying Sea Life for a Glue That Mends People