The End of Sustainability?

I was asked recently if this sustainability movement was over. I have to admit I was puzzled by the question. I asked my friend what he meant? He said, “You know, the leaked climate change emails, the Copenhagen meltdown,the head of the U.N. Climate Chief resigned, and BP, Caterpillar and ConocoPhillips not renewing their memberships in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. With all this bad news doesn’t that make you think that this sustainability thing has ran its course?”

That’s when it hit me. He thinks sustainability is only about climate change!

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Micro vs Macro Sustainability

Remember the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? That expression came to mind this past week during a discussion on sustainability.

I was having lunch with a colleague and she was saying that the Triple Bottom line should be described as “Profit, People and Planet”. I mentioned that it was most commonly referred to as “People, Planet and Profits”.

She said that we were saying the same thing, that it was just semantics and moved on to another topic. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I didn’t think we were really discussing semantics. Continue reading

What is Biomimicry?

I was in a meeting recently and one of the designers in the room said “I think we should use the newest approach to design, biomimicry.” I almost fell out of my chair. “Newest approach?” This approach isn’t new. Da Vinci studied birds in flight to better understand how man could fly.

I didn’t say anything, and trust me, that took great restraint.  I caught myself and realized that with all of the recent “green” and “sustainability” buzz going around some people were just now getting exposed to this and other sustainable development concepts.

Which brings us to today’s blog, “What is Biomimicry?”.

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Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist, Ray Anderson

ray_anderson_au

In 1994, Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson set an audacious goal for his commercial carpet company: to take nothing from the earth that can’t be replaced by the earth. Now, in the most inspiring business book of our time, Anderson leads the way forward and challenges all of industry to share that goal.

The Interface story is a compelling one: In 1994, making carpets was a toxic, petroleum-based process, releasing immense amounts of air and water pollution and creating tons of waste. Continue reading

Setting Sustainable Goals

goal_settingTell me if this sounds familiar. You’re gathered in a conference room, the senior leader in the room says that the purpose of this meeting is to establish your company’s environmental, sustainability, or recycling goals, pick your topic. Now here’s where it gets good. The meeting is scheduled for 30 minutes and she needs the goals for her meeting with the executives tomorrow.

Don’t laugh. I’ve been there. If you haven’t, good for you. You are one of the fortunate ones. I’m still surprised that after all this time we still have the mentality that goals can be pulled out of the air and then we act shocked when we are unable to accomplish the, often publicly, stated goals.

So, how do you go about establishing goals for your programs? Is their a better way? I think so and that’s what we are going to talk about. Continue reading

How do you define waste?

WasteLow hanging fruit…you’ve heard it before. When you are trying to get your organization started down the sustainability path, consultants and authors tell you to reach for the low hanging fruit. They want you to succeed, so they point you in the direction of quick wins. For many of them your waste stream is one of the first places they encourage you to look, and by waste stream they are referring to what you place in a dumpster. They talk about examining what it is that you are placing into the dumpster. They want you to be able to identify the items that you are throwing away and re-think how they got there. This is something you should do, but lately I’ve had several companies remark when I was introduced to them as the guy that is going to help us identify waste reduction measures say, “Oh, you’re the guy who is going to start our recycling program.” In my head, I’m thinking, “Oh, if it were only that easy!”

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Speaking the language of Sustainability

apples_orangesOver and over I have the same discussion with sustainability professionals, they want to know what they can do to enhance their presentations to fully engage their listeners, to open their audience’s mind to the possibilities that exist. Many times when they have a chance to talk about what they were doing or what they were planning to do within their organization they felt as if their message and plans were falling on deaf ears. Their audience was constantly checking their blackberry’s or looking as if they wished they were in any place other than sitting in a room listening to him or her speak.

Sound familiar? Continue reading