Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Green Road Ahead

In February there is a Green Jobs conference in DC and I hope to attend. I suppose I already have a "green" job although it certainly doesn't feel like it. A series of events, the downturn in the economy seems to prevent me from spending much time on my green job and simply getting other jobs that provide green rather than encourage it.

In fact I have spent more time trying to explain to people why I do what I do than doing what I do.... and yet I still sense people are still uneasy when it comes to talking about money.. and this is something at which is the one last elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

I have to think that out of this we have entered a new era of change for the better and that is especially true when it comes to disclosure and honesty about a company's earnings, its expenses/debts and more importantly its salaries.

I don't think income transparency will come easy but its absolutely essential for a company to truly be publicly held and I think more workers will demand it. It will stop some of the insane salaries of CEO's and Executives, bring about gender parity and lead to a more equitable wage spread and suitable increases with regards to positions within a company. I hope to see more Boards and Stockholders encouraging this sense of openness and disclosure as a measure of a company's long term viability and success.

I don't see Americans jumping right away onto that bandwagon but I see more and more an open discussion with regards to finances as we move into acknowledging our role in this debacle of an economic meltdown.

Part of this is our own fault.. our need to keep up with the Joneses, the denial of our own net worth and the belief that we all deserve and can have everything we want.. be it Gucci or the knock off version at Target. We were addicted to goods and shopping as any addict is to crack and it appears just as lethal.

We also as businesses be more accountable to the company, to the bank and more importantly to our customers. As I have said Contractors are notoriously bad at business so there is often a robbing of Paul to pay peter, confusing markups and bad bidding and estimating practices designed less to get the job and more to stop someone else from getting it and in the long run its the Contractor and the Customer who suffer.

Learning to read the books, leave them open and share that information to those who need to know allows for better decision making, better work ethics and better relationships those we are working with. It is not easy in a society that has always put talking about money on the same level as discussing politics and religion but those lines have long since blurred so let's put money on that table too so we can become a better more productive society focused less on the mine me mine and more on the bottom line.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's Your Carbon Footprint?

I think Carbon Footprint may have jumped the proverbial shark when I saw an ad for a local Car Dealer advertises itself as "working towards carbon neutral" I am not sure what that means and even if I did I am not sure that it is possible.

To be carbon zero or even neutral would that not mean using any fossil or expendable fuels of any kind? And if that is the case will they cease selling gas powered vehicles and move to say "horse power" of another kind. Even an electric car uses energy and there are "batteries" but maybe they know something I don't.

Take the MANY carbon footprint tests available over the Internet.. and all I can say its good thing my carbon footprint doesn't measure my shoe size or I may have a hard time getting fit!

I went to a dinner recently and the guest speaker was the CEO of an outdoor firm that advocates sustainability and environmental friendliness, which makes sense as they are an "outdoor" firm. Actually, my pessimism was immediately replaced in response to his humor but more importantly his honesty and practicality with regards to business. He preferred the term "Eco Footprint" to describe how they approach their business.

I was then at another "green" function a couple of weeks later and a person touted how he was passionate about reducing his "carbon footprint" by traveling less. Well after listening to the speaker earlier reaffirm that being respectful about the environment, treating the planet, people and more importantly treating how you manufacture and maintain your business is by far more a response to the environment than having the appropriate label to designate your business.

And he is right.. if you have to travel at least being part of a full plane as opposed to sitting on a private jet or nearly empty one traveling anyway is one that is more about the business and not the individual. No one goes into life saying I plan on using everything possible and available that is both wasteful and useless. And yes there are those who buy big cars, spend more than they earn, throw out more food than they eat but they don't do so deliberately.. they do so ignorantly. Their carbon footprint I am not sure is any "bigger" than mine.. but their eco one definitely.

Carbon footprints need to be evaluated by their largess.. its something the auto makers needed to evaluate from their responsibility in developing autos that are less reliant on fossil fuels and then flying to Congress on private jets while asking for money.

In the meantime, everyone uses cell phones, laptops, etc. The immense amount of energy needed to power our ever increasing dependency on technology has made that industry rival the airline industry for energy use and will likely exceed it in the years ahead. So when bragging about how you are reducing your carbon footprint by flying less.. well in reality try texting or calling less if that is in fact your goal.

There was a book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" and this is more true than ever. Its not the small shit that affects the big picture when it comes to the environment its your big picture.. Look at it all.. be reasonable, be practical and measure your eco footprint to find the right size for you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Adventures in Sustainability Land

The last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to attend a Sustainable Industry Breakfast and another group's Sustainable Dinners. Here the intent is to have like minded individuals "network" and share information over some "sustainable" food (which in most cases, I hope all food is sustainable) and hear a speaker or two speak on "issues" of sustainability.

I am thinking much like the word "green" "sustainable" may also become one of the most overused words in the future lexicon of our new Obama-society. And while I like all the ideas and concepts I see that some just are once again joining the ranks from either trend or sadly out of necessity.

At these events I met several people new to the field of "sustainability" and many of them seem well vague as to exactly what they do or just trying to figure it out.

I have met a "green building" consultant. With no background in building, architecture or even design... yet by simply completing a course is ready to help people build green. Well great but I would sort of hope that those drawn to the field had some previous experience in what building of any kind was/is to feel in order provide expertise and advise others.. but that may be wishful thinking. That is why LEED and others organizations do by providing checklists so for us "experts" to follow and let others figure out the construction.. those who can do and those who can't teach.. but at some point I would like those who are teaching to have had some further knowledge and experience in a related field other than simply passing the numerous Sustainable courses and Green Degree programs that seem to be arriving faster than the jobs needed to sustain the graduates.

The next was my arch nemesis the Real Estate Agent. I have not yet found anyone of this profession who should be considered redeemed sufficiently to yet garner my respect. Perhaps the agent who refunds some of his/her commission to those homeowners whose homes are now worth less than they overpaid for may be my hero. But for now I find them to be less than the maligned used car salesman...salespeople whose arrogance, lack of true knowledge and their greed contributed greatly toward the crisis in housing today.

From there I met a "Professor" of Sustainability whose smugness was only matched by his arrogance. I am glad professing to be an expert on the subject has allowed one to be above good manners. It makes me think I will pass on getting my "Green" MBA.

Only one or two faces of color are present at these events and this concerns me but also empowers me to know that Van Jones is someone out there being the voice for this largely overlooked population in the green movement.

I have never professed to be an expert. I still am learning.. and I am glad, to stop learning is to stop growing. I like asking questions and seeking alternatives and hopefully solutions that will be ones that everyone can afford and approach. My hero of late is Van Jones one of the few true voices of green for the poor.

I think there is no such thing as too much information. It was the lack of information that led us I believe to where we are today. We allowed ourselves to be led down the path by others.. willingly... asking no questions such as "why are their interests mine?" I think we realized they were not.

Information is power. Information leads to innovation to revitalization and mostly it leads to more information and ultimately knowledge. And when has anyone said knowledge is a bad thing?

The real issue in Sustainability is opening the door.. I want to see some more faces of color, wider backgrounds and diverse opinions. We cannot risk making this another fad where drinking the kool-aid is all one needs to be a member. We all know how that turned out... not very "sustainable"