We humans have a knack for altering our world. We do it through the construction of artificial environments aimed at accommodating our comfort and convenience, and then by way of our advancing behaviors.
Fifty years ago, the previous paragraph might have been viewed with some hopeful pride, featured in something like Disney’s Future World ride. Today, however, it is viewed as a description of our arrogant, destructive imposition on the natural environment. This increasing public perception is often dramatic, indicating a “belief” that mankind has precipitated catastrophic changes to the planet, and is thus unleashing soon-to-be insoluble problems on our world.
It is important to be reminded that most subjects surrounding our detrimental impacts upon the earth and the foreboding future do, in fact, remain speculative. The greatest minds on earth debate the nature of environmental change itself, and they offer consensus on neither its cause nor its likely impact.
The father of all environmental debates is global warming—with which nearly every other environmental concern is inextricably connected—and it heats up more every day (pun intended). While most of the literate world believes that global warming exists, there are wildly differing opinions that it is anthropogenic, or derived from human activities. Even within the school of thought that believes global warming is exacerbated by human action, there is meaningful debate that its effects are not only inconsequential, but might possibly be positive.
Today, the myriad of environmental debates have entered the socio-political arena. Even without clear public understanding or consensus among experts, organizations and governments throughout the world are acting upon theoretical beliefs and regulating human behavior by way of legislation, influence, punitive measures, etc.
Now, I personally do not know what to think about such alleged crises as anthropogenic global warming, energy shortages, changing resources or the fate of our world. There is just too much information and too many seemingly authoritative arguments on every side…and I simply haven’t the time or patience or intellect to sort it all out.
But what I do know is that sustainable practices and behaviors—whether in building design and construction, renovations, practicing green actions, reducing energy consumption, etc.—are fundamentally good.
A commitment to “green” is good financially. The sustainability market benefits from capitalism as the costs of products associated with building design/construction/renovation are decreasing. New techniques in building and land development (e.g., building commissioning) are ensuring better value to owners with fewer change orders, meeting the owner’s intent at project’s end and ensuring greater synergies among systems, structures, land design and natural resources. Ingenious conservation technologies can reduce our long-term energy costs in shorter periods of time without costing us a fortune up front. And something new to this topic is that market-share data shows that organizations who publicly demonstrate their “greenness” are far more attractive to their constituents, clients, customers and potential tenants than non-green organizations.
A commitment to “green” is good for the environment. Whether you believe we are hastening the world’s destruction or not, there is little question that a clean, natural environment is a bountiful one. Who among us doesn’t want clean air, pristine natural resources, a thriving ecology and a terrific quality of life, and don’t we perform better because of it? Do we really need to be frightened or coerced into action to understand that we can and should be good stewards of our environment? Is an excuse to protect our environment really even necessary?
Commitment to “green” is good stewardship. Every organization has a singular purpose to ensure its protracted existence. Businesses exist to make money. Governments exist to limit human misbehavior. Philanthropies exist to support a given cause or set of causes. However, there is a growing trend—due in part to high-profile corporate malfeasance as well as environmental concerns—toward greater organizational community stewardship. Assuming stewardship for our communities and committing to their well-being and overall quality of life is clearly beneficial: to our fellow citizens, to our employees, to our organizational missions and ultimately, to our bottom line.
Suffice to say, before we each consider our role as organizations committed to sustainability, it is important to first consider our motivation—it is that motivation that will inform our actions. They need not be guilt-driven by a worldview, but instead, just simple, measurable and meaningful actions that immediately impact our own community. And if indeed we do play some role, however small, in protecting our world—all the better. iBi