Making Progress Toward Sustainability

Whenever I talk about solar and sustainability I try to keep my tone hopeful. 

As a lifetime environmentalist I’ve been brow beat with doom and gloom messages about what will happen if our species does not make a 180 degree course correction and fast.  I knew that when I started my own company that we would not focus on negative fear based messages, but instead keep ourselves positive.

Adopting solar energy should be something everyone is motivated to do because they feel good about it; not because the alternative is bad.  But so often in my day-to-day life I constantly have to make a decision about what products I choose to support my environmental values.

What are the ingredients in this food?  What does the manufacturing process look like?  What kinds of wastes are produced during manufacture? How much packaging is there? What am I going to do with the waste once I’ve used this? How does this company move its products around the globe?  Does the manufacturer care about their supply chain? And on and on and on…

These questions are a reason why I have buyer’s remorse before I ever actually buy anything.  It’s twisted, but it means that my family and I don’t spend much on material goods.

But there are a lot of people out there that don’t think these questions, never have thought about them, and could care less if you offered them up.  So I have to wonder, if the fear based messaging of the environmental movement of the 90’s didn’t change anyone’s behavior, why do we expect anyone to change their behavior now that the warnings are getting worse?

I love a good episode of Radiolab, and recently host Robert Krulwich wrote about ecological collapse on Easter Island. He quotes J.B. MacKinnon as saying “If you’re waiting for an ecological crisis to persuade human beings to change their troubled relationship with nature — you could be waiting a long, long time.”

Chilling for sure, but I think it is a very important point: people will not change.  So how do we more actively encourage companies to pursue Cradle to Cradle design? How do we make it so that no consumer has to think about the source and end of the products they choose to use and discard?

There is no easy answer.  The good news is that I’ve been seeing great reports about big gains in Corporate Social Responsibility. There was an article I was asked to contribute to in a building magazine asking about big remodeling trends in 2014.  I’m paraphrasing, but last year the author said something along the lines of “Why don’t you see ‘Green’ as a trend in 2013? Because it’s a given.”

The moral of the story, is that finally we are seeing sustainable practices included by default.  That is exactly what we need.  There is a long hard road ahead of us to get 100% of productive output 100% sustainable, but I feel great knowing I’m part of the solution.