Time to Go from Awareness to Action
Two of my favourite quotes that I like to use to close a training seminar are the definitions for insanity and negligence. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Negligence is defined as doing the same thing over and over even though you know it is dangerous, stupid or wrong. Both imply that we cannot continue to do the same thing and that we must change our actions.
Going from insanity to sanity or from negligence to action best explains the journey many companies take in “greening their operations”. What I encounter on a daily basis are companies and individuals that want to be greener but are unsure what to do next, where to concentrate their efforts. Going from the awareness stage to the action stage is a difficult leap for many. Knowing that your actions are insane are negligent is easier than knowing what to do to correct the situation. Here are a few suggestions that can help move your company’s operations from thinking green to acting green.
- Start – Get out of the planning and meeting stage and do something. Start with actions that have immediate impact and that are visible and that are easy to implement. These actions will communicate to all building occupants that you care about the environment and you want to do something. Start with giving access to refillable water bottles, using water jugs instead of disposable water bottles during your meetings, using green cleaning chemicals, installing recycling bins throughout the facility or using reusable dishware. This will let everyone know that you are serious and are willing do something about it instead just talking about it.
- Avoid using jargon to explain what needs to be done. Using words such as GHGs (Green House Gases, carbon footprint, climate change, sustainability in your communications usually results in your audience not listening. Like the school teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons, many employees stop reading or listening once the jargon comes out and only hear WAWAWA…….Instead of saying “our company will reduce its carbon footprint”, say what you will do instead – “we will reduce our printed documents resulting in 1 ton of less paper being used and a savings of $10K per year. Or “our company will combine shipments reducing the number of daily shipment by 15%, resulting in 10 less trucks on the road and a savings of $25k per year in fuel and trucking fees”.
- Don’t use fear or negative statements to get employees or clients to change behavior. Longer term behavior changes are made when people feel good about their actions. A positive statement such as “Did you know that your recycling efforts reduce the waste going to landfill by 2 bins per day? Last year we sent 3 tons to landfill. This year, because of our recycling efforts, our company sent only .5 tons. Your efforts, your Small Steps lead to a Big Impact. Thanks”.
- Continue to Evolve – once you have done the easy, visible steps, put into place longer term initiatives. Your company’s next steps could be to create a sustainable purchasing policy, buying fuel efficient vehicles, having designated parking for fuel efficient cars or for employees that carpool, or installing energy efficient lighting . Your company may be ready to seek a specific green/sustainable certification to ensure best “green” practices will be implemented. LEED, BOMA BESt and the Canadian Green Sustainability Program are just a few of the certification programs that are available. Find the right program that meets your time and budget restraints. The important point to remember is that your company’s goal is to be “greener” than yesterday. Being the “greenest” is not always feasible. Focus on what you can do today instead of what you cannot do. Take small steps and never let the journey to being greener become a burden. Having a goal that is too difficult to reach results in a lack of action, inertia.
It is time for our industry to realize that we cannot continue to do things as we have in the past, that it is time for us to prove that we are neither insane nor negligent. Greening your building is about eliminating waste and finding efficiencies. These actions will have positive impacts on your building occupants, the environment and your bottom line. By working together and supporting each other’s efforts our Small Steps can have a Big Impact.
*quotes are an adaptation from Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart