Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

The Trump Agenda

March 31, 2017


President Trump and his Administration have moved to overturn much of the Obama Administration environmental regulations and policies as comprehensively as possible. As far as they are concerned, environmental protection is less important than, and actually the antithesis of, economic growth. I could not disagree more. I strongly believe that sustainability and an environmental consciousness can be, and should be, a core part of a company’s mission. In fact, I see growing markets and increased customer demand for companies to incorporate this pro-environmental perspective into their offerings and operations.

I certainly am far from alone in this perspective. Over the past 10 years or so, the concept of “sustainability” has gone from a “kind of nice to have” to an established area of performance and measurement in many companies. Numerous businesses have incorporated various aspects of sustainability into their product offerings. In fact, I was at an event this week where the caterers’ napkins bragged about their organic food—and the caterer even had my favorite brand of Half and Half—Organic Valley.

I can certainly do the obvious political activities in response to the Trump Administration policies: Call my Federal and State representatives (done) support pro-environment candidates and causes, etc. Beyond that, I, along with potentially millions of consumers and purchase decisions have an additional power—the power of the market. By “the market” I mean the consumer base across various industries. I mean the billions of dollars spent on goods and services each day across this country.

It is true that the Obama administration used various policy and regulatory levels to encourage environmental protection. This also had the effect of increasing awareness of these types of issues. However, while helpful, these policies come nowhere close to explaining why sustainability in particular, and an environmental perspective in general, has become increasingly prominent in the business community.

shopping BasketThe true answer is that sustainability often makes sense economically. Many companies saved money over the long run (witness lower operating costs for LEED certified buildings). An ever increasing number of consumers and purchasers demanded it (exemplified by adding sustainability clauses to purchasing contracts). Perhaps most tellingly, when a company launched or increased a sustainability initiative, it used to be news—in some cases, big news. Now, measuring sustainability impact and improvements are becoming almost as widespread as….measuring profit.

Like many people, I will continuously be looking to increase the percentage of my purchases that go to items with a sustainability component. An initial inventory includes: renewing my CSA subscription, which helps keep that farmer in business and preserves farmland, buying 100% wind power, refusing to put chemicals on my lawn, and trying to avoid buying a bunch of plastic toys for my son. On the flip side, I do drive a healthy distance to work every day in a Single Occupancy Vehicle. My son also has an insatiable demand for Legos. If I am fortunate, my new jeans will be from a company that is trying to reduce the water impact of the cotton used to make them.

I am just one person. But if millions of other consumers and customers consciously evaluate where their money is going, then the market will demand that the companies continuously enhance how “sustainable” they are. In that case, while the Trump Administration may permit and even encourage companies to endlessly extract from and pollute the Earth, the market won’t let them.

The Walls Come Crumbling Down

January 14, 2009

And the Walls Came Crumbling Down

And our big construction project of the winter began—new insulation for the 3 bedrooms in our house. They happen to be in the back of the house. They are very cold in the winter, and very hot in the summer. So we figured insulation would be a good way to help. We decided to have the drywall pulled off, and new rolls of insulation installed. Environmentalist that I am, I begin to search for environmentally friendly insulation.

I quickly find out that the insulation industry considers itself fairly green anyways because installing insulation saves energy use, which is inherently green. I’ll accept that, to a point. But I want to know what is in it. I would prefer to use environmentally friendly materials if possible.

In one corner is the old reliable—fiberglass insulation with some percentage of recycled glass. It also has formaldehyde as a bonding agent, and that does not sound good. It has been around forever, and kept plenty of people warm. It also has big warnings on the packages about dangerous chemicals inside. All the pictures have a person with a mask to install it. The masks are kind of worrisome.

In the other corner is the challenger. Apparently there is an insulation that is made from recycled cotton. (There is also blown in insulation made from recycled newspaper, but blown in insulation is not feasible here). I got pretty excited about the prospect of using insulation almost completely made of recycled materials. It also had fire and mold retardants mixed in. And it had no horrible formaldehyde.

I thought this would be so easy. I got quotes on the cotton insulation. Then I went to Home Depot and learned how to read their price tags for the regular insulation. It turns out that the cotton stuff is not the same price as the regular stuff; it is 10 TIMES the price, (that is a 1 and a 0.). I can’t afford to sustain that particular product. I spent $127 on the CertainTeed insulation I bought on Saturday. I would have spent $1,000 on the cotton stuff. I kept the extra $900 in my pocket.

I’ll have to console myself with the following:
The insulation I bought is Greenguard certified for low emissions, suitable for children and schools. CertainTeed says that they use 35% recycled materials in their product, and that their factories are ISO 14001 certified. This basically means that they have an environmental management process in place in their factories. I am not sure if this means that they actually follow it. The other major brand I am aware of, Owens Corning, has recently announced a 40% recycled content for its insulation. It (Owens) also has a fairly extensive sustainability report on its website (perhaps motivated by the fact that they went bankrupt due to asbestos claims in the 1990s). The report is pretty impressive.

And finally, our house will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer while using less electric heat and air conditioning. Sometimes half a loaf is better than none of a loaf.

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