Saturday, April 12, 2008

How to Go Green

What is it that makes us, as humans, willing to change our behavior to be more green? At what point do we decide, yes, I'm going to re-think my life, my work, my outlook, and consider the greater good of my decisions today. I think deep down it comes to three things.

1. Recognize it's a personal choice. Ask anyone to tell you why going green is important and they will tell you the story of something deeply personal. It could be a parent who instilled these values in them as a child, a vacation they took to a third world country or the fear that “their children need a better world to grow up in.” You will almost never hear someone say that the reason they think the environment is important is because their company told them it was a priority. I've come to think of it almost like religion - it's something that can be taught, but will not be acted upon until it becomes a personal value.

2. It must improve your life. I believe at its essence, solving our environmental issues is one of the most complex problems of our time – but it won’t be solved out of the kindness of our hearts or out of a sense of guilt. Going green has to save us money or make our lives easier in some way – preferably both.

Green strategies that stick address environmental benefits, yes, but they must be bundled with other benefits to us personally. The triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) is one way experts have described this importance of being all-inclusive. It's a very nice business model, but in some ways, it's a trite way of describing a very human issue. The green movement is at it's heart (I believe) about self-preservation: preserving our financial and environmental resources; our quality of life; our access to clean air, water and energy; and our overall health and wellness.

3. It's a slow evolution, not a spontaneous transformation. Going green is an evolving thing. Because caring about the environment is a value, and not a goal or something to be "achieved" per se, it takes time to figure out how it fits in our lives. Most folks I've talked to (and companies for that matter) that are successful going green start small. They find one thing, like biking to work, starting to recycle, buying veges from a co-op or changing their lightbulbs. They make the change, measure it, and celebrate the benefits to their health or checkbook. Starting small is really important, because 1) it's more likely to happen and 2) you really notice and absorb the benefits. Seriously, don't try and go whole hog on day 1. You have enough projects going on in your life!

What happens next? Well, once you conquer that first project, the second one is much easier to do, but again, don't go nuts. It's kind of like losing weight. Benge dieting doesn't stick, so why should going green? Make sure whatever you do, it benefits you and/or your family in some way - then you know you'll do it forever. I know we have big problems, but they won't be solved overnight.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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