As some folks here know, my day job involves working with companies on sustainability – working with them on issues of social and environmental impacts, transparency and accountability. The folks I get to work with are fascinating and passionate about making progress – even while juggling all the conflicting demands of our modern corporate world.
One of my favorite people in this work is Joel Makower – journalist and blogger – who has kept the corporate world thinking for years now about how to become more environmentally responsible. Not only is Joel funny and kind, he pushes all of us to look closer, to put aside unquestioned assumptions, and to make things happen.
So a little while ago, I was reading a new post by Joel and it really hit home. Writing about "greenwashing" – when companies "apply a green sheen to their far-from-perfect environmental records" – Joel turned the question on the rest of us:
I've been seeing the "G" word showing up more and more, in both local and national media. And while it's generally good that we maintain high standards for companies' seeking to claim environmental leadership, I can't help but ponder the hypocrisy of it all: how much more we expect of companies than of ourselves.
When I speak to audiences about the greening of business — nearly every week these days, or so it seems — I often conduct an informal poll to see how audience members behave in their personal lives: how many drive hybrids or carpool to work, or are simply driving less; how many have installed solar panels or purchase green energy for their homes; how many use organic or low-toxic gardening techniques; how many seek out locally produced goods; how many have taken the basic measures at home — have installed energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, water-saving devices, insulation and weatherstripping, and the like.
Some audiences are more tentative than others in volunteering answers, but even the most enthusiastic groups tend to have only a handful of members who appear to taking more than a few token actions.
That is, few of us have gone very far out of our way to make changes that we all know are necessary to address today's environmental challenges.
This admittedly unscientific research has limited value, of course, except to raise the inevitable question: Why aren't we doing what we're asking companies to do?
Joel goes on to ask "if there's a little greenwasher in all of us?"
And that sure made me think – and quickly order CFLs for all the lights in our apartment! So I was wondering – how are we doing?
I'll confess to being far from what I preach – I rarely drive (my old car is sure no hybrid) and almost always take the bus but I'm addicted to a brand of water that's shipped untold miles from a tropical island to my Chicago home. We're mostly an organic household but I don't check "food miles". We're pretty good recyclers but I leave on too many lights (as my daughter reminds me often). So I'm curious how other firepups are doing … what ways have you found to make your life greener?