As an old 70’s passive solar gal, I cast a bit of an cautious eye to the “greenwash” which has swept the nation and question the underlying intent. Just yesterday, I read a parallel opinion of veganism, which noted that the ethical argument about “inhumane” treatment of the animals in the food processing is a bit misplaced empathy in view of the fact that slaughterhouses have among the highest on-the-job injury rates of any profession. Are we likewise applying our “green building” efforts selectively?
Take Walmart, for example. Frequently praised for building more energy-efficient stores, using alternative fuel in its trucks and reducing packaging, Walmart is now urging suppliers to reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2015. Would these be the Chinese suppliers? I seem to remember that Sam Walton built his business on promises of American-made product, and I also remember the companies, towns, and PEOPLE whose lives were decimated when Walmart pulled the plug to move the business to China.
While their energy efficient measures are commendable, they also contribute positively to the bottom line. But how about some of the tougher decisions – like retrofitting existing big boxes to improve an existing community? And how do you account for the local businesses which are displaced when Walmart moves in, or the resulting low wages, part-time work, or low return investment to community. Is this green? Now Walmart is donating food. Why not just provide for their own employees?
On the other hand, look at the examples of Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, IceBreaker. Their mission statements include: linked prosperity, culture as energy, ethical manufacturing, transparent supply chain, cause the least harm to the environment. These are very economically viable, global companies who are helping the make the future livable, safe and just for everyone. They embody the vision of the CERES group, who introduced the vision of a world in which business and capital markets promote the well being of human society and the protection of the earth’s biological systems and resources.
I see the CERES version of green as the circular ripple when a drop hits the surface of a pool of water. The effort starts in-house, implementing measures which reduce waste, improve employee lives, and lessen the environmental footprint of the product. The next ripple is the interaction of this company with its surrounding, the neighborhood, the community. And so the impact of the company improves the surrounding spheres, not skipping over any, but recognizing their interconnectivity. Advancing Sustainable Prosperity.
Readers - I need your help. Who are the Ben& Jerry’s of the construction world? I am specifically interested in learning the stories of residential builders who have embraced the ripple effect of green. My PhD topic will be building on the lessons learned from these folks, with this blog as an opportunity to share knowledge. So - let me hear from you. Send me your own story, or links to other builders, websites, blogs. Let’s learn together.