What have you done for the environment today? The question never used to hold much weight to the average consumer. Of course there were annual environment-friendly weeks asking you to
replace a lightbulb, compost kitchen scraps, remember to
recycle your newspaper and turn off the lights. But while these
initiatives sought to inspire
environment-conscious attitudes, chances are no one tattled if you started throwing paper back in the trash bin two weeks later.
But now, with the so-called green revolution in full swing, the pressure to go green is
everywhere, and people are keeping tabs.
And businesses are capitalizing on the green movement.
Marketers are seizing the opportunity to tout their green products and boast their eco-friendliness.
Large corporations such as Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors are doling out millions of dollars in the race to develop electric vehicles, fuel-cell-powered cars and more hybrid systems. Granted, it’s a wise choice with buyers facing high oil prices and demanding less pollution spewing from exhaust pipes.
Closer to home, many Ottawa building projects are seeking out Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
certification to show their commitment to energy conservation. Points for things such as low energy and water consumption and even accessible bicycle racks are awarded on a 70-point scale to determine a building’s classification; standard, silver, gold or platinum. And Slater Street’s Telus building certainly earned its silver status when it was sold to a German-based real estate portfolio company for $66.5 million earlier this month.
This push to go green is certainly not new; advocates have been pushing for eco-friendly products and sustainability for decades. So why the sudden shift in public attitude?
It’s simple really. The lasting effects of pollution combined with the effects of man-made climate change and global warming are visible and the baby boomer generation is trying desperately to minimize its already Bigfoot-sized imprint left on the world.
Society is pushing for policies that will result in cleaner and fewer cars on the road, greener buildings and homes, smaller land fills and energy-efficient regulations to reduce ecological stress.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization based in Washington, these kinds of environmental concerns are changing the rules for businesses, investors, and consumers as society gives sustainable economy a try.
For example, Worldwatch’s report State of the World 2008: Innovations for a Sustainable Economy says the estimated $52 billion invested globally in 2006 for wind power, biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, is a jump of 33 per cent from 2005. Investment increased to $66 billion last year, according to preliminary estimates.
The report lists companies that have made strides to be more eco-friendly such as Dupont, which cut its greenhouse gas emissions 72 per cent below 1991 levels and still managed to save $3 billion in the process.
These are certainly steps in the right direction.
But more needs to be done. No more waiting for prodding from society at large. Businesses need to see the green movement as more than just an opportunity for profit. If the business community doesn’t take the lead and make a lasting commitment to green initiatives, the programs already under development will lack the momentum they’ll need when public interest wanes.
After all, people (and the media) are fickle and easily bored. Crucial issues have a tendency to be headlined “flavour of the month,” repeated until the public is desensitized and apathetic, then forgotten.
If baby boomers really want to set an example, they need to make a strong commitment and stick with it. That’s what sustainability is all about.