March 10, 2011
By Dave Wilms
Adlai E. Stevenson in his last week of life gave a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in July of 1965. He said: "We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable supplies of air and soil, preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love, we give our fragile craft." Let us rally to his call. We need to care and work to show our love and respect for our planet.
As the new sustainability coordinator at Stevenson, I often engage in conversations that revolve around why any institution should "go green." There are many valid and important rationales why an institution should pursue green goals and apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. If asked to pick one, I cannot; I prefer to present the "trifecta" of the "going green" movement. The following reasons for "green" are my three winners!
1. Green Institutions Can Save Money.
If one goes green one ends up $aving the green! Yep, the plain and simple economic reasons make greening make sense/cents. In the process of pursuing Stevenson’s carbon footprint study or LEED certification, we have carefully looked at our heating and air conditioning set points, light schedules, and recycling programs. Since we have more precisely controlled our use of available building automation, and expanded recycling, we have saved more than $168,000 in the last two years
. That savings will actually compound itself over time. Not only are these changes fiscally wise, but we are also reducing our carbon output due to the reduction in energy consumption! Kudos to AESHS!
2. Green Institutions Can Save Resources.
As the world population approaches 6.8 billion people, equitable sharing of the world's finite and limited resources is an important goal. One focus could be that we reserve more of the limited resources for future children. I like the idea that we share this world with other people, and they too are entitled to a sustainable future. The less we consume today, the longer the earth’s resources will last, which in turn creates a brighter future with more options for the children of our planet! We need to conserve and share
resources to provide for future generations worldwide.
3. Green Institutions Can Help Reduce Climate Instability.
As an AP Environmental Science teacher, I remember reading several years ago that we had a 10-year window to reduce our carbon output worldwide. Fast forward 10 years to the present day, and the latest perspective of the scientific community is that we need to reduce our carbon output to minimize the changes in the earth’s climate, which are at this point inevitable! The focus now is on adapting to the coming changes rather than preventing them altogether. The mindset needs to be that even if one does not completely accept the concept of climate change, or if one believes the problem is not man-made, changes on the earth are happening and we need to tip our behavior to the conservation side. What would it really hurt anyway? If we do get the major shifts in weather patterns like rainfall, snow, drought and polar melt, it will be too late to repair the damages. It is similar to a fire insurance policy for a house; we all have one, yet there is a small chance we will ever use it. To me it is worth the effort and a bit of money to insure against big changes. We owe it to our kids not to increase the risk.
In summary, we have three great reasons to pursue green goals: save money, conserve resources, and reduce the risk of climate instability. Each is valid and should not overshadow the others. To raise one rationale over the others at best cheapens the whole argument. Make the right choice for all of the right reasons and let's all get on the same track! After all, this spaceship we call Earth is "preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love, we give our fragile craft."