The Great Minority....Sustainable Leaders

Green Factory

Green Factory

Recently I was speaking with the Founder of Green By Design.  In telling her my background, I mentioned that I sell electrical products to factories around the State of Georgia.  I told her my frustration at the fact that hardly any of the factories I've called on have an active Energy Management program.  At this she was greatly surprised.  Living in San Fransisco and entrenched in the Green Community she is surrounded by a cocoon of sustainable thought.  I assured her that Georgia was probably the polar opposite of San Fransisco in regards to Sustainable thought (we are improving though!).   We both came to the conclusion that we (those of us actively working to bring about a more sustainable and energy efficient future) are still in the MINORITY.

She had read many articles about different companies' efforts to reduce their energy and water consumption and thought all companies were like that, and yet I had to remind her there was a reason these companies were profiled:  they were doing something different!  That something was placing a value on the energy and water they use, and actively seeking to reduce that energy and water.

March's issue of Automation World (a magazine analyzing trends in factory automation) had a whole issue on Sustainable Manufacturing!  They interviewed the president of Harbec Plastics, Bob Bechtold.  From the article titled "Making Dollars and Sense of Energy":

While Bechtold admits to harboring a certain tie-died-save-the-Earth-hippy streak, his alternative/Green energy investments at Harbec have all been driven by economics.

As the quote from Bechtold points out, while we all would love to think helping the environment is an ingrained characteristic of manufacturers, this is just not the case.   They are in business to make money, and unless saving energy (and thus the environment) can help make them more money faster (reduce cost = increased profit), there is an excellent chance they will not have an Energy Management program.

One of the issues manufacturers in Georgia and the South face is that electricity is so cheap!  It's hard for most people to value something that is cheap.  While making energy efficiency investments will always be a good long-term decision, it may not pay back as quick as it would for Bob in NY or GreenByDesign's friends in California.  And the unfortunate truth is that many manufacturers can't make decisions for the long term, as they don't even know if they will be in business next year.

So does this mean all is lost?  That manufacturers and factories will only install Energy Management programs based solely on short term economic decisions?

I say no. There are those companies out there with LEADERS who realize that saving energy is a sustainable decision no matter what.  These companies aren't just concerned with the current cost of energy, because they know that cost is going up.  They realize that if they continue with their energy gluttony , their customers will begin to strike back over environmental concerns.  They realize that eventually, the Government is going to regulate CO2, and they want to get a jump on the game.  There are companies out there that have an eye to the future, and they believe it is going to be a cleaner, more efficient one.  These companies have leaders that realize what Sustainability is about, and they have hired Energy Managers to meet part of their Sustainability goals.

The Automation World article mentions Stephen Stokes, V.P. of business and climate change for AMR Research inc., and his 2008 report, "Crossing the Great Divide: Sustainability as Corporate Strategy".  It closes with one of his quotes that sums up everything quite nicely:

Energy is cheap as chips right now.  It's a no brainer that we treat it with contempt.  But that is going to change.

It will change...eventually, but it will happen much faster if people like you demand that it happen.  Call or email your favorite company's marketing/PR department and ask them what they are doing to actively save energy or if they have an Energy Manager.  Look at your own company, do you have an Energy Manager?  If not, WHY?  You don't need an expert, maybe just someone who makes sure everything gets turned off at night.  Become the Energy Manager for your own home or small business!

A Sustainable future will only happen when enough people step up and LEAD us to it!

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Widespread energy conservation will only come about about through leadership, education and perception. Let us think back to 40 years ago when we found out that "Bob" next door was arrested for impaired driving. Let us compare the typical response in 1960 to the response today. In 1960 the response was generally one of sympathy for "Bob". Eg: I have driven with Bob when he has been drinking and he drives really slow and careful because he knows he is hammered. You would think the cops could make better use of their time or at least give him a ride home. Damn cops anyway. Compare this to 2010 where there is a entirely different perception about drinking and driving. Eg: "The police arrested Bob for DWI last night. You would think he would know better than to risk the lives of others by driving while impaired. What I would like to know is why someone didn't stop him before he got behind the wheel. At least the police arrested him before someone got hurt. Thank goodness for that. Bob should go straight to jail. Maybe that would smarten him up". When it comes to the environment, for decades, all governments have done is put the economy first and said to hell with everything else. Regretfully, this has been neanderthal thinking because we can have a great new economy based on conservation and environmental sustainability. Here in Ontario, we lost the manufacturer of the best solar panels in the world because the government did not care to keep their company here. The Germans on the other hand provided financial support and moved the company. That company has absolutely florished and has continued to expand with more manufacturing facilities and hundreds of long term new jobs in the process. These are all jobs that we could have created in our own country. Please get on your computer and watch the Fifth Estate's "the gospel of green". It will open your eyes about green energy jobs and how leadership can turn things around in a new economy. The United States of America is an amazing nation that can rise to this new economy if only those in control will change their way of thinking and do something about it. I fully understand the frustration that Chris from mapawatt endures. Initially, I thought Georgia Power was on the road to sustainable thinking with their energy sniffing dog program. Regretfully, they had the same boring old ways to save energy. (legitimate but boring) I wrote to the CEO of Georgia Power about the benefits to be realised through the implementation of real time energy monitoring in homes. As is so often the case, I did not receive so much as the courtesy of a response. Chris is 100% right that it is all about economics. They put up a smoke screen about how they want people to save energy but they really don't mean a word of it. In Canada, we are now dealing with ongoing propaganda from Suncor every night on the telvision with their flashy new commercials delivering a message about how efficient and clean their tar sands project is. The reality is that this multi billion dollar corporation is raping our planet like never before so we can produce oil. It is absolutely disgusting, all of it. You already had your own taste of what happens when corporations put economics before safety and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico. Now we come full circle to the key issues of leadership, conservation and perception. We can have a growing economy again based on a sustainable future with new industry and new technologies but it will never happen without the number issue being addressed, "leadership". My thoughts anyway Mr. Lyn Chapman, General Manager Energy Monitoring Systems Canada efergy-manufacturer's representative in Canada "You cannot manage what you cannot measure"
I think that currently there is a mentality among the business world that those advocating for sustainability are the same as those arguing in favor of the global warming theory. I think that in order for a sustainable movement to occur there need to be a clear leader that can convince people of the common sense factor of sustainability. However, with radical groups being the only ones that getting media attention it makes the convincing that much harder.
Excellent point. I think there needs to be a definite split between Sustainability and other areas of environmentalism. It's unfortunate that media (and most public) only seems to like sensationalism. I would love to get involved in some sort of ad campaign that makes Sustainability "sensational".....

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