Six cost-effective changes for better sustainability
By Bob Doppelt, The Resource Innovation Group
Bob Doppelt is the executive director of The Resource Innovation Group and an adjunct professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon where he teaches systems thinking and global warming policy.
Our manufacturing technologies and the chemistry they employ were developed in a very different era.
When our industrial production and consumption systems were developed, global population was more than a third less than it is today. Environmental problems were small and localized, not global and potentially catastrophic as climate disruption and ocean acidification are now. The level of toxicity and waste were minimal.
Under these conditions, businesses had no reason to pay attention to the adverse impacts of what they produced, purchased or used. To the contrary, people were rightfully thankful for the benefits of burning coal, oil, and gas to build their organizations, make travel easier and power the economy. They appreciated cheap, light-weight plastics for the ease they provided over heavier metals and glass. They reveled in the availability of a vast array of synthetic chemicals to meet all sorts of needs. These goods and services raised the standard of living and gave the appearance of progress, so people were oblivious to the costs of these well-meaning choices and the toll they took on the planet and its people.
But conditions have fundamentally changed and we now know that grave perils face humanity. Yet the methods, composition, and impacts of the things we make, buy, and use on a daily basis today are still for the most part the outcomes of decisions and processes made 50-100 years ago. As a result, most production processes, goods, and services have significant adverse impacts in our workplaces--and on the natural environment that is the source of all life.
The economic rule of thumb for the past century — that more and cheaper is better —must be be supplanted by a new refrain for economic success, personal happiness and the survival of the planet: Sustainable is better, healthier and morally just.
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