Sustainable Sustainability

Recently I read an article with the headline, “Loss of grants squelches conservation efforts.” The article described how the Governor of North Carolina was taking $100,000,000 from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to help solve the state budget shortfall. This type of thing is happening all across America and highlights a few key realities about sustainability; the economy must be flourishing for environmental initiatives to flourish and to be truly sustainable our efforts should not have to be capital intensive.

No matter how much people want the world to be more sustainable, we won’t do it at the expense of feeding our families, taking care of our children and making sure we have a healthy place to live. People and businesses become very philanthropic when there is extra money available and everyone is cared for but when companies, institutions and governments are slashing jobs, cutting benefits and eliminating opportunities the extra money for the environmental movement often goes straight to the landfill. This means that we must do two key things to make the sustainability movement more sustainable.

First, we must not hurt business and individuals with our green goals. If taxes on people and businesses for environmental products and initiatives become too heavy it will choke the engine of prosperity and growth and it will eventually hurt the cause. Sustainable initiatives should help companies reduce cost, reuse materials and improve profits, not take them away. Offering tax credits and exemptions for individuals and companies that take steps to help our environment in sustainable ways will become an engine for growth and green. This would be a positive idea and not a punitive one.

Second, we should find ways to teach corporations and individuals to implement sustainable initiatives in their homes and companies that are not capital intensive. Organizations like USGBC should look at significant ways to reduce costs to become LEED certified so companies can do the right thing without paying huge fees. Many large corporations are not becoming LEED certified because of the costs, yet they are trying to do the same things that those who spend the money for certifications. This should not be looked down upon but rather we should find more ways to help everyone do the right thing at a lower cost and even for free for certain types of companies. This would help more companies implement environmentally sustainable practices sooner rather than later.

The bottom line is the bottom line. Some might call it a focus on the 3 P’s; People, profit and planet. Some call it sustainable sustainability. Either way, it is evident that the money green helps the environmental green flourish.

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