With hurricanes ravaging the Caribbean and Florida, with astronomical costs, pain, death, and destruction, is there hope? What should one do? Here’s Tim Sanders, environmentalist and solutions speaker. His books are Saving the World at Work, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence, The Likeability Factor, DealStorming (about sales and marketing) and Love is the Killer App.
Q: What are a few things people can do at home to be greener? Personally, I’ve switched out incandescent bulbs for CFCs, and cut way back on television in favor of audiobooks. A radical act, some would say, but it saves us from about a million commercials for things we don’t really need.
A: CFLs are a big start. Half of all electricity is devoted to lighting, so increase efficiency there makes a huge difference. Reducing your auto usage or emissions is big too. Combine less driving with high MPG and you move the needle. Besides your personal usage issues, influence is a big way to make a difference. Require green-ness from all your suppliers, from dry-cleaner to grocery. They will respond to customer requests. That way, you can go beyond being less bad.
Q: Any thoughts on cutting back on beef consumption, bottled water, soda, and its relationship to pollution and rising health care costs for companies? What can CEOs do to encourage more responsible habits at the workplace that may translate to people adopting those practices in their private lives?
A: Beef consumption is tied to pollution, global warming, water waste and heart disease. Bottled water is the new Hummer. With respect to companies, the magic bullet may be wellness programming. For a small fee, you can bring in trainers to teach your employees diet, exercise and smoking cessation. For every dollar you spend, you’ll save three in health care claims and increased productivity. You’ll also teach people how to take care of their bodies, which leads to an increased respect for the planet. That’s what Adam Werbach (former Sierra Club president) found out when he was hired to teach eco-sensibility to Wal Mart employees.
Q: Efficiency is the watchword for tomorrow’s cars, but this extends to appliances, homes, and buildings too. Thomas Friedman, in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” made the scary point that the world will add another six USAs in the sense of consumption of natural resources worldwide, due to rising standards of living. This is unsustainable without a radical shift, not just in values, but in innovation. Of course Dubai is now constructing buildings that are partially self sustaining, but they have the advantage of capital to finance their architects. Do you share Friedman’s optimism that solutions will come, even for us, in this so-called “post-American world?”
A: We all need to dramatically reduce our requirements of the planet to create a sustainable world. We need to, as a global community, help struggling nations reduce their birth rate too. I’m an eternal optimist and believe that we can find new ways to increase the supply of resources and make this planet big enough for a few billion more people. Why? Because our next generation is wired for it. They consider it their legacy (as opposed to independence, which was the boomers Ayn Rand driven goal). In the meantime, here’s the way to think about it all: The planet is like a start up company that is running out of money. The product team is working night and day to find a breakthrough product that reverses the trend and brings precious money in the door. Meanwhile the rest of the company needs to save money to cut the burn rate and give the product team some extra time. We are the rest of the company and the eco-innovators are the product team. We need to innovate, buckle down and buy them some time to come up with solutions that preserve the environment.
Q: One final question. You narrate your own book on audio. What was the experience like for you, and how is it different than getting up on the podium in your lecture circuit?
A: It’s pretty hard. You have to read in a studio for several days, get it all absolutely correct and maintain energy and passion. On the lecture circuit, I’m not reading off a script or a teleprompter!