Wednesday, 4 May 2011

What does going green really mean?

‘Green’ is a state of mind. It is an outlook, a perspective on many things, not just the environment. It is about connection; our rootedness in place and community and a looking outward globally and into the future - always with a consideration of our own legacy, the footprints we are leaving to those who follow us.
The Sufi tradition, for example, speaks of our connectedness and responsibility to each other and our world with a wonderful picture of a caravan of camels; each placing its feet in the footprint of those who have gone before.

‘Green’ has come to mean something rather simplistic. There are green products, green shops, and green awards everywhere. If you recycle your plastic bottles and refrain from printing out emails (or blogs) then you are somehow ‘green’. This is obviously superficial, and on its own, not a real commitment to anything. On the other extreme there are a few who elevate being environmentally responsible to an almost religious fervour. This is rather off-putting to most and can do more harm than good.

Obviously there is a middle of the road, where you can start small, taking a few useful steps and then finding out more and adding extras to your business or lifestyle. The key is having easy access to sound information to help inform your decisions - and this is what the green24 service aims to do. As you find things that work and also add to your business or home, you become more committed. You don’t need to join an organisation or become a ‘green bore’; you just have to see what you do from a broader perspective.

The broader title might be sustainable development, which includes social and economic impacts, as well as environmental risks. The seriousness with which business takes this area is amply illustrated by the new FTSE4Good index, which revised its criteria last week. It now requires much more from firms in its prestigious rankings, in terms of measuring social impact as well as environmental management.

For both firms, families and individuals, ‘going green’ is more of a path or a journey that can take many routes. It is a case of taking ownership of the decisions you take, large and small, and making room for wider concerns and principles. For me, this is ‘going green’, with the emphasis definitely on the ‘going’.

David Jackman


  1. Encouraged and incentivised: Going green is a collaborative effort

    When green is forced upon us or used to guilt us into action, I agree it can do more harm then good. People usually don’t respond well to guilt trips and social segregation. Instead, they are much more easily convinced when they are encouraged or incentivised to do something. Take the average home owner for example. If we environmentalists invite them to participate in a friendly way and show them the benefits of a green action to both planet and pocket (the energy and money saving advantages of insulating their home for instance), instead of demanding that they spend money on insulation to save energy, they will likely be much more willing to participate. If a cost-benefit analysis is laid out for people to see, it allows them to come to an informed decision on their own, as opposed to someone else dictating to them that it is the right thing for them to do.

    On the other hand, even after the correct methods of green encouragement, there is of course still a large risk of people adopting one small green practice and then suddenly proclaiming themselves to be a “greenie” and doing little else, as David mentioned. We will likely not completely solve this issue anytime soon for a number of reasons:
    • People are busy – Some green changes are quick and easy, while others could require a small, regular commitment. Often, people feel they don’t have time to do absolutely everything green.
    • Misperceptions of green – People may perceive all green options to be equally time-consuming and expensive, while this is not generally the case.
    • Unaware of the benefits – Not everyone is aware of the various benefits that going green can offer, with respect to environmental, social and economic benefits.

    However, through continual, rational and practical efforts, and positive education, greater involvement in green activities can be achieved. At the end of the day, it is still up to the individual to take responsibility for their own impacts on the environment, but, the system also needs to facilitate these changes on larger scales and provide infrastructure for people to make these life changes easily and efficiently. In essence, it’s a top down and bottom up approach. Going green is therefore a collaborative effort and everybody has an important role to play.

    What we all need to understand, is that change does not happen over night, it is incremental. We all need to exercise a little patience and rid ourselves of this need for instant gratification. When we can do that, we will realise that going green makes a lot of sense and it can pay off economically as well as environmentally.

    Nicholas Wiid

  2. Going green - A collectives’ consciousness

    Following on from David Jackman’s analogy from the Sufi tradition, where he speaks of responsibility to the local and global societies, and the inherent connectedness we feel as a species, it dawned on me that we have followed in the footsteps of our forefathers for thousands of years - a symbol of our links to the past.

    Lessons have been learnt, paths forged and new directions taken. Now it’s time to take what we have discovered, and walk along a shared path of eco-conscious living, blazing trails for others to follow. With more people stepping in the footprints we leave, the unified actions of the positive changes we can make on the Earth are immense.

    We often ask ourselves “what difference will it make if I make a few environmentally-aware changes to my lifestyle, and start living more responsibly?” This is a valid question, and one which many of my friends and family members have asked me.

    Looking at this from a single perspective can seem quite overwhelming. But then again, this highlights the value of the collective. Imagine if you and all of your friends and family made a few small green changes to your everyday activities. That’s a good 10 or 20 people making a small difference. And if all of their family and friends did the same, soon these small differences would be having a great, positive impact on our lives and the planet.

    Going green is not about heading into the hills and building a tree house, sustaining ourselves on berries and bark. It’s about taking that first step to responsible living, making informed decisions about how you do things every day. From washing the car, to throwing parties, every aspect of your life can be a little more eco-friendly. And if we all make that small change today, can you imagine the possibilities of the collectives’ actions?

    Gregg Brill