There are some people out there who might think that my husband and I have gone a bit outer limits when it comes to our pursuit of all things green.
It is true that on an annual basis, we generate enough electricity through our solar panels to meet 47% of our annual electricity needs. Our ability to do this comes from a concerted effort on our part to conserve heat and electricity in the house. We have spent a small fortune on upgraded insulation, new windows and doors, and higher efficiency appliances. We have done this despite the fact there is nothing particularly sexy about doing so. The project to get to where we are at today was incredibly enlightening and expensive as all hell, but we are beginning to see the payback already. I like that this is a long-term payback because it seems like everything else in my life is very short-term focused.
Let me dispel some of the myths however. I’m not super green. I haven’t joined the cult. I have vices.
For one, while you may see me driving around town in my four cylinder Equinox, my heart belongs to our eight cylinder 360 HP muscle car. Granted we try and keep it under wraps except for those glorious open road Sunday drives, but nonetheless, the thing sucks gas like a kid downing tapioca balls in a bubble tea.
Another thing, although I try to be good about recycling, it is more work than my patience will endure at times. I hate to say it, but sometimes when I’m tired, things just slip through. There are times on Tuesdays when I leave the house in great fear that the recycling police are going to be sitting on my doorstep when I return. They will be holding a dirty glass bottle of leftover mould-infested spaghetti sauce and asking, “Is this your bottle ma’am? We found it in the regular garbage.”
I haven’t subscribed to the organic movement either. My generation grew up on Twinkies and Ding Dongs and I figure that by now that I am already going to glow in the dark for many years after I’m gone. There are no kids in our household whereby I feel that niggling urge to be more responsible about what goes in our stomachs. That said, my neighbour recently took an entire acre of his property and turned it into a vegetable garden. In an effort to save gas, I started picking up my vegetables from him. His garden is 100% organic.
Maybe I am eating more vegetables than I used to.
I like my toilets to flush properly so we don’t have the most green toilets in the house. This is just a personal preference. I realize that this means I produce more waste water than is appropriate for our household. To make up for it, we don’t ever purchase water bottles.
Some of our green projects have been abysmal failures. To reduce our water bill, we installed these beautiful rain barrels that look like adobe planters. We placed one of them at the downspout at the top of our hill. Unfortunately, we didn’t properly account for the level of water runoff and within a year, our upper patio and the staircase pulled loose and caused a huge mess, and a $10,000 repair bill. The other problem is that there isn’t enough pressure in a rain barrel to properly set up an irrigation system. I have ended up with tendinitis in my elbow from lugging around the watering can.
Other green projects have taken on lives of their own. About two years ago I began Freecycling. For those of you who aren’t aware of this organization, go to www.freecycling.org and find a group near you. Their goal is to keep “good junk” out of the landfills. I took six months and went through my entire house and gave away everything that wasn’t really of value to me, but that might be helpful or valuable to someone else. I gave away clothing, shoes, dishes, old technology, books, leftover home improvement supplies, pet supplies, toys, toiletries, cleaning products, candles, etc. This project was the most liberating and stress relieving. It is amazing how much time you save and how much less you worry when you don’t have to be focused on the stuff you don’t really need.
For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a book entitled, “Build Your Own Earth Oven”. I have been talking about attempting an adobe oven for years, and now I have the instructions on how to do it. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. In keeping with the green concept, I would like to be able to make my own tortillas, or nan, or bread using radiant heat. Anyone interested in spending an afternoon with me next spring mixing clay with their feet is welcome to come over.
I think HR Professionals should be more involved in green projects, at home and at work. It is not for the sake of being green or saving the planet. The process has other benefits. Many great ideas for trying new and different things have occurred as a result of my exploration of green initiatives. Some saved money, some did not. Some actually resulted in green gains, others did not. Time was not wasted.
Two years ago, Buck Consultants did a survey on the greening of HR. The published report is available at: http://blogs.whattheythink.com/going-green/media//2009/02/greening-of-hr.pdf. It is worth reading, even if the initiatives are fairly shallow.
I feel that as we have started to move out of the recession, we have moved away from thoughts of green. The focus these days seems to be on diversity, generational differences and new statutes. This is a shame because the thought process is equally important.
OK, I think I have confessed enough today, and hopefully there’ll be no further cross-examination.
Bottom line, I’ve had fun trying to be green. Will you?