A cultural shift

February 19, 2013

Safety is part of our culture; why not sustainability too?

This week’s Green Idea truly is an idea: what if sustainability were to become part of our culture at work, home and school, just as safety is now?

Consider: we emphasize safety in just about everything we do.  Anti-slip warnings, fire drills, guardrails, de-icers, vehicle crash tests and much more.  Our emphasis on safety keeps it top-of-mind.

But sustainability is at least as important.  As the Lung Association slogan goes, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”

So imagine the possibilities if we held sustainability to the same level of priority as we do safety, and it became everyone’s responsibility?  “We should fix that dripping tap.”  “Let’s put a zero-idling policy in place.”  “A programmable thermostat would sure save energy and money.”  “We should be recycling and composting.”  “Let’s plan a lunch-and-learn to generate ideas.”

You get the idea: so much is possible, if only we make sustainability a part of our culture every day.  So – let’s make it happen, in our workplaces, homes and schools!

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“A glass of tap water, no ice, no straw, please”

I try to make that line part of my routine when ordering at a restaurant, but I forgot once again last week.  So, in the depths of a January freeze, I was served a glass of water that was one-third ice, with a plastic straw that I didn’t use.  That means most of the energy and resources that went into my drink were wasted, because they went into things I didn’t want.
It seems the default in many restaurants is to serve water with lots of ice (no matter what time of year) and at least one straw.  That’s tons of ice and hundreds of thousands of straws, every single day, just in this country.
Perhaps we can do better.  Imagine if all restaurant patrons made the same simple request: tap water, no ice (or one cube if you insist), no straw.  It’s only a small thing, but what a difference small actions make when undertaken by many.
So the next time you eat out, why not try to remember, “A glass of tap water, no ice, no straw, please.”