Sustainable Business Alliance
The Sustainable Business Alliance is a membership organization for companies committed to greater environmental and socially responsible business practices. Our members are a diverse community of over 100 sustainable businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. We strengthen our businesses through networking, education, and partnership opportunities. We learn from and support each other through strong community and collaboration.
Our mission is to promote sustainable business practices, nurture the environmentally-committed business sector, advocate the environmentally progressive policies, and improve the environmental profile of economic activity in the East Bay.
If you are already implementing sustainable practices in your business, or would like to learn more about greening your business, consider membership in our growing network of eco conscious entrepreneurs.
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Video: Bob Schildgen - Get back to conservation fundamentals
Bob Schildgen was the speaker for the SBA Speaker Series in November and we're finally getting around to posting the video of his talk and a summarized transcript.
SBA Speaker Event of 110309
Guest Speaker: Bob Schildgen, “Mr. Green”
I grew up in rural Wisconsin. We heated our house by burning logs in a wood-burning stove. Since the supply of logs was limited, we built a fire only when absolutely necessary. This is an example of how we behave when there is a direct and visible link between our energy source and the amount of that energy resource that we use. Our perception of our resource was very direct. We had a very personal relationship with the resource we had available.
This memory leads me to think that today we are failing to pay sufficient attention to our resources. Today, we are far more focused on how to meet our rising demand than on how to conserve our limited resources.
As a people, we have come to love technology, quick fixes, innovation and innovators – from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs. But, I suggest, we often have too much faith in technology. Sometimes we have an almost religious belief in tech fixes. Instead of fixes, we should sometimes think about limiting our use of resources.
We think that we are superior to medieval religious believers who bought indulgences to assure that they were permitted to travel the path to Heaven. But tech fixes play something of the same role as medieval indulgences in our contemporary lives. Both are a way of avoiding real issues. Both are illusory. Driving a Prius allows me to reduce my carbon footprint only if I refrain from upping the number of miles I drive.
Many people think today that “energy” is the main issue, perhaps due to Al Gore. Not enough people are talking about resource conservation.
There has to be a way of delinking price of a commodity from the actual use of that commodity. If a commodity appears to be inexpensive, it does not necessarily mean that it is abundant. A government or an industry can artificially conceal the true cost of the commodity in order to get citizens to consume more of that resource in the short run. This is the case, of course, with oil.
I like to think of this kind of behavior as “magical use.”
Another example of this “magical use” is electricity. Electrical consumption in US today is 30% higher today than in the 1980’s. No matter how efficient today’s electrical networks are, if we are using electricity a great deal more now than we were thirty years ago, we are still using more electricity than we should be, since we do not have the natural resources which makes this level of usage supportable in the long run.
Today, we hear lots of enthusiastic talk about “the smart grid”, but we are failing to realize that part of the need for a smart grid is that we are engaging in “dumb consumption.”
Bob notes that some environmental columnists criticize conservations for “confusing acts of personal consumption and conservation for significant political action.”
Bob admits that this fixation on individual conservation behavior can be dangerous if we do not simultaneously figure out ways of creating public policy that addresses the critical sustainability issues.
A very important piece of the solution, as suggested in an article in recent Atlantic Monthly, is “understanding incentives.“
In conclusion, I support any legislation that succeeds in making energy use more effective and efficient.
“Renewable power” is a risky concept. Instead of leaning on it, we need to figure out how we can cut resource consumption “to the bone.” Only when we have done that does it make sense to think about using “renewables.”
We must remain aware that there are many contradictions built into our contemporary energy industry. For example, the only way that we can keep energy sales high, while simultaneously increasing energy efficiency, is by increasing consumption. But this is not a sustainable long-term strategy.
Bob’s personal admonition: “Heed the bigger picture. Focus on lowering consumption of resources, rather than on increasing natural resource inventory. Get back to that fundamental message of conservation!