Sustainability Hangs in the Balance

3 minute read

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.
Ernest Hemingway

Everyday I sit down at my desk and I see the cover of a several year old Patagonia catalog that I have purposely placed in my line of sight. It depicts a mama bear and her two cubs, one cub and the mama look curiously towards the camera, while the second cub continues searching a hole in the ice for prey. It is a visual representation that while we do share this space, we as humans have the power to keep these and all other creatures safe, and to let them hunt. I keep the photo as a reminder that, to me, none of this life is important if it does not make a larger difference in this world. I need to do what I can in my short life to ensure that the lives of future creatures are sustained and not cut short by our provincial sights and greed.

When it comes to sustainability, low impact living, renewable energy, or really any other topic, it often feels like there are a million different sources of information. Many present very similar insights. Most fail to go beyond the surface. We hear so much in the way of anecdotal discussion of why we should or should not behave in a certain way, and those same discussions often fail to perform rigorous quantitative analysis to support arguments with numbers. Outside of a few relatively dense journal articles or bank and consulting firm publications, easy to access information omits much in-depth discussion of any data used in any analysis.

We are at a turning point in our society, where sustainability and impact are becoming a greater force, a force that marketers have keenly noticed and have swiftly begun leveraging. As younger generations become a larger proportion of our population, there will be shifts in wealth and consumer demand, and these will drive much larger shifts in our economy. Sustainability hangs in the balance: Fully understanding the impacts of each of our decisions has the potential to drive immense impact. Trusting marketing and uninformed persuasion instead could lead to a false sense of reducing the footprint of humanity.

I have always kept a running list of topics I would like to better understand, especially quantitatively. Being an analytical person (I was a chemical engineer undergrad who spent seven years in the energy industry before recently completing an MBA), I really need to see the numbers to fully get it. What percentage change, how many tons of reduction…we all have limited bandwidth and if we think our actions are doing more than they actually are, isn’t it best for us to be aware of that, and maybe choose to refocus our efforts elsewhere?

Above all else, this blog is an experiment. In my spare time, I am finally going to tackle some of the questions I have always been meaning to answer. I by no means assume this is interesting to everyone (or potentially anyone), and I certainly do not assume that I am always right. Many, many assumptions will be necessary going forward; some of those may be outlandish and I may have no idea. Please reach out if you have input or ideas for improvement.

Lastly, please read with an open mind. Through these posts I am not trying to stir controversy, and I am certainly not attempting to tell anyone what to do. I am simply presenting the data necessary to perhaps make a better-educated decision. There will be countless other articles out there that will describe some of my topics more eloquently and understandably. Certainly seek out those articles: They may better explain some of these topics. But please return to review the subsequent analyses. They may confirm what you already knew, making you feel better about your actions, or they may persuade you that there is a better solution out there.

The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.
Lady Bird Johnson