“More than individuals, businesses can influence policy because they carry huge weight with government. And businesses can get things done while waiting for policy change to take place.”
–Auden Schendler, “Getting Green Done”
In terms of sustainability, Boulder, Colorado is turning into the pre-party, the party and the after-party. Juggling the numerous green-themed opportunities like research lectures, symposiums and guest speakers takes stamina and persistence with the seemingly endless schedule of events. A new friend of mine has just decided to make Boulder, Colorado, his permanent home and described the scene as a “24/7 Sustainability Conference.”
Just last week, the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado hosted an event with Auden Schendler, the Director of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, who released his new book in March titled “Getting Green Done.” This book maintains the seriousness of the topic of sustainability but also injects a little humor as well as reality from the green euphoria that lacks practicability and scalability. Mr. Schendler describes sustainability as a war that calls upon businesses to fight in the trenches and on the front lines.
He started his talk with two separate photos. One was an amazing ski shot taken from below a cliff as a skier drops in from above. The other was of the inside of a walk-in freezer that had an ordinary looking fan and vent system mounted on the wall.
Auden’s point: The picture of the freezer is as exciting, no it is more exciting, than the “ski porn” shot of the skier launching off a cliff. He works for Aspen, and the audience expects ski photos. He feels obligated to deliver, but other pictures inspire him more, and he does an excellent job of drawing the audience into his fervor.
The simply amazing thing about the fan and vent in the freezer is that they were installed into the exterior wall and are triggered to draw in air for cooling purposes from the outside elements. So, when do Aspen freezers need to cool the most food? When lots of people are in Aspen. And don’t lots of people come to Aspen in the winter when it is ALWAYS cold outside? Needless too say, replacing a complex cooling system with a basic fan significantly reduces the amount of energy required to keep the freezer cold.
Auden’s excitement and presentation skills reminded me of the value of delivering material effectively. Capturing and entertaining the audience is essential if your message is to be heard. You may have the best ideas or be the smartest one in the room, but if you’re boring, no one will hear you.
Too often environmentalists preach to their already convinced friends. They then take this same level of higher sustainability knowledge to those whose education in green business tactics may be lagging without toning it down a notch or two. If a CEO or key decision maker in business is going to make influential changes, they must believe in and have a passion for sustainability. My personal knowledge and interest has come from books, speakers, and articles in a gradual nature. While there is a sense of urgency in “getting green done” at the business level, it cannot come from shoving a single Powerpoint presentation down someone’s throat.
I don’t have Mr. Schendler’s photos but these should give you a taste of what we saw.
What’s more exciting in your opinion? Hopefully, like Auden, someday we will all say the freezer.
Mark Winchester resides in Boulder, CO and will graduate in May 2009 from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado with an emphasis in sustainability. Please contact him with any questions or incredible job opportunities at Mark.Winchester@colorado.edu.