The Sustainability Scam

I received an e mail this morning about how to make the holidays more sustainable in the workplace.  It seems to me that every time I hear about sustainability the idea is not thought through all the way. My responses to the suggestions follow.

1. Consider alternatives to buying “stuff” for people.  Initially this sounds like a great idea,  but it falls apart at the “alternatives.” The recommended alternatives include making something or making dinner. Well, if I make something I either have to buy the supplies or have bought them in the past. In sustainability terms it’s no different from buying a gift, except that it arguably takes more time. On the idea of making dinner, no one who received this e-mail eats sustainably; it’s impossible in middle-class western society. That’s why no one subsistence farms. Adding a guest for dinner surely increases waste.

2. Work from home days. This suggestion is intended to reduce your carbon footprint because the power stays off at the office and cars stay off the road. But then every household that would have the power off during the day is now running lights, heat, laptops, etc. Is it more sustainable to run one small office filled with people, or several households with relatively few people?  This isn’t sustainable, it just shifts the cost burden from employer to employee.

3. Close the office for a day so that the team can volunteer. I’m mostly ok with this one,  but it’s still questionable. What about the clients/customers who have paid for a timely result? What about the paychecks that the company needs to write regardless of whether productive work gets done? Volunteering on a work day accomplishes neither requirement.

4. Make a new year’s resolution to use green energy.  I’m skeptical about the premise of green energy,  but that’s a subject for another entry.  Given how few resolutions are kept,  how tight cash usually is in January, and that the suggestion said nothing about how green energy will save money, I think I’ll pass.

5. Fundraise for the environment. This sounds basically the same as #3 and doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything sustainable.

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