Harder Than It Needs To Be
Recently received from a reader; he’s spot on:
We decided to replace two toilets in our home and, wanting to be responsible (and not adverse to saving some money), looked into a county rebate program for the purchase of water-saving devices. Easy enough: all we had to do was prove compliance with 17 specifications for both the new and old toilets—including proof of the original manufacture date on the toilets we’re replacing! Now, I enjoy crawling around on my hands and knees around a toilet as much as the next guy, but how many companies stamp a manufacturing date on these things? Plus, we still have to submit to onsite verification in order to receive the rebate. I’m replacing a toilet here, not doing a seismic refit.
And then there’s our city-subsidized recycling program. It accepts PETE and HDPE beverage bottles only—and don’t forget to take the caps off, or it won’t take them. Grocery bags, foam materials, plastic food wrap, and the mechanisms in pump plastic bottles are rejected. Recently, our recyclers pulled a number of plastic toys—simple, single piece, single color, virgin ABS plastic—out of the recycling containers and left them at the curb.
Yes, we should all care enough to drive these things to recycling centers for sorting and processing, but making it difficult to be responsible doesn’t strike me as much of an incentive. Some people are deeply committed to protecting our environment, and happily go to whatever trouble is necessary. God love them, but they’re not enough. I’d like to see water departments, energy providers, and recyclers reach out to consumers and make it easy.
Building professionals needed the shot-in-the-arm incentives provided by LEED to reach the tipping point we’re all seeing now. Somehow, we need to find a way to dangle that same carrot in front of other industries, practices, and people. Real hope for a greener future mandates that LEED not be an anomaly. We have to find ways to map the structure of our successes onto the thorny challenges that still remain. Depending on widespread individual ethical commitment to overcome obstructive regulations and limitations may mean we’ll always be winning battles and forever losing the war.