Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Beyond eco-efficiency: sustainability for its own sake as a budget item?

As we set sail this week on seriously researching for the big essay (working in pair - new experience!), the notion of going beyond what's easy has centered around cost. A lot of what organisations do in the name of the environment is pretty easy to sell to the boss, as it also saves money (think energy efficiency, any kind of waste reduction). The hard part is going beyond the low-hanging fruit and doing things that actually cost more. How do you justify that, and will any organisation ever do it without huge public pressure?

I was pretty downcast when I asked someone from Yale Facilities whether the uni might ever spend extra money purely because of sustainability. I'm going to paraphrase, but basically: never, ever, ever. Or at least not in this post-GFC austerity.
This bugged me for a couple of days until I realized something. Yale is already spending money on sustainability stuff. How? It's not new money. When they save money through environmental measures, they don't splurge on a department car, but instead spend it on the more expensive environmental items. This is most prevalent in Dining, where savings in food waste can be used to buy local and organic produce.

So turns out Dining is way ahead of me. But as far as I can tell, this all happens pretty quietly, since if they trumpet their savings they might find their budget reduced. So new focus questions:
- How do you make sure the money you save doing sustainability gets spent on sustainability?
- What motivates people to spend the money that way, as opposed to redirecting it to other things?
- Is it worth publicizing these choices, or will that just result in the money being taken away?

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