‘Bottom up’ money and planet-saving measures

David Tebbutt gets up close and personal with Simon Perry, a sustainability specialist whose own ‘code of conduct’ could be an inspiration to us all.

24th July 2009 at 7:41 am

Much has been written about pollution of the land, sea and air. The problems seem massive and, therefore, seem to require massive solutions. Massive wind farms, massive tidal barrages, massive solar collectors – and that’s just energy capture and re-use. Then there’s massive reforestation, massive carbon sequestration and massive implementation of smart metering.

Okay, enough of the ‘massives’. The point with all these activities is that they are beyond our control. We hope that politicians, businesses and other organisations will find ways of getting together and implementing necessary change. It’s the ‘top down’ bit of sustainability.

At a smaller level, you see major companies churning out their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports which, in part, show how good they’re being to the planet (not to mention their bottom lines). And these companies, naturally enough, lean on their suppliers to smarten up their own acts. (And that could be you, sooner or later.) But why wait?

Many SMBs are implementing their own measures – monitoring and reducing power usage, improving thermal insulation, cutting travel and so on. The motivation is probably money-saving but who cares? They are potentially making life better for their children and grandchildren.

Coming down a level further, many individuals are trying to ‘do their bit’. But it’s not necessarily easy, at any of these scales, to get it right.

However if, at each level, right down to the individual, we can articulate what we’re trying to achieve, then there’s a good chance that we’ll bring about massive change at the micro level as well as watching it happen at the macro level.

Billions of individuals have the potential to bring as much benefit to our environment as all the global players put together. (Okay, I made that up, but it can’t be far wrong.)

Simon Perry is a great example of an individual who is trying to get his own sustainability act together. Like me, he’s a researcher and an analyst working mostly from home, largely for an analyst firm – Quocirca in his case, Freeform Dynamics in mine. Unlike me, he has disclosed his ecological intentions, so that people better understand where he’s coming from, not least when he turns down visits to exotic (and some not so exotic) places. He calls his private business Thinking String, by the way.

If we were all to start thinking the way Simon does, we could start to bring about a vital ‘bottom up’ reduction in our collective ecological footprint. You may not agree with all his choices, but that’s not the point. His ideas might spark off some of your own.

He admits that his approach is, “by no means perfect, however its the best compromise available to me as a worker and as an individual (and as a family member) for the moment.” This environmental stuff is work in progress for all of us. At least, with him, it is actually in progress.

Taking travel as an example, his order of preference is:

1. Bicycle / walking
2. Public transport (rail)
3. Personal motorcycle or personal car (< 2 litre engine size)
4. Long distance rail
5. Flights (avoid if possible)

He then clarifies his travel motivations by these criteria:

1. I will almost certainly travel to deliver a paid-for engagement of services …
2. I will generally always travel to … educate a good sized crowd of people on a subject related to sustainability …
3. I will generally travel to a … meeting [if it] is entirely focused on a product with genuine potential to reduce emissions.
4. I will merely consider travel to a vendor / conference that has tenuous potential to reduce emissions …
5. I am always happy to participate in a meeting via one form or another of teleconferencing …

By making these, and other, statements about his ecological preferences and motivations, everyone (including himself, his family and friends) are clear where Simon is coming from and can act/react accordingly.

While my own motivations and actions are very similar, it never occurred to me to articulate them the way Simon has. So hats off to him. And may I humbly suggest that we all learn from his example?

You can read Simon's whole statement here.


David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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