Howdy folks -
The following “Mr. Energy” column was written in response to some recent actions by our newly elected county commissioners. Apparently one of them has a bee in his bonnet about the word sustainability – he doesn’t like it. I’m really unclear WHY he thinks sustainability is a bad word, as I explain below, but I suspect that it’s an attempt to politicize a concept that I consider outside the realm of politics. I’m sure you can find definitions of sustainability all over the web, most better than this one, but realize that this is the way I view the concept as a small business owner, as someone who runs a family, and as someone who is active in her community.
Dear Mr. Energy,
Could you explain what sustainability is? I hear it all the time in connection with things most people think are good, like farms and jobs and saving energy and local businesses. But some people seem to think it’s a bad word, and I don’t really get why.
Stymied in Siler City
If you want someone to tell you why sustainability might be considered a bad thing, you’re asking the wrong person! Mr. Energy is just as confused as you are about why some people – let’s face it, of a certain political bent – think the concept of sustainability is a bad thing. If you look up the word in the dictionary the definition states that it means either using resources in such a way so they aren’t depleted. That, or living your lifefollowing the philosophy of sustainability. Some people also think of it as leaving the world to our children in as good, or better, shape than we received it. To Mr. Energy that’s a common sense way of living life, running a business, or operating a government, no matter what political party or ideology you follow. Heck, it’s a family value! It’s also a good business practice. And it’s also a conservative fiscal policy. Here’s what Mr. Energy means:
Mr. Energy has children. He thinks everyone agrees that we parents have certain responsibilities towards our children: we need to give them food, shelter, warmth, and clothing. They need to be educated. We need to keep them safe. And we need to raise them in a way so they will grow to be productive members of society. That might not mean they all become doctors and lawyers or billionaires, but they will grow up, get jobs, and support themselves and their families. If we accomplish that as parents, we’ve raised our family sustainably.
Mr. Energy has owned four businesses in his lifetime: 2 arts-based businesses, one retail/service shop, and his current main business, which focuses on energy efficiency. All four of these businesses had to be run sustainably to survive. Mr. Energy needed to take in more than he spent. He needed to price his goods and services so that he could pay his employees a fair wage. He needed to treat people fairly, and expect fair treatment from them as well. Even though only one of the four businesses Mr. Energy has owned has been “green,” all have been sustainable.
In his home life Mr. Energy also tries to be sustainable. First, with his budget. Mr. Energy tries not to spend more than he makes. He tries to be fiscally conservative. This is a very sustainable point-of-view! He also tries to take care of what he has so he won’t have to spend unnecessarily, but he recognizes the value of putting forth money (like for quality food, for example) if it ensures health…thus sustaining his own body as well as those of his family. We can easily make the leap from the family’s finances to the government’s finances. Mr. Energy wagers to guess that no matter which way you lean politically, you want government to save money where it can, and spend on worthwhile, quality investments. It’ll probably depend on your politics as to what “worthwhile, quality investments,” means, but still – the basic premise is there. That’s sustainability. Fiscal responsibility.
Finally, Mr. Energy tries to keep in mind his impact on the environment in everything that he does. This means things like teaching his children to recycle or to preserve energy or to try (oh, how he tries) to get them to be consumers of less “stuff.” It means often choosing food that’s produced locally and grown in a way that’s not harmful to the environment. In his business this means thinking about gas consumption, lead paint safety, health and safety in his clients’ homes, and disposal of waste products. Some of these things are required by law, but Mr. Energy also tries to think beyond them. Professionally and personally, Mr. Energy tries to live a sustainable life as much as he can. And he’s willing to bet that if you met Mr. Energy, he’d seem a lot like you! Because he bets that most people are trying to live as sustainable a life as possible. It’s just common sense.
Stymied, I hope this isn’t too strange of a response, and that these examples make sense to you. Mr. Energy truly does not understand why sustainability is a bad word to some people. It seems like it should be a good thing for all.
(image from http://foursquareinfo.com/)
Mr. Energy is the combined effort of Adrienne and Mark Bashista, co-owners of Home Performance NC, an energy auditing, energy rating, and home weatherization contracting company. They can be reached on the web: www.homeperformancenc.com and by phone: (919)360-1570