"To Really Save the Planet, Stop Going Green"

"To really save the planet, stop going green" is a recent Washington Post opinion piece by Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). Tidwell is talking about the United States, but his words can apply to any organization or community. As ICT professionals, we can contribute to ensuring that green initiatives are truly material.

Tidwell takes a hard look at the data and concludes that many green initiatives are so much social greenwash. "Green gestures we have in abundance in America. [They] lure us into believing that broad change is happening when the data shows that it isn't. For eight years [the government] promoted voluntary action as the nation's primary response to global warming -- and for eight years, aggregate greenhouse gas emissions remained unchanged. Even today, only 10 percent of our household light bulbs are compact fluorescents. Hybrids account for only 2.5 percent of U.S. auto sales. One can almost imagine the big energy companies secretly applauding each time we distract ourselves from the big picture with a hectoring list of "5 Easy Ways to Green Your Office."

Mike Tidwell seems to be cutting through the soft virtue that we indiscriminately assign to green initiatives, organizations, and leaders in favor of taking a hard look at the data. He understands that no green action can be properly evaluated without solid numerical baselines and that no long term goal will be realized with out regular accountability to short term milestones*. (We've all seen those noble long-term 'agreements' in which there is no meaningful progress monitoring and in which the commitment date is beyond the retirement date of most the the stakeholder leaders signing that agreement.) This is the foundation of evidence-based greening.

ICT professionals have the technical understanding and the quantitative orientation to help their organizations and communities establish baselines, instrument critical indicators, analyze and present data, and report on performance. We also have a leadership opportunity in demonstrating how we can make our own Green ICT initiatives transparently material.

Use our "Keeping It Real" checklist.

* A recent document about protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay incorporates that insight: "Most of these past agreements focused on long-term goals and did not include strong accountability mechanisms. Therefore, in 2009, CBP’s state partners agreed that short-term milestones are necessary to ensure consistent progress toward the long-term goals and to create more accountability for progress. More specifically, in May 2009, the states and the District of Columbia committed to have all measures needed to restore water quality in place by 2025 and to set two-year milestones to show progress toward this goal."