Saturday, April 17, 2010

Collective Conversation Feed: William McDonough at Fortune Green: “Zero Emissions not Enough”

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CA – “Being less bad doesn’t mean you’re being good. It means you’re being bad, just less so.” - William McDonough

On the final day of the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, author and world-renowned architect Bill McDonough had many in the audience pondering whether what their respective companies were doing in the sustainability space was good, or just less bad. Speaking to a packed room at the Ritz-Carlton, McDonough pointed out the importance of being good – doing things that proactively benefit the environment, instead of simply slowing down the polluting.

“If our goal is to wipe out the lower end of the food chain…we’re doing a great job.”

McDonough helps many companies, including Ford Motor Company, discover ways to improve their surrounding environment. A black & white photograph of Ford’s River Rouge factory in Dearborn, MI, which McDonough playfully labeled as already being in color, showed elements Ford already put into play. With the help of McDonough’s team, Ford built a “green roof” by planting grass. In doing so, Ford created an ecosystem on its own and made not just less of a negative impact, but a very positive one.

His message was received by all in the audience. For me, I use the golf analogy. Some courses ask you to replace your divot by walking up the fairway, picking up the dead grass and popping it back into its original spot. Using this analogy, McDonough is suggesting replacing the divot with new grass seed.

From a technology standpoint, it’s about creating laptops, TVs, mobile devices that have less of an impact when recycled. By removing the toxic lead material from each appliance and reusing those materials, coupled with creating technology that can actually benefit the environment when recycled, we not only replace our divot, but we do so with grass seed.

McDonough captured this in one final quote: “We don’t want zero emissions, we want positive emissions.”

Sounds like the right strategy to me.
Collective Conversation Feed by (Andrew Cuneo)

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