We Don’t Miss Sexism and We Won’t Miss Energy Waste
You only have to watch a few episodes of Mad Men to reflect on the fact that our social norms change with time. Thankfully, we've moved on from an office culture defined by sexism, tobacco and excessive lunch-time drinking—three-martini luncheon anyone? And yet we've managed to preserve some of the better parts of the 60s, by which I mean pencil skirts and the Beatles.
So, there's hope for change again.
In today's office culture, our over indulgence is of a different variety. We take energy and resources for granted. Just like the 60s, there is a counter-culture—and today people are more aware than they were a decade ago. We turn off the lights and print double-sided and adjust the thermostat. But there's still a long way to go.
This column is about getting with the times and getting real about energy efficiency. How does it work, how does it effect our lives, and why does it matter? Also, how can we invest in it? This latter point is particularly relevant in California, where we have a statewide debate about how to invest in sustainability.
In a previous column, I talked about California's leadership in addressing sustainability and climate change—under the “Global Climate Change Solutions Act,” or AB32. The post received a number of comments regarding the cost of such leadership. California is leading—but where to? Into bankruptcy, perhaps, as one commenter suggested. In reality, there are a number of ways California can lead on sustainability and do well economically at the same time. Smart investment is the key—and energy efficiency is an example of how to be smart.
Where to begin? Luckily, we have some data to rely on here. Other states have, in fact, been showing leadership. Among them, Massachussetts. When the state that gave us the first subway and the first birth control pill had to decide what to do with revenue from auctioning pollution permits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Massachusetts chose to invest in energy efficiency. Good choice.
Massachusetts invested 89 percent of the pollution permit revenue in expanding state energy efficiency programs. And it got an estimated return of more than three-to-one on the investment. That's better than private equity!