Friday, December 3, 2010

Best Way To Make Positive Change: Ask.

Having grown up in Boston, one of my favorite shows is NPR's Car Talk. Nothing gets Tom & Ray madder than when people call with a critical problem that they've been driving around with for six months. "You've waited six months - and even then you don't take it to a mechanic, you call us? You're lucky you're not lying in a ditch somewhere after your wheel flew off!"

I have a similar issue when people relate their green problems to me. The first thing I say when people tell me about their problems is, "Have you asked your landlord/boss/whoever to address it?" Invariably, they haven't. (Also, I keep trying to get people to write their problems on the back of a $20 bill and send them to The Green Miles Plaza with no luck.)

Roosevelt Towers, my new apartment building in East Falls Church, had a trash bin but not a recycling bin in the mail room. Every day the trash bin would be overflowing with junk mail. So I emailed the leasing office to see if they'd consider adding a recycling bin, a small step that would keep hundreds of pounds of paper out of the landfill every month.

Roosevelt Towers wrote back right away:
Great suggestion. One has been placed in mailroom as of today.
And here it is:
From the apartment building's point of view, if a $2 plastic bin makes me that much more likely to keep paying five figures annually to live here, it's a slam dunk. I suspect that little blue basket won't be able to handle the days those big, annoying Washington Post advertising circulars hit our mailboxes. But partial solutions tend to lead to full solutions - if the recycling bin is overflowing, they'll replace it with a bigger one.

The best, most effective way to address environmental issues is through personal action. In the big picture, government intervention often becomes necessary, but it should be the last resort. Your landlord wants you to be happy with where you live. Your boss wants you to be happy with where you work. Your hotel wants you to come back & stay there again. If you don't think they're operating as sustainably as they could, ask nicely if they've considered changing. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
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