With the recession hitting people hard, repair shops are one of the few businesses seeing a surge in their customers in 2009. Now many companies which traditionally sold new goods are also boosting their revenue by promoting their mending/ fixing services.
Following the trend for products with ever shorter life spans, a return to a more 'make do and mend' mentality has been due for a while. This year thrift shops and restorers are booming. And one vintage furniture supplier in California has actually called its website ThisIsNotIkea.com - although the official name is TINI to ensure there’s no confusion with a certain Swedish furniture chain.
The recession may have proved the catalyst for change. But the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle contain all the building blocks necessary to promote a solid sustainable future. Perhaps it shows that every cloud has a silver lining.
This spring the UK government's independent advisory body- the Sustainable Development Commission, published a report entitled "Prosperity without Growth?: the transition to a sustainable economy." The result of two years' of research, the report reviews the relationship between economic growth, the environment and 'social recession.'
Written by Professor Tim Jackson, the economics commissioner of the Sustainable Development Commission, it is well worth a read. It contains some hard-hitting facts and conclusions, yet gives a balanced view, for example, outlining how a crisis such as the recession can provide a opportunity for taking a rethink and be an impetus for change.
Some of the harder-hitting facts within the report include:
- For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world, now the global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago.
- If the global economy continues to grow at the same rate the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100
- An estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems has been degraded
- two billion humans live on less than $2 a day
Even as I read those four facts it made me realize how our drive for 'progress' seems to be at any cost. Professor Jackson helps us to think about how we measure prosperity: and really prosperity is about how we live as humans on Earth.
"At the end of the day, prosperity goes beyond material pleasures. It transcends material concerns.... Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings – within the ecological limits of a finite planet. The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times."
This month The Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments and Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) announced an educational partnership to advance global sustainable product standards. This will target the building trade, including interior finishing and will aim to eliminate market confusion. The first campaign scheduled is an education program set to define and promote sustainable products.
Here at TRT, we support this type of educational partnership and its messages to help people make a difference. The signs look good; between them these two organizations carry a lot of weight. Alliance is a group of industry leaders who are recognized for leadership in sustainability and MTS is a nonprofit public charity of leading environmental groups, governments and companies.
MTS also administers the Sustainable Materials Rating Technology (SMaRT), a sustainable product standard that covers 80 percent of the world’s products. SMaRT is to products what LEED is to buildings and it offers several levels of certification — Sustainable, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Here at The Refinishing Touch we’re pleased to see anything which promotes and educates companies on the necessity and importance of sustainability. We intend to watch this new partnership with interest.
Sustainability: A new social contract for a constantly moving target
In one of our favorite Harvard Business blogs - Leading Green - Bob Lurie posted a fascinating vision on the new social contract for green businesses, and the new relationship of sustainability between businesses and society.
Lurie explores a new social contract that will demand businesses to be ready for sustainability: to have processes, cultures, resources and organizational capabilities that will all align with the goal of sustainability. He outlines a new order, and a shift that has changed the role of government regulators. This shift means that when it comes to sustainability businesses will no longer just respond with "static compliance."
Now, driven by additional scrutiny and a 'social contract' with an environmentally-aware public and recognized efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), there is a new approach demanded of businesses. Yet businesses are not ready to embrace sustainability as they have historically put it into "the compliance bucket." This is all changing.
We agree wholeheartedly with Lurie's view: sustainability is a moving target – which means businesses need to embrace a process of continuous sustainability improvement, and see sustainability as a core part of their operating strategy. It's no longer about how businesses comply, it's how they embrace sustainability as a way of doing business and incorporate it into every level of their processes, culture and operations.
This weekend the International Pow Wow 2009 will take place in Miami. With 5,000 delegates expected, including 1,000 travel organizations, this is a huge market place for the travel industry. Sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association for the past four decades, this year’s event is set to be the greenest gathering on record.
Recycling trash cans have been added to the conference facilities. Electronic administration has replaced paper where appropriate. And transport around the beaches is operating as part of a negative carbon footprint program. All this has been organized to reflect Miami's recent drive to promote green initiatives, which include the "Green Buildings" program, the "Green Fleet."
The cities hospitality industry has also steadily become greener over the last few years with large numbers of hotels becoming Green Lodging properties through the Florida Green Lodgings Program.
Estimated to generate $3.5 billion in future international travel business, the International Pow Wow is a key event for the travel industry. As a company that has led the forge to sustainability by offering a greener solution to the hospitality industry, we are really pleased to see that our concern for environmental issues is shared. It is refreshing to see these issues are firmly on this year's agenda.
Budgets announced: Environmental government agencies hold discussions for 2010 goals and objectives
2010 budgets have been unveiled by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which outline goals and objectives for the upcoming fiscal year. These outline details that commit to a stronger economy with the promise of new 'green' jobs, and a better environment.
With a $38.7 billion budget, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and an EPA budget of $10.5 million, there are varying responses to the different elements and line items within the budgets. We plan to offer some of our thoughts on specifics over the coming weeks.
At a more basic level, what about everyday sustainability within government departments? As departments of the federal government are planning spend for the coming year, do they find themselves thinking of everyday items that are within their offices, reach, and internal budgets?
From what we can see, yes. How do we know this? From the contacts within the government who we have worked with over the past three decades as well as those that we work with today, we know that there are a number of internal discussions taking place along these lines; and from feedback and interest in our analysis and findings which we published in a government-related whitepaper: "Government Employees with a Sustainable Future."
This whitepaper outlines how a more sustainable view of government furniture assets improves quality of life, cuts pollution and slashes expenditure by up to 80%. Interest has come from senators and government officials we have met both in Georgia and in D.C., as well as from a large number of government contacts that have downloaded it from our website.
As an organization that has prioritized smart spending and has modeled our business around environmentally sound practices, it's good to know that there’s a shared commitment on all levels to save money and the environment. In these economic times, everyone is struggling to meet the demands of agendas that aim to implement cut budgets with the ever important focus on green practices. There's an environmental groundswell, and it's building.
Clinton was speaking at a session for the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate where the US was in the company of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. She emphasized the breadth of impact, declaring that climate change is "an environmental issue, a health issue, an economic issue, an energy issue and a security issue."
The green drum is set to beat faster and louder as we move towards the United Nation's conference on its climate change framework to be held on December 7-18 in Copenhagen for a new global agreement on greenhouse gas emission levels that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.
This increase in debate and the fundamental acknowledgement is good on several levels. First, it's good for the standing of America in an international debate that has gone on without our input. As an economic powerhouse it is key that the US participates and remains active in these debates. Secondly, it increases the noise of the debate at a domestic level.
As individuals we can each make a difference in terms of how we consume products by stopping to think about where we buy, and considering the consumption of resources and their impact.
It's all about everyday things. Just take a minute to look at your desk: think about everything in front of you- from your desk itself, phone, computer or laptop, pens, paper, etc. Now, consider the resources needed to make these and then think of how they will be disposed of at the end of their life. It's shocking to think that a single plastic milk jug takes 1 million years to decompose- an alarming statistic considering the fact that Americans alone are estimated to use 2.5 million plastic bottles each HOUR. Recently, Greenpeace has begun a movement toward increasing awareness of plastic pollution, and its research findings are incredibly eye-opening- take a look at the research note here.
There's a saying about charity beginning at home – when it comes to the subject of environmental sustainability and initiatives this is a steadfast rule.
Promising to halve the national deficit (currently standing at more than a staggering $11 Trillion) while satisfying the objectives for reformed healthcare, energy and education goals, the President's plans have been successfully laid out to begin paving the road to economic recovery.
In our economic climate it has become a necessity to have leaders and managers who are confident in their approach toward making decisions in the interest of working toward a common good. News of businesses cutting travel budgets is hitting the hospitality industry amongst others. Pulling back from superfluous spending is a precautionary measure that organizations are taking to remain in line with tighter budgets and to best ensure the financial stability being demanded by shareholders and investors.
As news of reform and positive change continues to build surrounding our government and its leaders, we need to look to industry leaders to sit down and really think through each aspect of their budgets. If plans can be made to save in place of making blanket cuts, then surely that solution would better benefit an organization in the long run.
We know as well as any one of our fellow industry players that often times, cuts that seem to be the easiest are those that most widely contribute toward the overall health of an organizational plan, perhaps just over a longer period of time. We invite and urge industry leaders to spend the time to look at the benefits of each dollar spent and how cuts will affect long term goals.
Just as we've seen our President take action, so must we. As we continue to listen for news of progress and gainful movement throughout our economy, we remain standing at the ready as providers of a sensible solution to budgetary spending.
A trend we've started noticing recently has us wondering just how broadly the term "manufactured" is actually being defined throughout our nation. A common trend has turned our attention to the amount of products which wear the beloved "Made in America" label and has us wondering whether "made" means manufactured or simply assembled within our nation's borders.
By Merriam-Webster standards, the origin of the word "Manufacture" is Middle French, coming from the Medieval Latin word manufactura, originating from the Latin manu factus, literally meaning, made by hand. The growing trend we've been seeing is that manufacturers are bringing pieces of products that have been made overseas to be assembled in the United States. In fact, typically none of these pieces are actually made here. Once the assembly takes place on our soil, manufacturers are free to brand them as having been "Made in America."
If you went into a car dealership, bought a car that had BMW's logo on the front of it but all of the parts were made by Kia and BMW only put those pieces together, you would be mad when you find out because it's misleading to you as a consumer. Where is the outrage by American consumers for being misled in a very similar way on a much larger scale?
In a time where pennies are being spent frivolously and Americans are concerned about supporting the national economy, how can we be sure a product which says "Made in America" on it has actually been made and assembled in the United States? There are websites out there that claim to sell products 100% authentically manufactured from start to finish in the US, but they are few and far between. And even for them, there is no way to know whether "100% authentically manufactured" means that their products truly are. They can add all the percentages and guarantees they want and say things like "100% truly authentically really honestly 110% manufactured in America – we swear 150%!" but if it doesn't clearly say that it was both made and assembled in the US, there is no way to know for sure.
As an American grown business, we fully support the authenticity of products officially being Made in America. That is why we're proud that from beginning to end, our environmentally safe processes promise the integral quality that US manufacturers strive for.