Green Think. Rick Fedrizzi, Disruption Books, 2015.
At base, U. S. Green Building Council Founding Chairman and CEO S. Richard “Rick” Fedrizzi is a highly-gifted salesman. His work has embodied one of the most exciting and challenging opportunities that an innovative thought leader can take on. Over the past twenty years, the USGBC has promoted a mandate for how we live our lives as sensible citizens of the planet. Small order, eh?
Rick has been making this case everywhere that his time and energy permits him an audience. He has literally dined with industrialist kings, walked with corporate emperors, and feted genuinely elected presidents at conventions, grand building unveilings, and life-changing events. All the while, Fedrizzi has personified the essence of Kipling’s admonition about maintaining the common touch, as offered in the poem “If.”
Fedrizzi has amassed both a literal and virtual body of work that has received the attention of people with the means, power, and resources to change the course of world environmental history. And as he leaves his post at USGBC for new challenges that loom ahead, his legacy is secure. Effective succession planning has left USGBC with leadership bench depth that is admirable for a key organization with such a relatively short history.
So what better way for Rick’s message to resonate ex cathedra than in a book-length manifesto? Green Think is easy to comprehend; it is conversational and humorous, yet if features a dead-on message. Certainly the presence of a Foreword by respected eco-advocate Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t hurt, either.
Green Think posits numerous examples of why the practical elements of green building and sustainability are uber-important if the human species plans to continue to inhabit a tamed world. Fedrizzi’s vision is focused firmly on sustainability’s importance from a variety of perspectives, including:
- the importance of developing a new mindset that can be maintained for generations to come;
green building as a viable sector within the massive building industry;
fostering innovations in technology applications, manufacturing and healthcare;
- utilizing causality and crisis as the means to push forward affirmative solutions to global threats;
new economic opportunities for people in diverse parts of the world who implement and practice sustainability;
- using environmental opportunities as a principled way out of mass poverty;
developing a greater spirit of collaboration across economic strata, political ideologies, and cultural barriers;
- ensuring proactive and perpetual environmental stewardship.
Note that all of these citations underscore the value premise of the triple bottom line, environmental sustainability’s enduring driving principle. Throughout his tenure on the world stage, Fedrizzi has unrelentingly espoused the intertwined linkage of engaging in activities that are good for people, good for the planet, and stimulate the ethical pursuit of profits.
On the subject of profits, an intended message is delivered however subtly with Green Think’s cover art sporting a typeface and color scheme reminiscent of the U.S. Mint. But such a stylistic choice is in proper context.
Fedrizzi’s message is compelling, told in first-person as it gives you a brief (171pp) glimpse of the motivating factors that both drive the movement and the man himself.
The Upcycle. William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Northpoint Press, 2013.
The authors, as well as Foreword contributor Bill Clinton, cite this sequel to Cradle To Cradle as a call to action; a spur to acting differently. A primary intent is to stimulate innovation that is as inspired as sending a person to the moon.
This book is a blueprint for the constant effort to work for a more sustainable future. The authors encourage trial, enduring mistakes, and soldiering on until one finds a way to make ideas work.
The Upcycle examines whether the public and competing companies trust the avowed, publicly-expressed intentions of corporate leaders to implement world-changing solutions regarding products and the process of bringing them to the marketplace. They cite the reality of the global consensus that everyone wants change, but the results are often disguised and fall far short of expectations.
Cradle to Cradle debunked the notion that a product has only one single use and as it spirals down in value, it also becomes more toxic. Reuse slows down the inevitability that humans will run out of first-generation manufactured goods.
Cradle further expressed the fundamental conviction that design should be holistic. Something created that enters the supply chain should never go out of it. By eliminating the concept of waste, society is forced to think more practically and acknowledge the potential of a given material having a never-ending life cycle.
The Upcycle takes aim at many conventional assumptions that undergird the foundation of sustainability. The authors cite the possibility that saving water may not be so much a proactive environmental strategy as it is an individual corporate decision to reduce cost and maximize profits.
Then there is the notion of “ecologism”, i.e., producing metrics and mandates intended to “help” the environment that may actually result in poorly designed solutions that are in fact green-washing.
The authors offer thought-provoking potential examples of extreme ecologism, such as:
- The cost of a plane ticket would vary according to weight, since heavier passengers require more jet fuel to be burned;
- A person driving a car could be fined for keeping it running at a red light;
- Italian prosecco would be outlawed in favor of French champagne because the latter’s smaller bubbles off-gas less CO2.
McDonough and Braungart insist that The Upcycle is about society being able to shift to a safe, healthy abundance of resources and avoid panic about where to begin. Corrective action, they insist, can be implemented item-by-item, day by day.