Did you ever wonder how a ski resort can call itself sustainable? Auden Schendler, the Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Resorts, has to answer this question often. In his book, Getting Green Done, he uses his answer as a foothold for a much larger question: how do we tackle the issue of climate change?
Schendler touches on how tough it can be to get people working towards sustainability. He cites many of the roadblocks he has come up against as examples of the hardships everyone working in the field will face. One is the issue of return on investment; the higher-ups don’t want to pay for sustainable products because it cuts down on immediate profit. Another is getting the ‘grunts’, as Schendler calls the people actually working with the products and using them every day, on board with new products, even though they have become accustomed to the old, non-sustainable ones. The biggest piece of advice he gives is to become a grunt yourself, get down and dirty, and work towards the future, one step at a time.
Schendler brings up some interesting points in his chapter on “Green Buildings”. Again, speaking through his experiences at Aspen, Schendler discusses the challenges of building green, citing the difficulty to change an ideology in a short span of time, the higher, upfront cost of sustainable building practices, and the issues he has with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. LEED, Schendler argues, has been successful thus far as a program to get people excited about building green and as a standard to which buildings need to perform in order to be considered “green”. The issues Schendler has with the program are threefold: “first, it’s damn hard to get certified. Second, LEED doesn’t emphasize energy enough. And third, LEED is fundamentally a certification system but gets treated as a guide to green building” (180). The third point is the one that I found most interesting. Schendler argues that builders and designers are designing to get LEED points, not designing green buildings, which defeats the point of the whole program. Schendler makes sure to point out that the USGBC as administrators of LEED is working to make it better and he still encourages people to make use of the system.
Getting Green Done is an interesting read, mixing the facts of the science with amusing anecdotes about Schendler’s experiences. Definitely worth checking out.