Getting Green Done | Auden Schendler

Summary of: Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution
By: Auden Schendler


In ‘Getting Green Done’, author Auden Schendler delves deep into the urgent need to address climate change, its impact on our fragile planet and the role that corporations play in this global crisis. Addressing global warming issues such as carbon emissions and sea-level rise, Schendler exposes the widespread fallacy of ‘greenwashing’, where corporations present themselves as green champions without making any real progress. As you explore this summary, learn about the difficulties global warming presents, the obstacles faced by dedicated environmentalists, the deceitful tactics of ‘climate delayers’ and the crucial steps that organizations need to take to ensure their sustainability projects contribute meaningfully to the fight against this potentially catastrophic existential threat.

The Grim Truth about Global Warming

The scientific community confirms that global warming is man-made and an immediate threat to our planet. Without concerted efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the world faces catastrophic consequences like island nations being submerged, African food crop reduction, and a decrease in global GDP. It’s not enough to practice individual green behavior. Carbon dioxide emissions must be dramatically reduced to effect change that matters. Even with the most concerted efforts, global warming will still continue at dangerous levels.

The Truth about Corporate Sustainability

While many companies claim to be environmentally responsible, the reality is that most engage in greenwashing, exaggerating their efforts to combat global warming. Some even actively work against progress by opposing fuel efficiency standards and climate-protection legislation. Suncor, once a leader in sustainability, is now involved in one of the world’s most dangerous environmental disasters. However, some companies, including General Electric, Walmart, DuPont, and Patagonia, are genuinely committed to mitigating global warming. It’s time for businesses to take real action and prioritize sustainability over profit.

Sustainable Solutions

Creating a sustainable world is difficult, even at the grassroots level. In Auden Schendler’s book, he shares his struggles in convincing workers at Aspen Skiing Company to switch from a hazardous, solvent-based parts washer to a safer, eco-friendly, and cheaper water-based alternative. Although the new machine was cost-effective, it didn’t work at first, and several repairmen had to be consulted. Schendler notes that businesses default to profit at the expense of the environment. He argues that proponents of sustainability must be undeterred, given the stakes involved. This project would have floundered at the Aspen Skiing Company, a responsible environmentalist firm, without the insight of a single worker. Such hiccups can make future sustainability projects seem inefficient and ineffective, further proof that few sustainability efforts unfold smoothly.

Sustainability in Business

Auden Schendler, the sustainability director of Aspen Skiing Company, faces resistance in his efforts to make the Little Nell Hotel more environmentally friendly. Despite proposing cost-effective and efficient solutions such as replacing electric lights with fluorescents and retrofitting all 90 rooms with fluorescent light bulbs, upper-level managers and the hotel’s manager oppose him. However, with the help of a local green incentive grant and the company’s CEO, the retrofit eventually proceeds. Schendler’s experience highlights the challenges of pursuing sustainability in corporations and the impact of inefficient buildings on greenhouse gas emissions. With buildings accounting for almost half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, retrofitting existing ones and creating net energy generators for new ones is crucial to making a real impact on climate change.

Tangible Actions for Addressing Climate Change

Governments and corporations must take tangible actions to address climate change instead of superficial initiatives and education programs that shift responsibility away from the real problem. Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than anticipated, and both business and government leaders need to act together. While government intervention is essential, business leaders can use their lobbying powers to force government action and establish environmental credibility by showcasing sustainability projects. To do so, businesses must begin with a “sexy project” that saves money or improves operations, stress economic and other benefits, cement the program’s success, establish partnerships for green programming grants, and publicize successful green programs to encourage management to support future initiatives.

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