Fast Company

Who’s Got the Winning Idea?

As we scramble for solutions to climate, energy, and environmental problems, companies, governments, and individuals are taking action - - so does anyone have a monopoly on great ideas for true “sustainability” or “social responsibility”?

Some corporate social responsibility programs claim to have all the answers (although we can spot greenwashing in the marketplace too). Our Presidential candidates would have you think that they own the franchise for bold thinking and instant solutions to these challenges, including the high price of energy. Advocacy organizations and academics are good at offering policy ideas and analysis too. Most of these sources fail to compare notes with each other in any meaningful way, which means ideas often don’t evolve into action, because one key stakeholder or another is left outside the tent.

So what about Mr. or Ms. Average American? Some of the most thought-provoking and practical ideas come from people who don’t spend their lives thinking about this stuff. Yesterday I was on a radio call-in program with Wisconsin Public Radio and a caller said he limits himself to $10 a week for transportation. That’s it, no matter where gas prices are headed. That self-discipline saves money and the environment and has led to creative solutions. The caller found bike paths, carpools, new mass transit routes, and ways to consolidate trips and reduce commuting altogether.

OK, so not everyone would/could limit themselves to $10 for transportation, but the idea actually has merit. If we set tough limits on greenhouse gas emissions, miles travelled, or electricity consumption, wouldn’t it be interesting to see if we could accomplish the same things, but with limited resources? Might help us figure out how to do things we currently think are impossible.

Just about every day I come across people who are devising their own solutions to rising energy prices - - and rising concern about the planet. Maybe we need to put a Suggestion Box in every community - - and start listening to the winning ideas that are all around us!

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