Iowa has some of the richest farmland in the world and it is breaking my heart to see it being covered in concrete for yet another unnecessary commercial development. Within blocks of a construction site are vacant office and retail spaces, yet beautiful black dirt is being plowed under to build another mini-strip mall. Across the street, one of the original homesteads is being emptied in preparation to be bulldozed so a convenience store can replace it – even though there is already such an establishment at the next intersection.
It’s the ongoing tension between capitalism and climate – and the planet seems to be losing.
Everywhere you go, vacant buildings stand idle while new construction occurs on pristine land. What happens to the property when the sports teams vacate an arena or Sears and Younkers cease business and leave thousands of square feet empty in malls across the country? We just allow it to sit empty and build new elsewhere.
If we want to get serious about environmental impact, we need more teeth in zoning laws that allow Planning & Zoning boards to reject new builds when vacant space exists or to deny duplicative businesses within certain geographic parameters. I know, it’s not the capitalist way to regulate competition, but it is the government’s role to oversee land use.
Let’s allow some of the land to remain green instead of cement gray while we still can.
Give another shout out to libraries – this time for adding Halloween costumes to their inventory of goods-to-lend. A local library added a rack to allow patrons to borrow costumes for kids and adults believing that it fits well with the idea of community sharing. (Not to mention that it is also economically and environmentally friendly.)
The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend $3.2 billion on costumes this year (!!) – most for one-time use. Before you purchase a new disguise, check to see if your library can lend you one for free and consider donating unwanted costumes to them afterwards.
And once again, take a closer look at your local library as a model for how an organization can successfully evolve with the times.
Source: Library racks up Halloween outfits by Allie Hinga for the Telegraph Herald, October 4, 2019, p. 3A (Galena Public Library)
It is in the best interest of beverage producers to promote recycling – better to encourage it while it is voluntary than to have plastic bottles outlawed or significantly taxed.
Toward that end, Coca-Cola has created a new ad campaign (alas, only for Europe) that combines recognition of its brand with directions to the nearest recycling bin. At a recent music festival, the ads drove recycling rates to 85%!
Maybe it was the billboard or maybe the fact that a recycling bin was publicly available – either way, the combination should be used as a model for future festivals or in neighborhoods.
I hope that Coca-Cola brings its recycling campaign to the U.S. – and that other beverage makers contribute to the effort. Just think of what the Clydesdales could do with this!
Until they join in, make your own fun signs to direct the cans and bottles toward reclamation instead of the landfill. Art contest anyone?
One of the most powerful ways to impact the environment without inconveniencing people is to change the municipal regulations regarding parking lots. Currently, retailers must provide a set number of parking spaces, plus additional handicapped spaces, for each square foot of built space. As a result, parking lots for retail are huge and have an excessive capacity for the majority of the time.
This point was brought home during resurfacing of a local strip mall lot: literally, half of the parking area was closed off, yet there were still empty spaces at a peak time on the weekend. Why did that whole area of fertile Iowa farmland need to be paved over just to sit empty?
Parking lot regulations are formula-driven and that calculation has served builders well for many years. But as more people opt for online purchasing or on-site pickup instead of parking, it’s time to revisit the requirements for how much land must become asphalt, yet be destined to sit idle the majority of the time.
Standard parking lot regulations usually translate to about 10 parking spots for every 1000 feet of retail space. (A small Target averages 40,000 sq ft = 400 parking spots vs. a large Target at 130,000 sq ft = 1300 parking spots). Not only do the parking lots have a negative environmental impact to make them, as asphalt and concrete production is energy-intensive, but they continue to cause issues when the water that drains off of them picks up contaminants instead of allowing rain to directly permeate the earth.
What is the equivalent of a parking lot ratio in your organization – something that you have not reconsidered for years but maybe could use a recalculation to reflect more contemporary times? It’s worth a look to avoid ongoing investments in something that is just wasted because no one bothered to do an update.
We’ve all been asked to contribute to a development campaign to build this or that but a volunteer organization in Michigan has adopted a different approach. Chikaming Township is raising funds for an UNdevelopment campaign – to buy an undeveloped portion of Lake Michigan’s shoreline precisely to leave it in its natural state.
With the beach within an hour or two from Chicago’s population, lakefront property is in high demand. With the purchases come fences, removal of the tree line and some of nature’s finest offerings restricted to just a few. The Cherry Beach Project needs $4 million to buy just 400 feet of beachfront but they are working diligently to raise private funds and matching grants. I hope they succeed!
Not all of your appeals need to be to build or to buy or to add. Sometimes the most important work you can do is to ensure that well enough is left alone.
How do you solve the problem of plastic pollution? While some may look to scientists, National Geographic is looking to anyone and everyone to develop innovative solutions through a competition with substantial cash prizes. The organization hopes to “tap the entire world’s creativity and expertise” to address the growing concern.
What is most appealing to me is how they structured the contest: rather than asking for a team to tackle the entire issue, the contest seeks entries in three distinct categories: 1) a way to design better packaging; 2) development of a zero-waste business model (eg: how can companies get beverages to consumers bypassing individual containers) and 3) a way to show the scale and breadth of the plastics problem in a creative and intuitive way.
By narrowing a massive challenge, it automatically focuses the brain on solutions instead of feeling overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. Think about how your organization can adopt this concept to address the major issues that you face. Is there a way to break your problem into manageable sub-sets? A way to engage others outside your organization through a contest? A way to incentivize those inside your organization with prizes?
The big issues are the ones that require out-of-the-box thinking or they would have already been resolved. Start your innovation process by innovating the way that you approach the challenge.
NOTE: The content for the dots from yesterday, today and tomorrow came from readers who had experienced the world through “dot eyes” and shared their observations with me. It is the highest compliment that I can receive from writing this blog – that others have internalized the principles driving it and see the connections in life for themselves.
I hope that many more of you have cultivated your own “dot eyes” but just haven’t shared examples with me – YET! Know that examples are always welcome – via email, Facebook, website comment form or carrier pigeon! What do your “dot eyes” see?
If someone gave you a marble to hold, you could do so with ease. Ditto for a half-dozen but after that, it becomes more challenging. You’re likely to drop one or pay so much attention to holding on to them that you fail to see their beauty. Yet if someone gave you a bag to hold 100 marbles, you could manage to hang on to all of them without a problem.
Think about this analogy in the context of learning a new skill. If someone teaches you one or two or six things, you can get it. But pretty soon, without a context, those ideas start to roll around like loose marbles and you’re bound to forget some of them. Fortunately, with the right framework, you can collect hundreds of ideas and amass a host of skills — and manage to keep them all.
When you are providing content – whether through employee onboarding, teaching a workshop, parenting, or writing a blog – don’t focus solely on individual messages. Provide that “bag” to connect your information to the whole as a way to keep your listener from losing their marbles.