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.
I went into the Dollar Store and was astonished at the number of balloons that were lodged in their ceiling. This picture just shows a fraction of the waste; in reality, there were dozens more.
In a similar situation, on my previous excursions to Land’s End clearance sales and outlets I have seen bins of stockings, backpacks and totes that were incorrectly monogrammed – and thus accumulating unsold even at the bargain price of a dollar.
It’s one thing to make a mistake once, but another to make the same type of error over and over again. Gains in speed are offset by the losses from carelessness, not to mention the environmental impact of that which ends up being tossed before use.
Take a moment to assess your mistake rates. How much food ends up in the compost pile because it was incorrectly prepared? How many reams of paper head straight to the recycle bin because of errors in printing? How much paint is wasted because of improper color matching?
We generate enough waste from things that are done correctly. Don’t add to the problem by adding a host of mistakes to the landfill.
Many organizations think they are doing their part for the environment by having recycling bins available in their facility, but the St. Paul River Center is serious about actually being able to recycle or compost the waste from their events. Instead of allowing people to independently decide what is trash and what is not, the Center had staff members at each of its stations directing people on how to properly dispose of their waste.
Far more items were recyclable than I would have expected or done on my own, including silverware and seemingly-plastic salad containers, but I was informed that they were corn-based and could be reclaimed. I have written before that one of the challenges of recycling efforts is the inconsistency in what is allowable in different jurisdictions and as a result, the bins are often so contaminated with incorrect items that the whole container needs to be thrown into the trash. In St. Paul, not only was this fate averted, but the staff who gave directions served as both a customer service and environmental ambassador.
Yes, there was a labor cost, but it was small compared to the environmental savings. The next time your organization touts an initiative, go the extra mile to be serious about implementing it. Do what it takes to truly do what you profess is important.
As the school year comes to a close, don’t toss those old markers! Crayola offers a free recycling program for schools to send in any and all markers – Crayola brand, other brands, highlighters or dry erase markers – and they will pay for the shipping! The program runs all year long, but at this time of year, it seems especially relevant.
All K-12 schools are eligible to sign up for the ColorCycle program at http://www.crayola.com/colorcycle.aspx. They even provide lesson plans if teachers want to incorporate curriculum around the recycling effort.
Sometimes we avoid recycling because it requires too much extra effort, but this is an easy sign-up process that comes right to the school for pickup. Parents: ask your school to participate today! Daycare centers: partner with a participating school! Teachers: click on the link above now!