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Do you ever get that sinking feeling?

Business, Company Strategy, Economics, Environment, Singapore, Sustainability, Technology, US
By John Richardson on 02-Sep-2008

I am afraid I do when it comes to climate change and, as a result, don’t always switch off lights when I leave rooms, don’t always say no to unnecesssary plastic bags when I buy anything and will happily (and this could be the worst damage of all) jet anywhere in the world either for business or pleasure.

I am feeling guilty today for accepting a 20 minute speaking engagement in Hong Kong which won’t generate any direct revenue for our training business.

Of course it might create that intangible benefit of goodwill plus I can also do some other meetings while I am there.

But is this the kind of marginal trip that businesses should cut back on and if this happens, what will be the effect on bottom lines as building goodwill is so important?

Equally important in Asia are all those face-to-face meetings. Relationships can have more value than sometimes even the quality of the product you provide.

How do you decide as a company, therefore, what is essential and what is unncessary travel?

And as an individual, what about those flights at the weekend for short breaks? I’ve often jetted off to Phuket in Thailand because I’ve been tired from travelling too much for work!

I was glad to discover I am not alone about my sense of the enormity of it all, for feeling that turning the odd light bulb off is not going to make a jot of difference in the great scheme of things – and for feeling trapped by the corporate machine that so voraciously consumes carbon.

This was thanks to yet another excellent article in the New Scientist on a meeting of the American Psychological Association which took place in Boston, Massachusetts, last month.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and think: ‘What can little me do?’ “, said David Uzzel at the University of Surrey in the UK during the meeting.

Paul Stern of the US National Research Council said a key deterrent was a lack of guidance on which actions would have the greatest impact, and feeling paralysed by the size of the task.

His research paper on this subject provides more detail – and to my great relief tells me that switching light bulbs off when you leave the room doesn’t do that much good.

Some impractical suggestions he quotes from the Live Earth Global Warming Handbook include composting household waste, building a bat house or if all else fails, buying a camel.

I can just imagine the reaction of my neighbours, and I am sure the authorities, if I attempted these measures in Singapore. And anyway, my balcony isn’t quite big enough to accommodate a camel – although my 20-month-old son would enjoy the rides around the condo.

Enough of the fatalism. I am going to get off my backside and do something practical.