Auden Schendler’s Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution fills an important niche in the overall discussion about climate change and building a low-carbon global society. As the director of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company, he has personal experience with pitching and sometimes executing green projects, including those involving efficient buildings and renewable energy. His book offers some valuable on-the-ground observations that are lacking in higher level discussions like that of David Mackay. While the detail is welcome, the book does sometimes lack a sense of the bigger picture. The language and tone can also be annoyingly jocular, at times.
The most useful information in the book concerns the hurdles that exist to getting green projects done, even when they are well justified on the basis of lifecycle cost analysis. The initial investment is always larger, both in terms of time and complexity, and there are real risks associated with deviating from normal practice. Policymakers could clearly benefit from more direct discussion with the people who are ‘closest to the action’ and actually responding to policies when making their choices. In the end, Schendler sees a huge role for government: putting minimum standards into codes, providing financing to get projects going, and restricting the ways in which corporations can act while pursuing profits.
Schendler also weighs in on the value of individual actions, highlighting how only societal changes have the capacity to overcome climate change. Even so, personal actions are important for establishing credibility, which translates into some of the influence required to drive bigger changes. As a practical discussion of successes and failures, rather than a higher level theoretical work, this book is worth the time of those concerned with dealing with climate change.