Getting Green Done

Morty looking unhappy, with hidden limbs

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.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “Getting Green Done

  1. What a luxury ski resort is doing to solve climate change

    I’m sitting in the lobby of the Little Nell with Auden Schendler. This is a fancy pants, 92-room spa and resort in Aspen that routinely hosts world leaders and celebrities in rooms that cost upwards of $760 a night. The Nell is a major energy spender — in 2008, it used 25,556 MMBTU of natural gas and 3,269,967kWh of electricity, generating 4,245 tons of CO2 emissions (the average house generates about 17,000 lbs). Aspen is an entire town full of buildings like the Nell; in addition to the hotels and shops, the luxury ski town hosts four mountains full of energy-sucking ski lifts, snowmaking machines, snowcats, and heated buses on constant rotation that take people from one part of town to another. Add to that the transportation costs to and from the resort of the 1.36 million skiers and 34,000 employees that come here every ski season, and you’ve got what seems like a major environment killer.

    But if you ask Schendler, he’ll tell you that the Little Nell is a prime hub for fighting climate change.

    Schendler — a tall, mountain-man type wearing big boots and a puffy jacket — is the Sustainability Director of the Aspen Skiing Company. What this means is that he has the seemingly absurd task of transforming the entire energy-sucking, luxury-soaked resort into a tool to fight climate change. Earlier this year, Schendler authored a book called Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution — a fun-to-read motivator that very clearly outlines how big, influential corporations can leverage their power to lead the fight against climate change. Schendler used to be a regular grassroots “enviro guy”; but now that he’s a bigwig exec at a big corporation, he’s even more hell bent on solving the climate problem.

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