Glenn Bachman | The Green Business Guide
October 29, 2009
Dr. Kent: Welcome to Sound Authors. We have four fantastic guests on the show today. Three authors, and one musician. We’re doing a show of course in the traditional format of Sound Authors. We’ve scheduled this show quite a while ago, and that’s why we’re back to the four-segment method. Again, tune in next week and the week after. We’re doing brand new varieties of shows with all sorts of different kinds of guests. Always authors and musicians: Sound Authors both. At the end of the show we’re going to talk to a musician. His name is Jacob Moon. He’s based in Hamilton. A wonderful singer/songwriter. Before that, we’re going to talk to the author of ‘Skinny Bitch,’ Rory Freedman, a New York Times bestselling coauthor. They’ve sold millions of books literally. Before that, at 3:15 or so, we’re going to talk to Dr. D.A. Henderson, the author of ‘Smallpox: Death of a Disease.’ In this world right now where we’re always talking about the H1N1, let’s talk about smallpox and the havoc it wreaked. Without further ado, at the beginning of the show, I’ll be talking to Glenn Bachman. Glenn has more than 30 years of experience in improving the economic and environmental performance of organizations and products. His book is called ‘The Green Business Guide.’ Welcome to the show, Glenn Bachman.
Glenn Bachman: Thank you so much.
Dr. Kent: Tell me about this book: ‘The Green Business Guide.’ Green stuff has been really hot for the last couple of years, and with the Obama presidency, it’s gotten even more so.
Glenn Bachman: That it has. The guide is intended to be a blueprint or a roadmap for small and medium sized businesses. What I have found in looking around as to what could be used as a roadmap if a business or an organization wanted to go green was not very detailed in the nuts and bolts of the how-to. I found that a lot of businesses understood why they would want to go green, but they didn’t really understand what it was that it would mean in detail. So what I had decided to do was to write a book that would consolidate different resources from all over the place, whether it’s from environmental organizations, EPA, business best-practices, my own experience, and pull that together in a single unified document that could be used in making or allowing an organization to go green.
Dr. Kent: What does it mean to ‘go green,’ exactly?
Glenn Bachman: There’s differing concepts on that. I use ‘green’ as ecological friendliness. A lot people use the term ‘green’ and use it as though it was also the same as ‘sustainable.’ However, sustainable businesses take not only the ecological friendliness, but they expand that into economic performance as well as social equity issues. Fair-trade, for example, or comparable pay for women and men, things of that nature.
Dr. Kent: And for you, ‘green’ means?
Glenn Bachman: For me, ‘green’ means ecological performance. By ecological performance, I’m talking about ensuring that the business or the organization is using a minimal amount of energy, that the energy that is being consumed is clean energy, that the water use is reduced, that they’re pulling water in minimal amounts from either public or private sources. When they are getting rid of the water, the water is being returned to a natural system with a minimal amount of contaminants or temperature change, or things like that. That packaging is reduced, material use is reduced, and things like that.
Dr. Kent: In business right now, it seems to be quite trendy to say that you’re green, and I know that there’s some things where you can trade some of your electricity against something that’s sustainable, or you could do many things as a business. You can install solar panels on the roof. What does it mean for a business to call themselves ‘green’?
Glenn Bachman: I think that fundamentally what they’re saying is that the way that they’re approaching the delivery of their services or the manufacture or sale of the products that they have is that they are doing it in a manner that is least injurious to the natural environment. You’re right to point out that they’re getting a lot airplay right now, because there’s certainly businesses that aren’t being truthful about being green. They recognize that to call themselves green is a way of taking advantage of what some perceive to be a fad, but that in fact they are not being green, because they’re, for example, reducing their packaging size, but perhaps they still have contaminants that are embedded into the product that they’re selling. That type of green, or non-green, has been dubbed ‘green-washing.’ Sort of like white-washing, only green-washing, where an organization is making claims that it’s green when in fact it is not. I think that what those businesses are doing that are legitimately trying to become green is they are aligning themselves with a greater population of consumers, whether those consumers are individuals or corporations like Wal-Mart, or what have you, that are recognizing that it makes business sense and family sense to go green. That by reducing the impact now it’ll be more likely that we’ll have a more palatable and inhabitable earth decades from now and generations from now.
Dr. Kent: Where’d you get your start in all of this?
Glenn Bachman: I think probably my path for this was from architecture. I was doing construction in high school during the summer, and that turned into architectural design interests in college, which turned into urban planning interests as I was trying to integrate shelter energy production and food production into neighborhoods, and I then became an energy planner working in the northwest where I was doing projects. I did about 50 different energy-related projects in the Pacific northwest as part of this environmental company that I was a partner in. Ecology has probably always been a part of my background. Probably the very first appreciation for that came from my grandfather.
Dr. Kent: When creating a green business guide, we’ve talked about sometimes it’s not necessarily green, but what are the best practices a business could fairly easily implement?
Glenn Bachman: I think part of the best practice is to demonstrate the leadership in the company to say, ‘We want to change the way that we are doing things and become more green.’ The leadership is critical. That’s best practice number one. Best practice number two is probably to engage everybody in the organization to look for opportunities for saving energy, for conserving water, for reducing resource use, things like that. Then, I think that on the nuts and bolts side, probably what you want to be able to do is focus on lighting, that’s probably common to most businesses, and then depending on the nature of the business, a mom-and-pop grocery would be most interested in lighting and refrigeration, whereas warehousing might be more interested in – if it’s non temperature controlled – it might be more interested in transportation issues and how to reduce the impact of moving goods from the warehouse to their point of use.
Dr. Kent: One of the things in this new administration has been green technology can really start to drive the economy. What does that mean, and is that possible?
Glenn Bachman: It is possible. In fact, President Obama just gave a speech today at Massachusetts Institute of Technology which was pretty much a statement of his green philosophy and also I would say in some ways a motivational speech saying ‘Go get ‘em.’ Energy technology and green technologies are moving very rapidly. It’s much like what the computer world was looking like 25 years ago and actually continues to be today. There are really some amazing things that are coming out in terms of developing fuels for transportation out of algae, out of different types of agricultural products. There’s different technologies that are being created on rooftops where shingles can understand what the temperature is and change color to reflect during overheated times so that the solar radiation doesn’t penetrate the building, or the solar radiation doesn’t get absorbed as heat into the building. Or in the wintertime turn into a darker color when it is desirable to have that penetration and to acquire more heat. We’re getting micro wind turbans that can be attached to rooftops that look very small. You would hardly even notice that they are on the rooftop.
Dr. Kent: When you mean micro, do you mean the kind that’s on like a little kids hat, or do you mean really small?
Glenn Bachman: I mean probably a little bit bigger than a little kid’s hat. We’re not going to get a lot of useful energy out of something that small. But think maybe 10-times larger than that.
Dr. Kent: So maybe like two feet tall or something?
Glenn Bachman: Yes, but instead of thinking in the vertical access, think in the horizontal axis, a hamster cage or something like that, running along the full length of a ridge. It can capture the wind energy, transform that into a generated electricity.
Dr. Kent: I’m curious about the roof that changes color. I remember as a kid just walking out along a simple asphalt road how hot it would get. Just color is pretty significant.
Glenn Bachman: It is. That’s one of the reasons why in ‘The Green Business Guide,’ the book, there are a series of recommendations on how to deal with paving: those huge parking lots that we see when we go to malls and outside parking lots when we are in the heat of the summer, when we’re walking across the entrance to the store, we’re boiling out there. So we try to shield those with vegetation: trees that will shade the asphalt and prevent the solar radiation from being absorbed.
Dr. Kent: It’s going to be profitable, but it’s a massive change for a lot of businesses. What is the resistance?
Glenn Bachman: The first set of resistance is that over the years, I think that we’ve seen that green technologies have been expensive. I think that because of that, the perception is that the green technologies are not having a very favorable return on investment. A lot of the greening of a business can be categorized in terms of changes, transformations that are no cost, like reminding people to turn off the lights in the storage room when they’ve gotten their ream of paper out of storage. Or they could be very low cost, such as installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, and removing incandescent bulbs. Those in a full use area have a payback often of six to eight months depending on what the cost of electricity is. And then there’s other costs that are greater. What I encourage the businesses to do is to look for the low-hanging fruit: those things that can be implemented easily with very little goading on the part of management or workers, and then to look at those other programs that can be implemented that would be a relatively short return on the investment. I think that the second thing that we’re seeing is that in the past, a lot of these technologies were not as confidant, as skilled, as efficient, as effective as the ones that they were being designed to replace. An example of those were some of the early fluorescent bulbs that flickered, that hummed, that were a distraction in the workplace, and so folks weren’t installing those. Those problems have been remedied, and as a result of that, there have been greater penetration of those types of programs in action in the workplace. I think that overall, there is just a certain malaise, that this is the way we’ve done business. It’s really not been a focus of attention until the problems associated with the climate change, with the resources, such as petroleum, silver, others that are used in industry, because they’re finite resources, they’re not as available because of the growing clientele of consumers, and as a consequence, the price of a lot of these resources are going up, and if the prices are going up, the operating expenses for the businesses obviously go up. So, they’re looking at ways of just reducing their input in order to stay competitive, and that’s the advantage that they’re seeking.
Dr. Kent: Well it’s so fascinating talking about green business, and I hope to talk to you again sometime. The book is called ‘The Green Business Guide,’ by Glenn Bachman, subtitled, ‘A One-Stop-Resource for Businesses of All Shapes and Sizes to Implement Eco-Friendly Policies, Programs and Practices,’ and of course it’s out on Career Press, and it’s been such an honor chatting with you.
Glenn Bachman: My pleasure.
Dr. Kent: You can find out more online, just again look up, ‘Glenn Bachman’ and ‘The Green Business Guide.’