Altruism
Pron: (ˈal-trü-ˌi-zəm)
Def: A program or movement that requires the unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.  Also, the surest path to failure for a given program or movement.

I’m of the opinion that for the green movement to be universally adopted it’s going to have to rely less on altruism and more on mutual benefit.  Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s noble to take a monkey wrench to your company’s procedures, often times harming your bottom line, all in the name of “saving the planet.”  And I think in the early stages of any movement, there has to be a group of fervent believers in that movement to get it off the ground.  And saving the planet is certainly worthy.

Jimmy Carter wanted everyone in America to turn their thermostats down to the 60′s.  But it turns out the 60′s is pretty damn cold.  The movement failed.

I think the current movement toward a greener America and greener planet can only be accepted by the masses if they truly believe in it, and for that to happen, most of those people are going to need to see something in it for them.

I just read an article yesterday about a prison that was about to be charged $25,000 per day in fines for the solid wastes leaving the prison that couldn’t be processed by the waste water treatment plant.  The problem?  Plastic eating utensils, towels and other stuff was being flushed down the toilet.  So the prison installed a $4 trap in some of the toilets.  If something was flushed that wasn’t supposed to be, the trap closed and the toilet flooded into the cell.  So now the inmates are going green, if you can call it that, because it turns out that having your own waste back up into your living quarters is a pretty strong incentive to do the right thing.

In our case I think the incentive doesn’t need to be that offensive.  Saving a finski every day or two would probably be enough incentive, wouldn’t it?

It was for me.

Here’s what we did.  I know that in my local market there’s more than a handful of people (more like thousands) who love getting things for free.  Doesn’t matter what it is, there’s always somebody that can use it.  So I started a spoils recycling program (though I think I called it “Free Junk”).

Here’s how it worked:  whenever we had non-dirt spoils from a jobsite, we’d take them back to our shop.  At the end of the driveway leading to our shop, we’d place the spoils along with a big FREE sign.

Usually within a few hours, whatever we had placed there was gone.  Occasionally the sign was taken as well.  You’re probably thinking to yourself “I love the idea of being able to get rid of those spoils we usually get charged an extra environmental fee to dispose of, but what kinds of things can we really expect to be able to get rid of this way?”

Here’s what we’ve been able to have recycled by our local garbage pickers community:

  • Steel fencing
  • Steel fence posts
  • Wood fencing
  • Wooden steps
  • Pre-fab concrete steps
  • Scrap flagstone (I mean the real junk)
  • Scrap pavers and block – all colors, all sizes
  • Wood decking
  • Pallets

I’m sure there’s more, that’s just all I could think of right now.  That’s one less load of non-degradable materials being brought to the landfill, and one less check you have to cut to pay for the disposal.  The extra labor for handling is negligible, and you get to look like (and market yourself as) a company that cares about the health of the planet.  Win, win and yes, win.

The only thing left to do is remind prospective clients (via your website and maybe a press release or two) about programs like your community recycling effort, so they can fall even more deeply in love with you.

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