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Why Do People have to be Convinced of the Value of Sustainability by Statistics and Profit Margins?

According to a variety of sources, marine plants provide at least 70% of the oxygen in our air. And while you have always heard that planting a tree is a good thing, it may surprise you to know that some sources report that a single mature tree can provide enough oxygen to sustain two human beings’ breathing needs. Wow, it appears that conserving nature really helps us to breathe freely – literally.

As if these important, life giving numbers were not enough, did you know that the non-profit organization the Environmental Defense Fund has found that 78 companies who have been making a serious commitment to sustainable business practices have managed to save a combined $650 million in energy costs? These numbers are staggering. But, perhaps the real question is, “Why do we even need to know these numbers?”

Isn’t It Obvious When you think about it, we Americans seem to have an obsession with statistics that prove that there is value in our actions. You can’t watch TV without seeing that you should take Vitamin D because it reduces your chance of some cancer by 6%; but of course Vitamin D is important or your body wouldn’t manufacture it. Or, we read in the paper that the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics reports a 9% unemployment rate nationwide – as though we don’t know from personal experience and friends that nearly 1 in 10 people do not have a job right now. But as Americans we seem to require statistics as validation of what we suspect or should intuitively know before we can actually internalize them or act upon them. This seems to be the case even when it comes to saving our planet.

 Saving Our Planet Certainly we could sit here for hours and name off statistics that illustrate the importance of saving our planet and making personal changes which equate to ecological improvement. We could quote carbon dioxide off-gassing numbers, ozone depletion percentages, deforestation facts and so on. But the simple truth is that we need to work to change our own way of thinking if we are to truly change the world.

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Ancient man did not need statistics to tell them that fire was dangerous or to know that wild bears would eat them if given the chance. They could deduce these things from the obvious. Similarly, we need to learn to trust what we see and to make changes in our lives based on this simple knowledge as well as a general desire to protect our planet for the future of our children.

Doing the Right Thing Sure, going green can save money. It can encourage customer retention and bring in new customers. It can make business go better in the long term. And these are great goals. However, if we take it back to basics we may find that encouraging green thinking on a purely ethical level can eventually work even better.

We need to recognize that we have a responsibility to our planet, and to the life (human, plant and animal) that lives on the Earth. We need to understand that saving our planet is simply the right thing to do – only this simple realization will truly help people to internalize the important conservation concepts that we should all be practicing.

When we think of green efforts only in terms of money or other statistics it becomes too easy to minimize our efforts. For example, a person may be jogging in the park drinking from a disposable water bottle. As they empty the bottle they pass a trash can. Tempted to throw the bottle into the trash rather than carrying it home to recycle they think that a single water bottle is unimportant – tens of thousands are thrown into landfills every week. What is one more? But if the idea of the general value of protecting our planet is instilled deeply into a person’s soul, if they feel ownership of the planet in a way that each action seems of value, they are more likely to practice the small, consistent sustainable steps that will lead to a cleaner, healthier planet Earth.

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