My friend Andy recently gave me a copy of Yvon Chouinard’s, “Let my People Go Surfing.” It’s a great account of how a “dirtbag” rock climber created a great mid-sized company that serves as a model for sustainable growth. His company is called Patagonia, and in addition to making great gear, they also contribute 1% of revenue or 10% of profits (whichever is more) to environmental protection. Working for Patagonia isn’t too shabby either; they have a leading in-house daycare at their offices, a cafeteria that serves organic food, and a policy that lets employees go surfing whenever the surf is up–so long as they get their work done.
A key factor to Patagonia’s success, Yvon contends, is that he and the team make business decisions on the assumption that Patagonia will be around for the next 100 years. Don’t take actions that are easy today but that will put you in a bind down the road.
Now back to energy. In Maine, and many other cold states, there’s been a buzz lately
about cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Folks like Stephen King and the Lerner Foundation have made significant contributions to offset the $30 million budget cuts. These contributions are huge, and the people of Maine are very appreciative.
However, I can’t help but wish charitable donations could be used to bring about greater good. You know, get the most bang for your buck. When we start thinking long-term, like Yvon and the folks at Patagonia, we have to realize that next winter will be cold, we’re still going to need heating oil, and the economy isn’t going to miraculously turn around overnight. We all want fellow Mainers to stay warm, so we need to find a way to get ahead!
Contrary to Governor Paul LePage’s view, we need to invest in Efficiency Maine and low-income weatherization programs. Rather than buying oil year in and year out for LIHEAP recipients, let’s retrofit their homes. We can air seal their walls, roofs, floors and ducts while also insulating. The money saved on heating will pay for the work in about 4 to 6 years.
Thereafter, we’re going to be buying a lot less heating oil every year (my retrofit project led to a 40% reduction in heating expenses). If it seems like a simple investment, it is.