How to be Green – Pareto Guide to Sustainability
I am sure most of you would have heard of the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. Well, it equally applies to sustainability – 80% of our impact can be attributed to 20% of our choices. A mass generalisation with no scientific back up but I reckon it’s pretty close. Why?
Approximately 80% of our total ecological footprint as individuals is attributable to food, transport and consumables. One single choice – to eat meat or to not eat meat – is accountable for 25% of our total footprint. That’s a 25:1 ratio. So could 20% of our choices be accountable for 80% of our individual impact. Yeah, it would be pretty close.
There are then all the other things that fall into the 20/80 ratio, 80% of your decisions create 20% of your impact. For example whether to install a low flow shower head – about 0.01% of your total impact.
I (Cundall) have analysed the energy consumption and total impact of a lot of buildings over the years and the 80/20 rule is pretty close. The first decision, where to locate your company or team, has a 20-25% impact – yep transport to and from work is a single decision worth about 20-25%. Whether to install air conditioning or not is worth about 10-15% of the total impact (not just energy) of a building. So it’s getting close to the 80/20 rule.
Things that fall into the 20/80 ratio. Surprisingly the type of facade you have is less than 5% of the total impact.
“In the UK, the richest 10 percent produce twice the carbon emissions as the poorest 10 percent. In Sweden it’s four times as much, in China it’s 18 times as much”, from Is Sustainability still Sustainable?
In the US the top 20% wealthiest own 85% of the wealth. Nuff said.
One of the greatest things that Pareto highlights is where your effort is best placed.
In your individual choices, find out which top 10 choices are having the biggest impact and change those.
In buildings, find out the top design elements that have the greatest impact and find alternatives.
In communities, tackling the top 10% wealthiest and changing them maybe hard so find out where your communities impact is the greatest. A lot of councils have used ecological footprinting to assess their own and your impact. Tap into those resources and see what your top 10 community choices are. You might find the easy choices are in that top 10.