As I begin my second year as an evangelist for the benefit corporation and Triple Bottom Line movement, I need to clear my conscience. You see, I have not always been the greatest example of People, Planet and Profit. And I hate admitting that because I do believe you lead by example.
But my story needs to be told.
Seven years ago at an all-time low in my personal life, I realized something needed to change. The pain of living inside my shell of self-pity was beyond pathetic. And so I made a decision.
I would begin to do something each day that made me feel just a bit better about myself.
Nothing was too small. Whatever effort I put forth, it had to be something that would elevate my self-esteem even if it was a micro-millimeter. And I could honestly admit that to myself at the end of the day before turning off my bedside lamp.
To find a spark, I reached back into my earlier life and remembered how good it felt to do something for someone else. Helping neighbors out. Volunteering for my sons’ Cub Scout crews. Supporting causes that improved people’s lives.
And so I began. Taking an elderly neighbor to her eye doctor’s appointments. Supporting the activities of a friend’s environmental mission-driven organization. Working on Habitat for Humanity sites.
As my self-esteem began to improve, the calling to do more increased. I became part of a new organization devoted to eliminating the root causes of poverty in my community. I served as the co-chair of the advocacy action team. It became my own graduate program as I helped organize, strategize and advocate to city and state leaders for improving issues surrounding homelessness.
But my work was more than just policy focused. I did direct service helping to create a program that prepares, cooks and serves for a local grass-roots group feeding folks living on the streets. Most revealing, I discovered how little difference separated me from those we served.
And if truth be told, I’m still doing all that to this February day.
Now while I feel I can honestly claim my work on the “people” part of the triple bottom line is aligned with benefit corporation principles, I need to do a lot of work on the “planet” side.
While I’ve always been a believer in being a good steward of Mother Earth, I confess to not having been the greatest practitioner of taking care our environment. A lot of it comes from “convenience” thinking or the easier way to do things. I shamefully admit I still drive an aging SUV. I’ve consumed way too much “single use” plastics. And I’ve used the washer and dryer inefficiently for periods of time in my earlier life.
But in the past year, I’ve resolved to make tiny if not incremental changes in regard to planet sustainability. I know the forecast is ominous and I do want my two grandchildren with another on the way to live and see the beautiful natural world I’ve been privileged to see and experience.
So I called on the Nature Conservancy’s carbon calculator to help guide me through reducing my carbon footprint.
Which means that while I can’t trade for a hybrid vehicle just yet due to financial challenges, I’m using mass transit whenever possible. I take our light-rail system to meetings in our downtown core. I’ve started incorporating riding my Cannondale more. And when I do need to use my car, I make sure I combine trips to various locations in the most efficient manner possible.
I’ve reduced my consumption of meat significantly (less than once a week) and choose organic whenever possible. I have eliminated buying single-use plastics wherever possible. Needless to say, this is extremely challenging but I’m focused on it every time I make a purchase. I also use electronic checking to pay bills and eliminate unnecessary paper waste. And I’ve learned to be thinking efficiency when washing my clothes.
Plain and simple, I’ve become a more mindful person than I have ever been in my life. I look at each action I take and see if there’s a better way to shrink my carbon footprint on the planet. And then make my decision carefully.
More than anything I remain a true advocate for the Triple Bottom Line even if I’m a constant work-in-progress. And I will be til the day I’m gone.
I know it’s not only the right thing to do. But it’s what we must do.