Why Dallas LEEDs the Country in Greening
May 14, 2012 12:38PM
● By Anna Clark
There is justifiable concern today about greenwashing, the intentional or misguided practice of making vague sustainability claims to market products and services to consumers. However, in our rush to expose the imperfect, we risk neglecting the good. As industry heavyweights and policy wonks sort out new standards, Dallas companies are going into action.
The Lone Star State is one of America’s biggest energy consumers, but we’re also one of its biggest producers of renewable energy. This paradox makes our region extremely relevant to the sustainability discussion. Rather than simply fight the culture of consumption, Dallas can use its financial prowess to support sustainable innovation. Half Price Books was the first to install an electric vehicle charging station, and TXU just unveiled two new chargers at Dallas City Hall. Such companies are helping our community transition to electrification and other 21st-century technologies.
As with other large-scale cultural challenges, workable solutions aren’t hatched in a lab; they must be tested at the source, and then refined and scaled accordingly. As the nation's fourth-largest metropolitan area and home base to approximately 20 Fortune 500 corporations, DFW comprises a huge market, with the capacity to commercialize sustainable innovations. Burgeoning incubators such as Adbongo and EARTH-NT are making sure that entrepreneurs will have the brain trust they need to achieve market acceptance.
For our citizens, events like Earth Day Dallas, in its debut second only to New York’s, are putting our region on the green map. No surprises there: Everything is bigger in Texas. What many still don’t know is that, in terms of sustainability, DFW’s academic sector is as robust as our commercial sector. Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Arlington have both launched graduate programs in sustainability. Equally important, schools such as Cedar Valley College are springing sustainability from its ivory tower and preparing people to work in the new economy.
Meanwhile, groups like the Dallas Institute’s Environmental Forum and the Texas Green Chamber are actively connecting city leaders and businesspeople to educate and provide us with a voice. As more of us take advantage of these opportunities, this will create the groundswell needed to bring about large-scale transformation.
Some experts think America can’t commit to a sustainable future without experiencing disaster first, but they don’t know the Can-Do spirit of Dallas. Those intent on surviving disasters should first take security precautions. In a world of finite resources and volatile energy, security means plugging the links, both physical and financial, in our facilities. Dallas multinationals such as J.C. Penney have saved tens of millions of dollars this way.
From a more secure position, companies can then weave conservation throughout their operations, recycling everything from water to hangers. Once a company is beyond compliance in resource efficiency, generating revenue from green product development is a reasonable next step. The end result of commonsense sustainability is brand recognition and customer loyalty, natural byproducts of doing the right thing.
Sustainability still constitutes a new frontier for companies and consumers alike. Many companies are moving ahead without clear coordinates, and in doing so make mistakes. In a consumer-based economy, transformation can’t happen without educated buyers, so we all need to get up to speed on the rules. Considering the community support to educate the public, we’ll get there.
Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Here in Dallas, we are not afraid of rolling up our sleeves to lead in green, and the rest of the country finally knows it.
Anna Clark is president of EarthPeople and author of Green, American Style. She lives in one of Dallas’ first residences to earn a Platinum-LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.