It is fitting that I am renovating my home, while I am launching my new business. My first house required major renovations, and they were made the season I began graduate school. Of course it’s very different now, though. Then, the steamer, scraper and I spent many an evening together removing ancient wallpaper from crumbling horsehair plaster. My friends helped remove the painted wood (and probably absorbed some lead doing so). Now, I get to pick out all of the fun elements, am working with some great folks, and just check in on their progress. In both cases, the very physical element of remodeling provides a contrast to the complex analysis required for environmental decisions. A commonality is the finite steps required to completion, dictated by priorities.
Many things have changed over the years, particularly in environmental consulting. Then, Superfund was one of EPA’s biggest programs. It seemed there was a new guidance or NPL site every month. Now, while needed, Superfund is not the agency’s priority; EPA now focuses on topics such as sustainability and climate change. Both of these topics are as controversial as hazardous waste sites were back then, but seek forward-looking solutions.
It’s hard to argue with the concept of sustainability – healthier products, lower environmental impact, less energy and water consumption – but it is hard to define what indeed is sustainable, and, what sustainability is. And, it is hard to compare the sustainability of different sorts of products. Which is more sustainable, one that uses less water, or one that uses less energy? The answers are not obvious, and depend on the abundance of a resource, and the overall impact from the choice. For instance, it you have to drive twice as far to get the renewable product, the energy impacts might be higher than a product with high manufacturing energy input. Sustainability is best evaluated from a life cycle perspective.
Vireo Advisors was founded to guide complex decisions toward sustainable and innovative solutions. Change is constant, and requires sound strategy and navigation to achieve long term goals and priorities. While topical focus may be different now, the need for consistent and careful analysis remains, looking forward, and not back. Even in new surroundings, it is refreshing to recognize the path ahead.