The Green Pig Syndrome In Business

Jan 8, 2010 9:00 AM ET

Green Pig SyndromeOne would hope that what I am about to say is mostly fantasy, but I don’t think so.  On the heels of a variety of calls from people claiming to be environmentally concerned, I am finding that environmental issues rarely supersede convenience and cost.   One remarkable comment came when the person said, “I don’t mind being environmental as long as it doesn’t cost me anything.”  Frankly, I was too shocked to respond like I should have.  The best response was that irresponsibility is costing us all the time.  The price of doing nothing is rarely zero.  When does the price of not going to work?  What is the price of refusing to fill the gas tank when the needle is on empty?  What is the price of neglecting our children when they ultimately require an attorney to get them out of their latest jam?

So, it occurred to me that there is a “Green Pig” Syndrome (GPS) at work.  The Green Pig Syndrome is like greenwashing except that it means that we don’t want our environmental obligation to intrude into our lives.  You see, you can paint a pig green, but it is still a pig!   A pig will do absolutely nothing different than it has always done.  It will squeal and complain when things don’t work like he wants, and it will consume as much as he can in a day, hoping only for another day to do the same.

We love convenience, luxury, and excess.  Constant gratification isn’t such a bad way to go, wouldn’t you say?  If there were no consequences to how we lived life, one might suppose that we would all be happier.  Or, at least we think that would be best.  Like it or not, we live in a consequential world, and every day is an investment in making life better or worse.  The simple task of depositing your trash in the next trash bin or throwing it out of the window has compounding consequences.   We can survive the odd incident, but I have been in countries where trash lines the streets and festers in the alleys.

The Green Pig Syndrome is a values placement process.  Pigs, I am told, are relatively near-sighted but are considered the fourth most intelligent animal in the world.  They see only what is in front of them, and they are driven by their appetites.  Who wants the life of a pig, though?  In our example, they are not long thinkers.  So, they never worry about how the world will be tomorrow.  Life does not consist of what can be done today no matter what the real cost might be in the long term.  That would be a Green Pig’s attitude, however.

Let’s face it.  You can paint a pig green, but that does not change the way it thinks.  And, anyone can paint themselves as environmentally-concerned, but how many things are they willing to change?  The success of the environmental program is not just in building Green buildings or buying Green products.  Those embracing these solutions are merely “Green by Proxy.”   The real impact is felt when Green is made a part of the lifestyle.  It could be considered behavior modification, but it is the necessary modifications for our collective future.  We need not “Go Radical” in our transition to Green.  It is a learned behavior that allows for people to grow into a better environmental citizen.

The hard facts are that Green will cost everyone something, and it will certainly intrude on our convenience-oriented world.  We cannot make the necessary changes without changing the behavior of each and every person.  It will not be convenient, comfortable, or enjoyable.  It is, however, necessary for the world that we all hope to enjoy for a while.  Don’t be overly concerned.  This is not a call to monastic living, moving into a grass hut, or trading your car in for a bicycle.  It is the challenge that we all face in this hour in history.  It is our hour, and it is our challenge.  The problem is not as fierce as a war, or as urgently pressing as a hurricane.  Environmental problems are more like the rising tide without enough high ground to keep ourselves out of the encroaching waves.  Slow disasters still deserve our attention, even though we are not up to our necks in trouble yet.

The remedy for the Green Pig Syndrome is not an H1N1 shot.  We can be Green humans who have the intelligence to see the future and change what we are doing today.  There is a cost to Go Green, and there are simple ways to transition to Green Practices that are often mildly intrusive.  Some Green practices are even beneficial.  If you are ready to be both human and a humanitarian, it is time that we all decided to make the changes without concern for the cost or inconvenience.  The Green Business League assists businesses in their Green business certification through honest programs of audit and certification.  Those wishing assistance with Green Business Certification can request a free Green business assessment from a Certified Green Consultant.