With scientists virtually in unanimous agreement that the climate and the planet are in a state of crisis, there’s no doubt that the future of Earth will have to be green. To put that in the simplest terms possible, that means changing how we get our power to renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and others. But in the grander scheme of things, it means so much more.
It means a future in which our global critical infrastructures are resilient and resistant to impactful disasters, in other words, they become green infrastructures. Of course, that raises several questions: what is a green infrastructure? What will the world look like with a greener grid? And perhaps most importantly, what will these changes mean for businesses (big and small) and how those businesses operate?
The broad definition of green infrastructure is a planned and interconnected network of natural, open, and green areas designed to create a diverse ecosystem while delivering environmental features and benefits. That’s the theory. But in practice, there is an endless list of ways that green infrastructure can manifest.
No matter how you slice it, the goal of green infrastructure is to create a healthy and sustainable environment while supporting societal needs. Just like the more traditional type of infrastructure – often called gray infrastructure in comparison to green infrastructure – a green grid strives to create jobs while also creating biodiversity. Successful green infrastructures will be best for the planet, the economy, and the people living in and around that green grid. Those related to the business world must understand that green infrastructure is meant to be profitable, just perhaps not in ways that businesses are accustomed to.
Ultimately, moving in this direction will help us build critical infrastructure resilience before disruptions, such as severe natural hazards, global-scale cyber attacks, or even EMP attacks, can impact society and, as a result, a vast number of businesses.
There is an almost endless number of examples of what can qualify as green infrastructure. It can be done in both big and small ways, which is why it’s achievable for neighborhoods, communities, businesses, and cities of all sizes. On a small scale, it can be as simple as setting up a rain barrel on the side of a house or adding a vegetable garden to a backyard.
On a larger scale, restoring a floodplain rather than building a new levee. It could mean being more efficient with water usage rather than building a new dam. It can mean restoring wetlands or planting more trees in a certain area instead of building an expensive water treatment plant. It’s creating infrastructure that people need while also recognizing the environmental and sustainability needs of the planet, serving both at the same time.
While both individual citizens and governments on all scales can play a role in being environmentally conscious and creating green spaces, private businesses also play a role in creating green infrastructure. Creating a full-scale green grid requires cooperation between the public and private sectors. All businesses, regardless of their size or industry, impact the environment in some way, which means businesses must be conscious of how they can contribute to green infrastructure projects.
Naturally, the question is whether the business world is ready to commit to creating a green grid, either locally or on a larger scale. Even if the desire is there, businesses are inherently fueled by their bottom line – as they strive to remain in business and ultimately turn a profit. Unfortunately, not all businesses are fully aware of the ways that going green can help them financially. The change to a green grid will undoubtedly take a financial commitment. But if done the right way, the return on investment can be worthwhile for businesses in addition to creating a more sustainable environment, improving the lives of society, and protecting the future of our planet.
While there is undoubtedly a need for as much green infrastructure as possible, businesses still need to know how they can participate in creating a green grid and the benefit of committing to building green infrastructure.
Perhaps it’s key to address the biggest elephant in the room first: in the case of a black sky event, hoping for the best isn’t a plan. If COVID-19 showed us anything is an unprecedented event capable of knocking us down and disrupting the world as we know it can happen at any moment. And in order to remain standing strong, businesses must be prepared for anything and everything.
The second biggest reason? Green technologies and renewable power sources will ultimately be more efficient and can help reduce costs for a business. Changing from traditional power sources to wind or solar can be a commitment and an investment, but in the long run, they will be what’s best for both the planet and a company’s bottom line.
Likewise, a company’s water bills can be reduced with the right type of green infrastructure. Water barrels onsite can reduce the need to get water from other sources. Meanwhile, larger businesses that invest in an urban tree canopy, planting more trees, or creating more green spaces can make a dramatic improvement to their communities. These types of initiatives can improve filtration and increase water storage, preventing droughts in a region. The amount of waste and runoff into sewers can also be reduced by these types of green infrastructure projects, benefitting communities in other ways.
While those types of green projects may not offer immediate financial benefits, they can do wonders for a company’s reputation. Studies have shown that consumers respond positively toward environmentally conscious businesses, helping to expand a company’s customer base. On top of that, consumers will have a positive impression of a company that’s investing in green infrastructure that will benefit the bottom line of the business and add value to the community. In other words, green infrastructure projects can be a way for a company to do eco-friendly marketing and stand out from competitors by showing consumers that they’re leading the way in going green.
Suppose more businesses commit to creating a green grid and answering their own needs and the needs of people in their communities and regions with green infrastructure. In that case, the future will look remarkably different. Of course, for the better. For starters, it will be more colorful. But it will be different in the sense that businesses can do what’s best for them, the environment, their employees, and all of the people who live in the communities and regions where they do business.
Imagine a world in which every business utilizes rain barrels on its premises. The roofs of every office building contain either a roof garden or solar panels. The parking lots of those office parks are paved with permeable materials so that rain can filter down to the water table. Cities are filled with small parks, community gardens, rain gardens, and tree canopies that were built (and sponsored) by local and national businesses. In this world, businesses give equal weight to their bottom line and environmental impact when making decisions. This might not be the vision for the immediate future, but it’s undoubtedly the long-term future that planet Earth needs and deserves.
Want to secure your chances of effectively going green? Attend our Resilient Renewable Planet Conference in April 2023! At the conference, you’ll have the chance to learn best practices from global experts, experience resilience training, and develop appropriate measures needed to secure our future.
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