"You're a Wizard, Harry!"

Those of you who, like me, have kids, I'm sure have already taken your brood to see the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga. Invoking that movie franchise in this month's column is apropos for two reasons: First, the wind is howling visciously outside and it's dark in our office, as the elements have knocked out power to our building.

12/01/2005


Those of you who, like me, have kids, I'm sure have already taken your brood to see the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga. Invoking that movie franchise in this month's column is apropos for two reasons: First, the wind is howling visciously outside and it's dark in our office, as the elements have knocked out power to our building. The only source of illumination is the eerie glow of emergency exit lighting—thank goodness for pen and paper. But the Harry Potter story is also appropriate in that I'm experiencing another strange parallel—the outside world is seemingly clueless to the existence of the power of "green."

For those scratching their heads, Harry is a wizard who lives in our modern world but interacts with many magical places that we muggles (non-magic folk) just can't see. Not that the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta is as mystical a place as the mysterious castle where Harry learns his craft, but at the recent Greenbuild conference there, I must confess I felt as if I was in a different world. In other words, it's just not normal to see so many people on the same page as to the way buildings should be designed and operated, and that issues like good IAQ, better test scores for children and less impact on our natural environment supersede the dark side of green—money. But like at the end of Harry's school year, we are forced to return to the real world, often with heavy hearts, because the concept of sustainability it seems is as alien to the business world as magic is to muggles.

The hum of magnetic ballasts and the flash of T-12s overhead jolt me back to reality as the power returns, but do little to relieve my melancholy. As I look around the office, which I'm sure is exemplary of most work places, it's hard not to get depressed about the state of things. Sometimes being green seems hopeless. About a year or so back, the CEO of our London-based parent company wrote a very nice letter about his desire to take the company in a sustainable direction—a ray of hope. I wrote a letter offering numerous suggestions. Later I eventually heard of the formation of local "green" teams, which I eagerly joined. But again, amid my fantasies of more efficient lighting, building automation and maybe even a mini green roof, reality quickly came to bear, as our commitee leader informed us we would be doing this with zero budget. This is the inertia the movement faces. I wish I could wave a wand and make it otherwise.

In the end, it comes back to thinking globally but acting locally, as good can still be done even in this building with simple practices such as improved recycling. Patience is the magic word. That said, I'm hoping there are some wise masters out there, like Harry's Dumbledore, who may impart upon us some timely clues that may allow us to carry the green banner yet a little further.





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