It was 40 years ago that environmentalism actually got its own day dedicated to it. Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in held on April 22, 1970, and is celebrated in 175 countries every year.
In fact, if you're a bit of a history fan, you'll also note that the foundation of Earth Day led to the foundation of Earth Week, and it all happened in the same year that the very first Clean Air Act made it to the floor of our esteemed congress. Introduced by Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie, who was also the sponsor of landmark water pollution legislation, the Clean Air Act of 1970 was the opening political salvo for the environmentalist movement as it exists today.
Now there are those who think this entire environmentalism thing is all a bunch of political hogwash and a fad. I kid you not. I've received emails from readers who go to great length describing how unhappy they are that the media — both the general interest and trade media — are giving way too much press to something that they believe is a waste of money and time.
I'm not sure if these folks are coming from an anti-liberal viewpoint or not, but the reality is this: since before the 1970s, environmentalism has been a part of our social and business psyche. Is it more so today? Absolutely.
There are international agreements on everything from setting energy use standards to elimination of chemicals used in refrigerants that some say damage our atmosphere. Whether we like it or not, the subsequent regulations and laws impact all channels in all industries. I'm talking about the increasing costs to manufacture, costs for handling waste, transporting and storing products, for installing and servicing products, training costs, and more.
"Green" is many things to many different aspects of our international society, but it's not a fad. It's here to stay. And for the most part, the HVACR industry is on-board with this.
Last month I attended the spring meeting of the Air-conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) — the largest trade association for manufacturers in the HVACR industry. One of the keynote speakers at that meeting was Scott Harris, general counsel for The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). He spoke about energy and the U.S. mission to reduce its use. His focus: enforcing the existing and future energy regulations.
Harris told attendees that enforcement of energy regulation is job one, and the DOE is committed to investigating and legally pursuing companies that do not comply with those regulations. The fact is, the DOE has already done this and won.
The good news is that the DOE is happily working with organizations like AHRI, ACCA, and HARDI to make sure the regulations are not only good for the environment, but make sense from a business perspective as well.
By the way — counted among the programs that fall under his jurisdiction are the Energy Star, Home Star, and Building Star initiatives.
Harris ended his talk by saying, "Appropriate enforcement of appropriate regulations is beneficial to American industry. It also unleashes the power of economic innovation."
Energy efficiency and savings is only one aspect of the modern environmental movement, but it's one of the biggest ones that impacts our industry. To say it's a fad is well, irresponsible.
In this issue, our cover story is on our Refrigeration Contractor of the Year winner, Hughes Environmental Engineering, Inc., of Montvale, NJ. Congratulations to this team of professional contractors and engineers whose very mission is to provide efficient systems that are vital to the livelihood of their customers. This company takes the job of environmental stewardism and energy efficiency to heart, and no one there would tell you that "green" is a waste of money or time.
Yes, April 22nd is Earth Day — a day dedicated to teaching and learning about the environment. It should also be about making such social consciousness work in business —and that should be an every day event.