Since 1995 to the present, Interface has decreased its energy use per unit by 43%, renewable energy use is down 30%, greenhouse gases have been reduced by 44%, waste sent to landfills is down 77%, and water use per unit is down 80% on their Mission Zero journey to transform the company's footprint, products and culture by 2020.
Singapore: A City Within a Garden
A few days ago in Singapore, I commented to a friend on how green the city was. She told me that the vision of Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was not to merely create a city with gardens, but to create a city within a garden.
The two main objectives for this strong vision were to attract investors and to improve the quality of life for Singapore’s citizens. Urban concrete jungles, particularly in a hot climate, can drain the human spirit, whereas nature is restorative. This verdant landscape was also a way to demonstrate Singapore’s efficiency and quality of life in order to attract outside investment. Singapore relies greatly on relationships and commerce with the outside world. With 15.5% growth in GDP last year, Singapore is not only surviving, but thriving – in the midst of one of the worst global economic downturns in history.
The initial verdant vision grew in 2000 to become a “Model Green City – A Tropical City of Excellence”. Beyond vision, Singapore had comprehensive strategies, policies and plans. Its policies and measures for integrating growth with the environment were in place decades before the term “sustainable development” was published in the 1987 Brundtland Report. Under the 1992 Singapore Green Plan, six workgroups were established in the areas of environmental education, environmental technology, resource conservation, clean technologies, environmental noise and nature conservation.
Leadership was a key element in Singapore achieving its vision. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew put sustainable development as a priority and integrated this vision throughout government policies and its infrastructure. Singapore’s size is certainly another success factor. With approximately 5 million inhabitants today, Singapore is at the same time an island, a country and a city.
Culture is another critical aspect. Another country similar in size, location and challenges might not have the same results, even with a strong vision, leadership and plans. The culture in Singapore is one of pride, hard work, strong values, efficiency and compliance. They respect the laws and expect others to do the same. They live harmoniously in this heavily populated area. Every area, regardless of socio-economic status or ethnicity is clean and safe.
All of these assets can also become challenges in becoming more sustainable. Located three degrees from the equator, “air con” is widely available, even in underground malls connecting parts of the city. As a technology hub, energy use is high. One wonders how long it will be before this land of sun and heat will adopt solar technology. There is much construction in Singapore. The joke is that their national bird is the crane (the tall metal kind – sans feathers). This growth must surely provide opportunities for green building. Education is another national priority area that could certainly benefit by integrating sustainability throughout the system.
The Singlish shorthand “can” means – yes, we can make this happen. Vision, leadership, strategies, plans and culture. The same is needed for sustainable development everywhere – in businesses, communities, education and our own homes. Can!