Monday, January 9, 2012


As my daughter begins her adult life (she's in Kanazawa, Japan this month doing a winter semester Japanese language intensive), I've thought a great deal about the world she will inherit from me.

I've lived in the creatively vibrant 1960's, the economic doldrums of the 1970's, the go-go 1980's, the .com era of the 1990's, the post 9/11 unrest of the 2000's, and the recovery/reform of the 2010's.

During my lifetime, my rubric for success has changed from one that is judged by salary/position/power to one that is measured by making a difference, living with a small footprint, and ensuring sustainability for the next generation.

I usually write about such topics in my Thursday personal blog post, but I think the concept of sustainability impacts the way we work every day so it's worth a Monday discussion.

Over the past 25 years the US has evolved from a manufacturing economy to a consumer economy that depends upon increasing consumption for success.  Unless we grow exponentially - population, sales, and spending - our current economy falters.   Since our resources and planet are finite, any strategy based on endless growth will fail.

As I begin the next stage of my life (and we successfully treat my wife's cancer), I believe my best gift to my daughter is sustainability - reducing my consumption of natural resources, reducing my carbon footprint, reducing my contribution to landfills, reducing my belongings/their turnover (what I buy and what I replace), and living closer to the land at a pace supported by nature.

As part of the cancer treatment process, it's important for my wife and me to have long term goals - what will we be doing in 5 years and what can we look forward to?

My wife and I have begun looking at land, discussed low impact/high energy efficiency building strategies, and considered how our community gardening/vegan lifestyle can be extended via additional organic farming activities in Eastern Massachusetts.   We've looked at ways to reduce our travel including finding property close to rail lines that will enable us to stop driving in congested traffic and instead take the commuter rail into Boston every day.

Along the way, a few books are guiding our exploration

The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It by John Seymour
Green from the Ground Up by David Johnston and Scott Gibson
Alternative Construction by Lynne and Cassandra Adams
Back to Basics by Abigail Gehring
Self Sufficiency by Abigail Gehring

I will strive to apply the same principles in my business life as well.  Beyond reducing my commute, I will continue to closely manage the power consumption of the data centers I oversee, eliminate the use of paper in clinical workflows, and embrace recycling/reuse/reduction in procurements.

The best thing I can do to support my daughter's generation is to ensure there is healthy planet for her to live in.

You'll see many posts in the future about our sustainability efforts.


Javier said...

"Sustainability"...or "Downloading"? This is the big question.

If we agree not to change the model, we refer to "Sustainability".

But I consider we MUST change the model too. Then we have to talk about "Downloading".

I agree with you it's the best thing we can do for next generations...but I'm not really sure, altruism is a rising value...

Justin Wiley said...

Excellent post. also has some insightful thoughts on sustainability and constrained growth

Anonymous said...

I lived a bit south in Osaka. Realizing this is off topic (plus I think I recall reading you have been a couple times). But, if she has any tour time and needs suggestions, there are some wonderful places and events I could recommend.

Anonymous said...

You and your readers may be interested in a Degrowth conference coming up:
International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas - Montreal May 13-19 2012 – sponsored by Montreal universities

With my very best wishes......

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered living in the city of Boston? If the greenest brick is the one that's already in the wall, we should seek to re-purpose existing buildings embedded in existing infrastructure to maximize the utility of resources already expended. Living in an existing city also often means a shorter travel distance to work and other institutions, lessening the resources required for transportation. Additionally, by living in cities we can create population density, which provides the neighborly relationships necessary to develop a community of individuals who care for each other and the environment in which they live.

John Halamka said...

City living is certainly an option, but not a panacea. He's a thoughtful article about it. Vermont/Burlington seems to have figured out a reasonable balance.

GanguliR said...

Once again you (and your wife are an inspiration to us. Best wishes to you both.

Kevin Rosenjack said...

The $64 Tomato is a fantastic read if you are ever looking for something on the lighter side.


cervicalgia said...

Another good book suggestion that deals with the concept of sustainability in the context of today's modern life is Twelve by Twelve

Will Ross said...

John - - obviously in your chosen climate the Four Season Farm and other titles by Coleman will be classic touchstones.