Stanley Bing

My carbon footprint

I don't want to change the way I live. Still, things are getting kind of scary. San Francisco is too cold. New York is too hot. Something's got to give.

By Stanley Bing

(Fortune Magazine) -- I don't know about you, but I'm starting to take this whole global warming thing sort of seriously. I realize that in saying this I'll offend two groups of people immediately.

There are those who will be mad at me for coming to the party late. They've already hit Defcon 2 on the situation - they've been wearing hemp and drinking locally grown chai latte for years. I know, I've been bad. I've ignored my carbon footprint.

On the other side will be those who are sick of tree-hugging weenies. I sympathize with these people too. I don't want to change the way I live. I like being a big, gas-guzzling, meat-eating, foreign-beverage-swigging, forest-decimating, ozone-sucking American. I don't want to wake up one morning and find I've turned into an eco-friendly dork munching an organic carrot while sitting behind the wheel of a hybrid that has the horsepower of a go-cart and a FREE TIBET sticker on its bumper.

Still, things are getting kind of scary. San Francisco is too cold. New York is too hot. When I was in L.A. this past winter, it snowed. Birds that normally hang out in northern Africa have been seen in Scotland. Perhaps worst of all, sometimes it gets way too warm in my office. I have to turn on my desk fan to stay cool, increasing my carbon footprint. Something's got to give.

I'd like to change, but I'm not sure I can. The problem is my image as a businessperson. A lot of what we do depends on the strength of the aura we create for ourselves. How are we to maintain that feisty, responsibly macho edge while stepping up to the plate before it disappears beneath a tide of polar ice melt?

I'm supposed to stop flying so much. How can I do that? Walk to L.A. twice a month? How am I going to maintain my standing as a heavy hitter if I don't work the Left Coast?

There's the issue of public transportation in general. Did you ever see an executive on a bus? Only in limp-biscuit places like England. Or sharing a car? Every day, there they are in the carpool lane, sedans filled with guys in suits, staring in front of them with their Starbucks cups. God help me. I've worked for years not to sit too close to other people unless I choose to and they smell good. That's all over now? What about my limo?

They tell me bottled water is a problem. "Tap water is safe to drink in most European and North American countries," say the folks at, "yet people still insist on buying bottled water. If the bottle is labeled as being from volcanic springs - you can bet that it has probably been imported from some distance. Imagine the carbon footprint of the flight/shipping of the water!"

I see what they mean. But carrying a bottle of water into meetings is almost mandatory now. Lawyers like to stay totally hydrated in all venues, and the finance guys are right behind them. What now? Walk around with a glass of tap water? Doesn't seem right.

What about the obsession with locally produced stuff? The world offers us a host of great things to eat and drink! New Zealand lamb! French wine! I don't know. Can I really stop purchasing Italian suits? Grow my own tomatoes in a box outside my window? Eschew packaged goods? Raise my hand at a strategic planning session and say, "Hey, Larry, that sounds like a good idea, but is it sustainable?"

Most troubling is the news that I just read about Ontario, where the premier is urging government workers to wear casual clothing this summer so that offices can be kept slightly less chilly. This is terrifying. My act is almost totally dependent on my suit. A necktie has become slightly less important, particularly after Steve Jobs succeeded in redefining the low end of corporate attire. But my suit is 74% of my credibility. If I showed up in a polo shirt and cutoffs, it just might be over for me.

So while my commitment is strong, it may be too late for me to reduce the size of my carbonized feet. All is not lost, however. The Kyoto agreement established the concept of carbon credits for businesses that wish to continue to belch fumes and drink bottled water. The idea is simple. Bad, smelly entities that exceed rational guidelines must purchase carbon credits, which are then available to good companies that turn them into trees, or something like that.

I suggest the same deal for oil-swilling, steak-munching, eight-cylinder monstrosities like me. Let's create carbon credits for individuals. A system would have to be created, of course. And a person would have to be found to administer it. Hmm ...

Al Gore is still out of a job, isn't he?

STANLEY BING's new book, Crazy Bosses (Collins), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at and on his website,  Top of page

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