There is a scene in the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer where the young chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (played brilliantly by Max Pomeranc) gets upset that his chess teacher (played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley) won't certify him as a GrandMaster--and begins to play poorly and to lose tournament matches intentionally. After a contentious meeting, the teacher reaches into his attache and hands Josh a GrandMaster certificate--and then he pulls out another, and another, and another, and another--before spilling out a whole bag full of hundreds of GrandMaster certificates onto the table and the floor--before walking out of the room. Even though it isn't said--the message to Josh is delivered loud and clear: "You don't need a certificate to prove your are a great chess player."
I thought about that scene last night while watching the Oshkosh Common Council spend an hour and 15-minutes debating whether or not to pay for LEED Certification for the new City Garage. For those of you not familiar, LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was developed by the self-appointed US Green Building Council and consists of dozens of arbitrary standards for what constitutes a "green" building. Even though city planners have already designed the Garage to meet the more expensive standards of LEED "silver" certification, the city's Sustainability Board (and the far left members of the Council) believe that tens of thousands of more dollars need to be spent to get the building "certified". (LEED certification is not free--a shocker I know.)
After all the debate, the Council ultimately decided to save the taxpayers money by just building the Garage to the LEED standards--but not getting the certification. And you know what? The electrical system won't run any less effeciently, and neither will the HVAC system, or the water system or the stormwater collection system. Plus, taxpayers won't be on the hook for millions of dollars to replace systems that are functioning perfectly--but don't meet the arbitrary LEED standards after the USGBC changes them in the future. All that decision will mean is that the Sustainability Board members, when they go to their Sustainability conferences won't be able to brag to their Sustainability counterparts from other cities about how their garage is "LEED Silver Certified".
And that really is a big deal to the "Green Team" members. It's not good enough just to practice eco-friendliness and energy-efficiency--you have to make sure that everyone knows that you are eco-friendly and energy-efficient.
Why do you think the people that bring their own bags to the grocery store always use the bright green ones with the big recycling logo on the side? If the goal is to 'reduce, reuse, recycle", why not just use the Nike gym bags you already have in the basement--instead of buying specific sacks for carrying groceries to the car?
And why do you think they love wind farms so much? It's pretty hard to miss a couple dozen 100-foot tall turbines along the highway making "green energy". While anaerobic digesters have to be hidden in industrial-looking buildings and geo-thermal systems all lie underground.
It's why milions of gallons of non-toxic, soy-based ink and millions of tons of 100% recycled-content paper are used to print labels on packages of 100% recycled-content paper that use non-toxic, soy-based ink.
And it is most definitely why hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles have badges on all four sides letting other drivers know that this is a hybrid or flex-fuel vehicle. I will admit that for hybrids, the badges do serve a safety purpose--as they warn firemen responding to the scene of a crash that they risk electrocution if they try to use the "Jaws of Life" to cut into the car. But as for flex-fuel--doesnt't that only need to be on the gas cap or the tank door, just to remind the driver what they can put in it? My Jeep doesn't have "Unleaded Fuel System" badges all over it.
I guess that if the Sustainability Board needs to have its self-esteem boosted again, we could have City Manager Mark Rohloff download the LEED Silver Certificate from the internet and print off copies (using non-toxic, soy-based ink and 100% recycled-content paper, of course) to hand out to each member at their next meeting. Although, I would rather see him print off about 500-copies and dump the box-full of papers on the board table. Then as he walks out of the room, Rohloff could look over his shoulder and say "There, now you're certified."