We are currently in a pivotal point in our world's history - the choices we make today will impact future generations. We need to change our consumptive habits, adjust our resource dependencies and create more sustainable social, economic and political models. To do this, we will need the network, which represents the only tool available right now that has been able to permeate all parts of the globe to create opportunities for improvement and action.
It will take everyone - so we all must understand it and then figure out how to use it to best shape the changes we want to see. This is one reason I set out to write The Sustainable Network - to try to create some awareness of the role the network plays in our lives, businesses and governments - in hopes that with understanding we can collectively innovate and better leverage this amazing connective tool to really affect change.
While long-term, transformative solutions involve the collective whole, meaningful progress often starts with a lot of little changes at an individual level. So in answer to the question I often get asked, "What can I, as an individual, do right now to better leverage the network and be more sustainable," I have these 10 suggestions:
1. Look at reducing your paper usage. For example, sign up for online banking without monthly statements--in fact, almost all of your bills can be managed and paid online.
2. Make a commitment to learn how to make and use digital documents (such as PDFing your documents using Adobe Acrobat) and then start to use them in emails and archive them in an easy to manage way to keep a digital paper trail.
3. Use online forms and applications whenever possible, taking advantage of both the convenience and environmental benefits. Lobby your favorite companies to reduce their packaging and paper usage. Ask for a digital product guide, prospectus, annual report, online warranty, etc.
4. Actively manage your energy consumption - if you have a smart meter, try to understand and optimize your consumption habits through the utility company's portal (if it has one). If you don't have a smart meter, push your utility company or state government to adopt them.
5. Check out applications such as Tendril (www.tendrilinc.com/), Google's PowerMeter (www.google.org/powermeter/), or iControl (www.icontrol.com/) to understand and make better decisions about your energy consumption.
6. Think about how frequently you upgrade the electronic devices you use to connect to the network (think cell phone and laptop). Determine when you really need the latest and greatest, and make sure to recycle any electronics you discard (or better yet, look into donating it to someone to extend the device's life and extend the reach and resources of the network to someone in need).
7. Research purchases online to make the best decisions. Educate yourself on what the network can do for you and how you can use it to improve your life and community.
9. Evaluate how much of your job you could do from home. Talk to your boss about setting up a regular telecommuting schedule-- for example, one day a week.
10. Look at your upcoming business travel plans; could you substitute an online meeting for any of them? Try the virtual conference option for the next show you are planning to attend.
Of course these represent only a small sampling of the things that we can each do. Then there are the broader industry (McKinsey has a report that names no less than 200 opportunities for industries to use the network to reduce their impact), country and international efforts that will leverage information communications technology in their initiatives to achieve sustainability goals. The fact is we are just at the beginning of using the network to it's full advantage - the potential lists of what's possible are only just starting to be written.