The Truth About Sustainability

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin

Throughout my career, the term “sustainability” has become a buzz word to denote fancy, costly, and high visibility renewable energy projects. Whenever I am approached, people start talking about solar photovoltaic panels (fancy, costly, high visibility), and I respond, “Have you minimized all your waste to the point that an investment in solar panels gives you your greatest returns?” Invariably, the answer is no. While many people are well intended, they often overlook simple sustainability measures that are not fancy, costly, or high visibility, and are often mundane. Most energy and water savings I have implemented are actually very simple and low cost. But why are they often overlooked? Because people and organizations often lack the systems to identify where they may be wasting energy, water, or other natural resources.

This requires data collection over many years including modifications to systems, buildings, and operations, organizing it, and creating a tool to visualize the data to be able to act on it. While it takes time upfront to implement a system, the long-term savings from identifying waste and taking corrective measures is the greatest tool in the sustainability toolkit in my opinion. With such a tool, I have identified water leaks wasting millions of gallons and hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for example. Without such a tool, the leaks would have continued undetected. Repairing a leak is a mundane everyday task that is very low cost and not high visibility, except in the water and cost savings associated with it.

This was my motivation to create Aletheia Analytica. Too often in the sustainability world, people get carried away with buzz words, fancy technology, and high visibility items, without looking into the data to see the story it is telling. By collecting and analyzing the data, we can tell the story of past consumption and take corrective actions in the present to shape the future.