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The 1% Solutions
Alex Steffen, 2 Jan 05

Ally Alan Durning, over at Northwest Environment Watch's Cascadia Scorecard reminds us that a number of important solutions are starting to gain measurable impact in the Pacifici Northwest:

"I’m speaking of budding trends toward a durable way of life in Cascadia. The region reached the vicinity of 1 percent on a number of heartening, if incipient, measures during the past twelve months."

Now, one percent may not seem like much, but the first percent or two -- like the first million -- are often the hardest. Getting one percent of anyone to do anything is a sign that there is at least hope of reaching a tipping point soon. Innovation diffusion always starts with small numbers. As Alan says, "In less arcane terms, that means the next step after 1 percent may not be 2 percent but 10 percent. So let's hope 2005 is the year of 10 percent."

So what trends bode well?

Here's Alan's list:

"In British Columbia’s Fraser Basin—the heart of agriculture in western Canada—there are now almost 100 certified organic farms, as the Fraser Basin Council reports (pdf, page 5). That’s 1 percent of all basin farms. Organic isn’t the alpha and omega of environmental responsibility... but it’s something.

"The area of Cascadia’s forestland managed under the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council has risen steeply since the late 1990s. It hit 1.8 million acres in 2004 after the announcement of Potlatch’s certifying its Idaho lands. That’s roughly 1 percent of the region’s forestland.

"The green building movement surged in 2004, drawing a lot of media attention along the way. ... Reliable figures on total buildings (thousands!) under construction are hard to come by, but my guesstimate suggest the LEED segment is at least in the ballpark of 1 percent of new construction. And LEED has yet to issue guidelines for the vast residential building market.

"Wind power now provides about 1 percent of electricity in the Northwest states. Virtually all this power has come online since 2000.

"The region’s (mostly new) voluntary green power purchasing programs are growing nicely: they recently saturated 1 percent of the market...

"Hybrids, especially the Toyota Prius, are hot commodities, moving so fast from dealers’ lots that waiting lists run to months. They remain a tiny fraction of the region’s fleet, but I bet they’ve exceeded the 1 percent mark, as a share of new vehicles sold."

These and other bright green solutions are nearing critical mass. 2005 may prove to be the year when sustainable prosperity goes white hot.

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