Business as usual?

Jan. 11, 2008
Editor in Chief Paul Studebaker says change only happens if you want it.

I’m old enough to think widespread use of bottled water is a recent and unnecessary phenomenon, so I was heartened when the City of Chicago levied a five-cent-per-bottle tax, effective Jan. 1. Mayor Richard Daley stood by the stalwart managers of the city’s water works and sanitation departments and spoke in terms I could appreciate about the excellent quality, widespread availability and low cost of Lake Michigan-sourced, lovingly treated and reliably pumped tap water, and the excessive costs in both dollars and the environment for manufacturing, hauling and dealing with the trash associated with water bottles.

Philosophically, Chicago joined San Francisco, which last year banned its departments from using city money to buy bottled water, and New York, which is encouraging citizens to consume tap water to cut down on high levels of packaging waste. Around the globe, environmental groups are pressuring restaurants and other vendors to offer tap water instead of selling bottled water.

“Score one for common sense,” I thought. “This one’s a no-brainer – bottled water is an evil phenomenon of greed, marketing and ignorance. Surely people will see the wisdom and want to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions with the small sacrifice of returning to the perfectly delicious tap water of Chicago and other great communities.”

Naive and silly me. Within days of the Chicago law taking effect, food and beverage special interests filed lawsuits claiming the tax is unconstitutional and unfair, and will cause residents to travel outside the city to avoid the onerous five-cent tax. I think their real concern is people being reminded of an environmental effect at the store and foregoing the purchase. But if they succeed, the effect will be the same either way: business as usual.

And if they don’t and the tax stands, will bottled-water chuggers change their habits? I doubt it – they’ll simply feel more justified in their environmental stance since, after all, they’re paying for it.

Established habits are tough to break. At the start of this election year, there’s more than the usual amount of talk about change, but talking, encouraging – even demanding – are puny tools when you’re asking people to behave differently.

However, new habits are easy to make if you like them enough. We’re certainly going to need new habits to help solve the energy, environmental, economic, staffing, security and multitude of other problems facing industrial facilities.

Our new year’s resolution is to introduce you to good new habits. We’ll do a better job than ever of showing you ways to improve your working world. We’ll not only inform you, we’ll entertain, amaze and inspire you.

We’ll do it on the Web, in print and in person, and we’ll do it with the help of the best people in industrial maintenance, reliability, efficiency and asset management: our readers and site visitors, our contributors and experts, our professors, sponsors and consultants. Maybe you.

If you believe that a strong and steady flow of high-quality know-how and inspiration can make a difference, think of us as being on tap, and see if you don’t pick up some good new habits.

E-mail Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief, at [email protected].

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