Firstly this is about eggs. They can teach us a lot, and by the end of this post I’m going to draw a link between free range eggs and how we procure buildings. But eggs first.
And before I go further: The chicken came first. Something to do with zygotes. Apparently.
So the eggs thing… If we were to line up samples of all of the eggs on the supermarket shelves I’d have to confess that they all look pretty much the same. Equal. A taste test might reveal a little more – there are certainly different tastes between ‘cage’ and ‘organic’ etc., and I know that for many consumers ‘certified organic’ is a clear and reliable label that they will not waver from.
But what’s the deal with ‘free range’?
When I shop I take the time to read labels – I earn this time by racing around like a maniac between products… man on a mission and all that. And the labels on eggs have become increasingly confusing of late. So looked into it. The ‘formal’ national standard that defines ‘free range’ was clarified in March this year – and it means each chook gets at least 1sqm each. What you’ll usually see on labelling is ‘1 hectare per 10,000 chickens’.
Have you ever had chooks? I have, and I can tell you that if they only had 1sqm each the ground would be bare within a day and they’d be at each others’ throats within the week. Chooks are social animals – arguably pretty stupid at times but charmingly smart in the social department.
But the national standard says 1sqm per chook. So that’s what ‘free range’ officially means. According to CHOICE and PETA however the new standard is nothing to crow about, and 1,500 chooks per hectare is a more appropriate maximum.
Be warned that an increasing number of egg carton labels don’t state how many chooks per hectare – they’re now simply saying ‘free range’. You be the judge. I vote with my $, and personally I’m happy to invest a little more in keeping chooks happy, supporting caring businesses and feeding my kids happy omelettes.
So, what’s this got to do with green buildings?
Everything! As an industry we’ve become increasingly adept at energy and water efficiency and many of the physical attributes that comprise a building. We’ll keep getting better.
But one of the next major surges for us is going to be how we deliver buildings. We’re now asking ‘what were the social and community impacts that resulted from the manufacture of this product?’. Think ‘Fair Trade’ for buildings. In my view this has always been the ultimate goal of sustainable development – how can we use development as a vehicle to restore communities and help people who really need help?
A good place to start up-skilling on this is the Australian Supply Chain Sustainability School – they’re doing some cool things that you should know about. Click the logo below to get there.
So the next time you buy eggs – look at the detail on the label. You need to be able to sleuth your way past the marketing and the fine print. As with eggs, so with anything else you buy.
Rather than ‘the ends justify the means’, it should be ‘the means are the ends’.
Happy egg hunting.