From the CEO

Global climate change may be the greatest challenge that human civilization has faced. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon dioxide levels have built up to critical levels and could in the next 10 years prompt a cascade of disasters, including coastal flooding in Asia, water shortages in Africa and heat waves in North America. Long-term damage has already been done: Scientists say that even if we could stop producing greenhouse gases today, sea levels will probably rise about four feet in the next 1,000 years.

Clearly, this is a crisis of human behavior-one that technology alone is not going to solve. As experts in human behavior, psychologists can help turn the tide, and many of our members are fervently working toward solutions. This issue of the Monitor features some of that work. For instance, our colleagues are conducting and applying research on how best to encourage people to conserve water and other natural resources (see "Changing behaviors by degrees"). They are working to ensure that future generations feel a connection with the outdoors-a critical first step toward caring about the environment (see "Getting back to the great outdoors"). They are fostering green dialogues with their communities.

Starting at home

Of course, it's important to practice what we preach. In 1998, APA's Council of Representatives directed the association's staff to adopt "green" policies whenever possible. To that end, APA's Central Office is committed to reducing the association's carbon footprint in a variety of ways. For example, APA:

  •  Buys renewable energy to power APA's headquarters-including energy reclaimed from landfill gas and energy generated by solar and wind power.

  •  Uses recycled paper in copiers, printers and fax machines, and even for its letterhead paper.

  •  Allows employees to telecommute some part of their work schedule when appropriate for their jobs-a policy that not only reduces carbon emissions but also boosts employee satisfaction.

  •  Encourages employees to use mass transit by allowing them to use pre-tax dollars (up to IRS limits) to pay for allowable commuting expenses.

  •  Reuses our fluorescent tube lighting and recycles the mercury within the bulbs.

  •  Purchases recycled printer cartridges and then recycles the ones we use.

  •  Binds scrap paper for reuse as notepads and reuses moving boxes and interoffice envelopes.

  •  Recycles old computers and related equipment.

  •  Is researching ways to reduce our paper use by giving members the option of seeing newsletters and other member publications online only.

One new effort that I'm particularly excited about is the new green roof garden and labyrinth to be constructed on the top of APA's second building at 10 G St., N.E., in downtown Washington. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, this rooftop garden and labyrinth will absorb storm runoff and reduce the building's energy consumption. (For more details on our plans for the garden and how it will also benefit employees, (see "Restoring nature's footprint").

Finally, we make it a priority to choose APA Annual Convention hotels and meeting centers with good "Earth-keeping" practices, and we provide information to our members so they can chose their lodging with environmental commitment in mind. Last year in San Francisco, for example, we based many convention operations out of the San Francisco Hilton, which is strongly committed to sustainable practices, including composting and recycling not only paper, but paint, batteries and fluorescent bulbs. Similarly, the city's Moscone Center generates much of its electricity through solar panels on the roof and embraces a number of other green practices.

The facilities we'll use this year during our convention in Boston are also environmentally conscious. For example, Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has made it a priority to install energy-saving lights and water-saving toilets and to recycle the products it uses during meetings-everything from the obvious paper, plastic and glass to food (untouched food is donated to local charities) and carpeting (used carpets are recycled into cement blocks and asphalt that show up later in our state highways.)

Our clear duty

By taking on climate change as our responsibility-rather than leaving it to politicians and earth scientists-we can drive home the point that our discipline has real, practical relevance toward addressing society's great challenges. And as experts on behavior change, learning and motivation, we will be a key part of stemming catastrophic damage to the environment.

It's our duty as socially engaged scientists, and it will be our gift to future generations.