Sustainability execs' non-green guilty pleasures

Even the most admirable human beings are only human. A disposable cup full of fresh, hot coffee is hard to resist.

As 2014 comes to a close, we asked members of the GreenBiz Executive Network, our member-based, peer-to-peer learning forum for sustainability professionals, to join us in a lighthearted confessional. These brave souls are willing to stand up and be shamed, so please be gentle in your responses.

I share many of their guilty pleasures, including travel, eating meat and playing golf (which I've always contended more CSOs should take up because it's a good way to hang with others in the C-suite). If I had to add one more, it's that I like printed text on paper. I like the heft of a good novel, thumbing back pages to remind me what a character said or did. But maybe I can offset that with one of my sustainable pleasures: watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series every other year. Actually, that’s probably not that sustainable, but in our profession being optimistic helps us focus on the change we want to see.

Here’s what our members said when we asked: What is your unsustainable guilty pleasure?

Vince Digneo, sustainability specialist, Adobe

Vince Digneo, Sustainability Specialist, Adobe
Digneo
Homebrewing. I've been doing it since college and while the good news is that all waste generated goes to compost (I keg the beer, so no bottles), the bad news is that there is no waste — it all gets consumed. As long as I swim, bike and run, it's sustainable. But just barely.

Bob Langert, Corporate VP, CSR/Sustainability, McDonald's Corporation
Langert
Bob Langert, corporate VP, CSR/Sustainability, McDonald's Corporation

I’ve always loved the '60s Ford Mustang. This year, I purchased a new 2015 Ford Mustang. Obviously, its benefit to society is not fuel economy. So I am guilty on the carbon footprint measuring stick, but high on the charts for happiness and joy, which is part of sustainable living, no?

Kathrin Winkler, Chief Sustainability Officer, EMC Corporation
Winkler

Kathrin Winkler, chief sustainability officer, EMC Corporation

I like a good filet (though only grassfed, no growth hormones, no antibiotics. Still …)

Asheen Phansey, Environmental Sustainability Manager, Dassault Systèmes
Phansey
Asheen Phansey, environmental sustainability manager, Dassault Systèmes

Looking at my own footprint numbers, flying is easily my single most impactful activity; and yet I enjoy traveling for work (within limits) and love traveling for fun. I carbon-offset all of my travel (I use TerraPass). Does that absolve me of carbon guilt? Intellectually I think it should, but emotionally, I kinda feel guilty that I don't feel guilty. … I wrote a blog post about this, would love to hear others' thoughts.

Jeff Rehm, Sr. Manager Corporate Facilities & Global Sustainability, W. W. Grainger
Rehm
Jeff Rehm, sr. manager corporate facilities and global sustainability, W. W. Grainger

Cup-a-Soups. Not only do they come in styrofoam containers, I’m pretty sure the contents are equally toxic. They’re just so delicious.

Brandy Wilson, Director of Sustainability, CH2MHill
Wilson
Brandy Wilson, director of sustainability, CH2MHill

My SUV, a Toyota 4Runner. I take it camping, it pulls the rafting trailer and it makes trips to Home Depot; otherwise, I mostly drive my tiny fuel-efficient car. But I fully admit to having a huge crush on the truck.

Jenny Cross, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Mohawk Industries
Cross
Jenny Cross, vice president corporate sustainability, Mohawk Industries

For myriad reasons, including my cholesterol — BACON.

Andy Wu, principal, corporate social responsibility, CA Technologies

Andy Wu, Principal, Corporate Social Responsibility, CA Technologies
Wu
Travel is probably the obvious one, but another one of my "guilty non-green pleasures" is golf. It’s not the best use of resources (land, water, etc.), but I enjoy the time and conversation spent with friends during a round. Also, since it's a game that can be played at any age, I hope to one day play a round with my children and grandchildren.

Holly Emerson, Senior Analyst, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Ingersoll Rand

Holly Emerson, Senior Analyst, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Ingersoll Rand
Emerson
My guilty pleasure is definitely long distance riding on my BMW 650GS. The flip side is that I get to experience and appreciate this amazing country in a way that is just not possible in a car.

Dave Stangis, Vice President, Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company; President, Campbell Soup Foundation
Stangis
Dave Stangis, vice president, public affairs and corporate responsibility, Campbell Soup Company; president, Campbell Soup Foundation

Growing up and working in Detroit, I can’t say I’d feel very guilty about driving around in a Ford GT or Shelby GT 500 — if I received one as a gift.

Scott Weislow, senior director, environmental services, Best Buy Co., Inc.

Scott Weislow, Senior Director – Environmental Services, Best Buy Co., Inc.
Weislow
My personal guilty pleasure relative to the world I work in is that I secretly cherish  my 1991 Mitsubishi 27-inch CRT TV! She hums a little, but the picture is still one of the best around! However, leading the world’s largest retail electronics recycling program is a tad in conflict with this behavior, particularly since we are driving to help reduce the CRT problem across the country. I should probably recycle it responsibly in 2015.

Deborah Hecker, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, Sodexo North America
Hecker
Deborah Hecker, vice president, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, Sodexo North America

Drinking bottled water.

Josh Henretig, Senior Director of Energy, Environment & Cities, Microsoft Corp.
Henretig
Josh Henretig, senior director of energy, environment and cities, Microsoft Corp. 

Personally, I love the outdoors (surprise surprise) and especially skiing in the Cascade mountains. I know that the vehicle itself and the countless trips I take with my family and friends to the surrounding ski hills isn’t the most sustainable pastime, but the personal enjoyment I get overshadows any guilt that I may feel.

Shannon Schuyler, PwC Charitable Foundation
Schuyler
Shannon Schuyler, principal, corporate responsibility leader, PwC; President, PwC Charitable Foundation        

Right now, it is good old-fashioned holiday lights vs. the LED kind that are too bright and make you look chalky!

Tom Carpenter, director, sustainability services, Waste Management

Tom Carpenter, Director, Sustainability Services, Waste Management
Carpenter
Craft beer.  (The more obscure, seasonal or odd collaborations.  I travel a bit and try to stop by the local craft breweries for a taste and smuggle a few bottles home.) This is not sustainable in that I drink too much. The issue is that it is a growing expenditure that will surely end after my wife totals up the cost for the year.

Brett Illers, program manager energy efficiency and sustainability, Yahoo

Brett Illers, Program Manager Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, Yahoo
Illers
My unsustainable guilty pleasure is that I enjoy drinking coffee out of disposable paper cups. Even though I know it is bad for the Earth and I know my affection for using disposable cups has added to deforestation and the Pacific Ocean garbage patch,  I love the convenience and I have convinced myself that it actually tastes better. In the past, people have tried to shame by showing me statistics on the damage my paper cup addiction has been causing — to no avail. People have even gone as far as buy me mugs to try to curb my affinity for disposable cups, but after a few uses they end up growing mold on my desk. I have come to embrace my faults and I hope you all will understand it is an addiction that I cannot give up because I am weak.

Nicola Peill-Moelter, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Akamai Technologies
Peill-Moelter
Nicola Peill-Moelter, director of environmental sustainability, Akamai Technologies

Travel. Travel makes up more than 85 percent of my carbon footprint, but it connects me with wonderful people and places.