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Opinion: Doing something wrong is worse than doing nothing—doing nothing about something wrong is even worse.
Disclosure: I used to be an ISO manufacturing quality auditor—I see mistakes.
A wise woman, and past immediate supervisor, once educated me on the meaning of DIRTFooT—"Do it right the first time, it may take a little longer but the cost of failure is too much.". Wise words. The beauty of these wise words is they can keep providing value, more beautiful if the value they provide is green.
At the time, I was simply delivering technical engineering drawing packages to automotive companies. Of course, each company had its own compliance standards, some had very few. When General Motors* accountants discovered they could contractually delay payment until all "documentation" was delivered to GM requirements, I was called in to help make it happen.
What at first seemed like another "hoop" to jump through for payment was actually a design standard that enabled GM to automate its documentation, distribution, and corporate collaboration horsepower. A noble innovation and extra expense of doing business.
Anyone with security clearance could view GM's engineering drawings on their "computer screen". Requesting paper drawings** wasted millions. Seemed like a great idea, but getting our ~100,000 engineering drawings to conform to GM's new standards needed some work.
The total project was worth $100,000,000 and GM withheld 10%, so $10,000,000. Suddenly what we were doing seemed much more important to vice presidents, sales and the accounting department—were bonuses on the line? Hovering became more common, "Done yet?".
Long story short, it worked the first time and it took a little longer. Our team followed a strict quality process — we did it right the first time! All the important people got paid and promptly disappeared from our cubicles. Voila! This important lesson has stuck with me; take your time, do it right.
The first time I saw Mike Holmes say, "Make it right", I understood what Mike meant. Watching Mike get frustrated with the results of not making "it" right resonates with me. I feel his genuine frustration. As a green designer, seeing broken hopes, scrapped materials shipped away, and all the time wasted is a reminder that not doing it the right the first time can triple the cost of doing things in the first place. It's also really, really, really bad for our environment.
Being greener is a conscious choice, an informed choice. One of my green choices is to walk to shop for my food. Living in The Junction, Toronto, there are many places. On my travels, my "DIRTFooT" always follows—I'm always looking and judging design, it's true. Doing complex things the right the first time is a challenge, but doing simple things right the first time shouldn't, right? So, The City of Toronto, how hard is it to plant a tree? I'm frustrated, just like Mike.
The recent spate of tree planting in my neighborhood made me think that The City of Toronto was doing something smart. My newly privatized garbage service is a mess; broken glass on the street, blowing trash, at least I saw lots of new trees! Can privatized tree planting deliver more for Toronto? How hard is it to plant a tree correctly the first time? Does the City of Toronto have a quality process in place? Is it working?***
They have been planting trees, in some cases, too many trees it seems. They are also planting "more exotic" and more expensive species. I noticed a Cucumber Magnolia was planted in full-leaf, now it's almost dead. The Cucumber Magnolia is a species-at-risk in Ontario, so, who is performing the risk analysis of not planting these correctly? It's great that The City of Toronto is trying to support complex biodiversity, but if we can't water or plant these species correctly, what's the point?
I also noticed "they" planted a maple, an oak, and a walnut all within 20 feet of each other. I also noticed that some of these trees had damaged crowns, less than optimum, I hope that the City of Toronto isn't paying for normal trees.
Does overcrowding trees force them to seek water when they start competing with each other? Since the larger a tree gets, the better it performs, shouldn't the City of Toronto ensure each tree has the proper space to flourish and grow quickest to achieve this better bigger-tree "performance"?
My walks to the store have also revealed that some newly planted trees are dead or dying. Seeing as these are probably 5-year-old trees being planted, they are expensive to buy, expensive to transport, and expensive to plant. A conservative estimate of 5-10%, of these recently planted trees, are dead or at risk of dying. With our hot and dry summer, it seems Toronto didn't protect its investment with a smart process that considered climate risks and strategies.
That Cucumber Magnolia, that's almost dead, was never watered after it was planted in full-leaf. It was also planted loosely in the ground; if a tree isn't firmly planted, new roots won't develop as well. Planting trees is also best done when trees are more dormant, late fall or very early spring, not after they are in full-leaf and during dry times. Plopping living trees into new holes on a hot summer day isn't a smart method unless lots of watering is included in the process. Many trees planted last summer are dead as well. Yes, it's been a tough summer on most plants, so how well will is Toronto adapting to our new climate?
As a former auditor, sometimes the tiniest clues can reveal bigger problems. The simple things should be done correctly, it's 2016! How hard is getting all the garbage into the truck? How hard is planting a tree? If the City of Toronto**** is failing on some of the simple things, how are our more complex projects working?
* - please don't sue me General Motors.
** - A design document made of paper, a physical substance created using trees.
*** - totally a trick question! Zing!
**** - please don't sue me City of Toronto.