Green Line Series | State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations

suitasOn this installment of the Green Line Series we will be bringing you something a little different. We recently had the opportunity to interview two of our speakers on the session What’s Next? The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations. We are excited to provide perspectives and a glimpse into the session from Matias Valenzuela, Director, Office of Equity and Social Justice, King County and Sudha Nandagopal, Strategic Policy Advisor, Environmental Justice & Service Equity Division, Seattle Public Utilities.

GoGreen Conference: The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations report is billed as “the most comprehensive report on diversity in the environmental movement”. Compiled by a working group of environment and equity thought leaders, Green 2.0. investigates the disconnect between green activism and social equity at NGO’s foundations and Government Agencies across the country.

In your opinion – what does the Green 2.0 report mean to the state of diversity in environmental organizations? What are the top things businesses can do to improve?

Sudha Nandagopal: The Green 2.0 report was an important marker to report on what many of us have observed. The environmental movement, especially our leadership, has to change in order to better reflect the communities most-impacted by environmental injustices and to engage the rising American electorate: a population of people who are incredibly racially diverse and facing huge issues of income inequality, rapid globalization, and a changing climate. We are all seeing the stark differences in racial outcomes throughout all levels of our society and this report’s findings are relevant for organizations, government, and businesses as we consider our leadership and services

Businesses and organizations have an important role to help address these disparities and strengthen communities. Both businesses and organizations must assess who is and isn’t benefiting from their services and create opportunities for people of color to lead sustainability efforts. From that assessment, businesses can begin to understand how to shift their products, services, and hiring/retention practices to better reflect and grow their customer base now and into the future. Additionally, businesses can bring a strong social responsibility lens to their programs and build partnerships with people of color, immigrant, refugee, and low-income communities through focused, community-led, culturally relevant efforts.  Through these focused efforts we can shift not only who is in the room, but who has the power to shape and influence decisions, programs, and policy.

Matías Valenzuela: The Green 2.0 report is an urgent call to action for environmental organizations. In short, there is a “green ceiling” for people of color, and this should be of great concern to environmental organizations. Nationally we will be majority “minority,” or majority people of color, by approximately 2043. We will reach this number in our King County region about 10 years sooner than that. So we have a diversity explosion in our hands. At the same time, only 12-16% of those in environmental organizations are people of color.

There are a number of steps that organizations can take to make changes. Organizations need to track their numbers and do internal assessments, then develop plans and goals that make the organization accountable and move the organization towards greater diversity.

Importantly, it’s not just about increasing diversity in the workforce, but also workplace inclusion – this means creating a culture within the organization that encourages respect and trust for all individuals, and creates a workplace that is open and welcoming of new and different points of view. Differences in backgrounds and perspectives within organizations are assets, and organizations need to be able to have these discussions. Diversity and racial equity trainings and discussions are key in advancing an organization’s culture, and need to accompany the plans to increase workforce diversity.

GoGreen Conference: Can you describe what programs Environmental Justice & Service Equity (EJSE) has been working on? What are the challenges in implementing these programs? What are the successes?

Sudha Nandagopal: Our work in the Environmental Justice and Service Equity Division spans a huge range of issues. We work directly with people of color, immigrant, refugee, and low-income communities to build partnerships and address historic inequities in service delivery. We also work internally to coach our colleagues to embed racial equity in strategic business plans, decision-making, project design, and delivery.

For instance, right now we are working in partnership with people-of-color led community organizations to design programs that will engage our communities in the new food waste requirement that Seattle adopted in 2014.

Some of your businesses may experience challenges when the city rolls out new requirements – you may need to let your staff know how to operate differently, change how you work with customers and create new ways of doing business. Imagine if you were of limited-English proficiency or that you had only recently moved to the area or imagine that you have had a historic pattern of having the negative impacts of policy fall more heavily on your community. These are the kinds of barriers many in our communities face every day.

We know there’s a huge opportunity to support people of color, immigrant, refugee, and low-income communities in participating in composting and recycling. We also know that these communities are eager to work with Seattle Public Utilities to figure out ways to lift up existing cultural practices, build their skills, and create opportunities for long-term community environmental stewardship.

By working with community groups to design the projects, we can create relevant programs, unearth and utilize existing practices, create connections between community leaders to coach and support one-another and refine our programs to better connect with and build capacity in communities. We have to take an active learning role, start where people are at rather than making assumptions, increase capacity, and build upon existing resources.

GoGreen Conference: King County recently released the Equity and Social Justice Annual Report. What are the most important takeaways and what does this report mean for the future?

Matías Valenzuela: The report reveals that disturbing inequities persists in King County and that a person’s quality of life is greatly impacted by where they live, and by their race. For example: average household income in one ZIP code can be $100,000 less than in another just a few miles away; average life expectancy can be 10 years shorter in one place than another; and unemployment among African Americans is twice what it is for whites.

We know that we can take some concerted steps to make changes and increase opportunity for our residents.

As an example, we increased access to affordable health care, led by our Executive Dow Constantine, with an all-hands-on-deck approach that mobilized County agencies and community organizations to help nearly 200,000 people in King County sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, cutting the uninsured rate by more than one-third. The enrollment outreach targeted uninsured populations with the greatest needs, such as Latinos, African Americans, and limited-English speakers in South King County—creating greater access to critical preventative services such as vaccinations, screenings for cancer or mental-health issues, and treatment for chronic conditions.

And we are working to expand opportunity where people live. Based upon research which shows the place where one lives has a dramatic impact on his or her trajectory in life, King County and The Seattle Foundation launched Communities of Opportunity—an initiative to improve health, racial, and socioeconomic equity in communities, building on community assets and know-how.

More recently, we created a nationally-recognized low-income bus fare for our lower-income Metro Transit riders.

In our workforce, we are working to ensure greater equity, diversity, and opportunity in our changing workplace.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595. Early Bird rates are good through Friday, March 27, 2015. Single Admission Early Bird Tickets are $175 and Group Rate Early Bird Tickets are $150 (groups of two or more).  Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.

Green Lines Series | Alaska Airlines Drives Sustainability Forward

Joe SpragueWe are very excited to welcome Joe Sprague, Senior Vice President of Communications and External Relations at Alaska Airlines as a Keynote at GoGreen Seattle 2015 on April 30th.  Joe is the executive sponsor and champion of Alaska Airlines’ sustainability initiatives and chairs Alaska’s Sustainability Steering Committee.

Join us and learn more about how  Alaska Airlines Sustainability Steering committee sets their goals and drives sustainability initiatives forward.

GoGreen: How does Alaska come up with goals and metrics and then report back on the success of the Alaska Sustainability Program?

Joe Sprague: We have our executive-level sustainability steering committee which approves and prioritizes the metrics and goals.  Before goals get to the steering committee level for approval we have three working groups, representing the three pillars of sustainability (people, planet and performance) that help identify the priority issues in each area.    The working groups consists of senior management employees across the company who take into consideration regulatory and policy factors, stakeholder concerns, opportunities for innovation, and peer-based norms when setting our goals.  It’s a little like watching sausage being made sometimes, but ultimately it works.

GoGreen: Tell us about your proudest sustainability achievements over the past 5 years.

Joe Sprague: Two stand out in my mind for different reasons.  The first one is becoming the most fuel efficient (and carbon efficient) airline in the nation.  We’ve decreased the intensity of our carbon footprint by more than 30% in the past 10 years.

We invested millions of dollars in our fleet, so that we are flying the most fuel efficient aircraft available for our type of flying (and we purchase our planes locally, at a little company nearby called Boeing, by the way).  We also fly them extremely efficiently – we pioneered Required Navigation Performance in the early ‘90s to fly more precise (and efficient routes).  That type of technology is now being used in the Greener Skies over Seattle program which is reducing emissions and noise over the Seattle basis by flying more direct and efficient routes into the airport.  The neat thing is, this technology and flight procedures are now available to all other airlines, so that they can reduce their emissions and noise too.

The other achievement I am proud of is our inflight recycling program.  Our sister carrier, Horizon, was the first airline in the nation to implement a robust inflight recycling program in the late 1990’s.  What started as a grassroots effort by engaged employees has expanded into one of our service standards.  Now at both Alaska and Horizon, we capture the cups, bottles, paper, and cans to make sure they are recycled when we reach the next catering location.  This program has been an enormously challenging project. At Alaska Airlines alone, we remove (or “deplane”) our inflight waste in about 40 cities throughout 21 states and each city has a different infrastructure and requirements for sorting and recycling. We are especially proud of the flight attendants, who are now separating  more than 81 percent (AS & QX combined) of the recyclable materials during inflight service and we give kudos to our catering department and contract flight kitchens who support our recycling goals with 100 percent participation.

GoGreen: How does Alaska stand out against the competition as a leader in the airline and transportation industry around sustainability?

Joe Sprague: Alaska has ranked at the top of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) U.S Domestic Airline Fuel Efficiency Ranking list for four years in a row (since they began analyzing data). This last year, it was a 3-way tie for first place, but with the fleet improvements we have planned, we’re hoping to recapture the top spot next year.

Today, Alaska and Horizon are the only U.S. domestic carriers to recycle mixed recyclables (including glass, paper, plastic and aluminum) on every flight.

Alaska has implemented many advancements  to stand apart from the competition over the years:

  • 1st use of sustainable aviation biofuel on regularly scheduled flights
  • 1st wind turbine installed at our Nome airport
  • We developed and are using the only solar-powered ground support equipment.
  • We’ve made concrete commitments to make measurable progress on reducing our environmental impacts

We are proud to support such initiative’s as a transportation company around sustainability.

To find out more about Alaska’s commitment to sustainable practices read their blog post “At Alaska Airlines, greener flying starts from the ground up.”

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595. Early Bird rates are good through Friday, March 27, 2015. Single Admission Early Bird Tickets are $175 and Group Rate Early Bird Tickets are $150 (groups of two or more).  Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.

Green Line Series PDX | Jason Graham-Nye on the FTC’s updated Green Guides

Jason Graham-Nye_croppedGoGreen Portland is thrilled to welcome back Jason Graham-Nye, Co-Founder, gDiapers, to the speaker roster for the upcoming conference on October 16. Jason is an original speaker of the conference series and participated during the 2009 gathering of regional leaders making a difference way back then. We are excited to reconnect with Jason and learn how the company has changed since then and to give us a preview of his experience with the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides and the panel session he will be speaking on at GoGreen Portland!

GoGreen Conference: What has gDiapers been up to since we last heard from you in 2009 at our second annual conference?

Jason Graham-Nye: Since 2009 we moved into a “real” office, where we are able to offer more benefits to our employees, such as onsite daycare for our team. Since 2004, we had worked from home and had our ever-growing team come to the house each morning! The business has expanded into Europe with a small London-based team. We have seen a significant amount of growth across Europe where our sustainability message seems to resonate more closely with the consumer base.  

GoGreen Conference: During your session at GoGreen Portland on October 16th, you will speak about your experience with the updated Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides. What key points do you want our audience to take away from your experience?

JGN: The FTC has new guidelines including a new section on General Environmental Claims. Based on these new guidelines, no general environmental claims can be made with language, imagery or icons. That is a huge move as it essentially makes a green leaf on the side of a package, for example, run afoul of the guidelines. The term “eco-friendly” is also problematic. In our case, we used the term “eco-durable” (as in cute and eco-friendly) in our marketing which with the updated guidelines caused an issue. Another example is the tagline “Happy Baby, Happy Planet”.  In the past, that would be regarded as marketing puffery and just fine. Today, with the updated guidelines, the FTC requires that the claim that the baby is happy and the planet is happy is supported by an independent third party evidence. It is important to raise awareness of the new guidelines and ensure other companies are meeting the strict guides placed by the FTC.  

GoGreen Conference: Our 2014 conference theme focuses around, The Rise of the Commons: Investing in a Socially Sustainable Community — one that offers equity, diversity and growth to advance today’s community members and creates opportunities for tomorrow’s generation. Can you tell us how gDiapers and you personally are working towards this?

JGN: Since we launched in 2004 we have over 8,000 gMums & gDads – parents who use our products and volunteer for us across the US and UK. These amazing people go into stores and do checks on our sets, blog about us, host morning teas with other Mums and pitch in with us at trade shows. Some have created their own micro businesses, up-cycling our outer gPants and selling them on to new customers and expanding our reach as a company. We are continually thinking about how to engage with our Mums and Dads in unique and different ways to support them on their parenting journey.  

GoGreen Conference: Do you think there are any important sustainability or social responsibility practices business leaders in Oregon could learn from Australia?

JGN: Australia had a great deal to offer leaders of other regions of the world with the previous Governments leadership on a Carbon tax. It proved to be a very effective way to manage the issue and as an Australian I was very proud of that initiative. The new administration has scrapped that tax and in my opinion, has really lead the country backwards. As a country experiencing the full force of global warming – the canary in the coal mine effect, we are scrambling to bring in management systems such as limiting water use, trialing desalination plants, expanding solar etc. I think Portland may have more to offer Australia’s leadership at this point.   

Event Details

GoGreen Portland 2014, brought to you by the City of Portland, Multnomah County and METRO will take place on Thursday, October 16th at the Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Ballroom located at 777 Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Tickets are available online at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503.226.2377.  Student, government and non-profit registration rates are available.

Green Line Series PDX | Keynote, Adam Werbach

Focusing on our 2014 conference theme, The Rise of the Commons: Investing in a Socially Sustainable Community, we asked Adam Werbach, Co-Founder of yerdle and GoGreen Portland 2014 Keynote, to tell us how his company is driving the sharing economy and producing positive social impacts. Check out what we learned (and get excited for his Keynote!) below.

GoGreen CoAdam Werbachnference: The sharing economy is still a relatively new concept that many people do not fully understand. How would you define “sharing economy” to someone unfamiliar with the term?

Adam Werbach: With sharing economy there are activities that take underutilized resources bringing them to use through the application of technology and community.

GoGreen Conference: How does the model of yerdle play into the sharing economy?

AW: Right now it’s easier to buy something new rather than finding something sitting idle in a friend or neighbors closet. For the first time in history it’s easier to have something newly made for you than it is to use something that has already been produced. Yerdle helps people unlock the items that are sitting idle in their closets and garages and makes them available to people all through out the United States.

The idea of sharing items is nothing new. It’s how humanity has gone through hard times, has supported friends and family, it’s how we put together picnics, sports teams and crafts forever. Only in the last fifty years have we started having to buy something new and disposable. What sharing economy provides is an opportunity to return to the types of behaviors that have helped us survive forever. 

It’s less packaging, transportation, mining, oil etc. As an example I just got a camping coffee pot for free from yerdle from someone in Virginia. If I would have bought a new one the aluminum would have came from Australia, it would have been made from bauxite to aluminum in a large plant, shipped to China to be fabricated, shipped to Hong Kong to be packaged, shipped to the Midwest to be put into storage and then shipped to San Francisco for me to open it.  After that I would throw all the packaging away which would end up going into a landfill.

GoGreen Conference: According to Forbes, the revenue that flows through the sharing economy was an estimated $3.5 billion in 2013 and was projected to grow 25% this year. What is your prediction for 2014? Have you seen this type of growth in yerdle’s communities?

AW: I think the idea of the sharing economy is going to affect Americans pocket books in a way greater than almost any economic movement we’ve seen since probably the start of social security. This will mean real wages increasing for Americans. There will be two things. One is a student and moms with young children will be able to pick up flexible work to match their schedules. Secondly services like yerdle will start causing people to have to spend less money, which will in fact increase the power of wages. We’re out to decrease cost of durable goods by 25 percent, which many of our members have done already. Today 25,000 items a month are moved on yerdle.  In January the number was closer 1,000 items a month. It’s a pretty obvious idea if you have something in your garage that you’re not going to use why won’t you put it up and see what you can turn it into? It feels good getting rid of unused items and giving them to someone who would benefit from them.

GoGreen Conference:  There are many positive economic impacts to the sharing economy – what are some of the social impacts that occur?

AW: The biggest social impacts are individual. People are able to get their lives in order by entering a community of people who are all interested in the same things as them. I can give a few examples of stories of people helping teachers get their classrooms settled, new moms who have been left by their husbands trying to make ends meet or people trying to get to burning man and figuring out a way to do that. The broadest social impact from an ecological standpoint is the radical reduction of waste. The 25,000 items from this month are things that wouldn’t have needed to have been produced and would have been produced and bought online and shipped and packaged and manufactured. That’s kind of the most obvious piece however the community ones are the ones that I think feel the best.

GoGreen Conference: Do you see any age trends in those using the peer-to-peer market? Is there an average age bracket for yerdle users?

AW: It tends to see a little bit younger crowds.  Eighteen to thirty four is the demographic but late millennial are the quickest to adopt. We are mostly in apps so people with IPhones and Androids tend to be the ones using. It’s both young people trying to put things together who are not as stuff oriented and then young moms trying to get together the things they need.

GoGreen Conference: What are you hoping your audience will walk away with and gain from your keynote address at GoGreen?

AW: If you believe like I do that we are not efficiently using all the greatest resources on the planet and the greatest one being people. Think about what’s being wasted right now in your home, office and among your friends. Discover the blank paper, how would we engage them? How would we take those lonely hours and turn them into productive activity? How would we take those items that are stuffed into the back of your closet and make them actually produce something that we actually want? How would we make sure that car sitting in the back of your garage is actually used? My grandmother always taught me wasting is almost a crime. How do we take that seriously? Just because we can afford to have new items doesn’t mean we should.

Event Details

GoGreen Portland 2014, brought to you by the City of Portland, Multnomah County and METRO will take place on Thursday, October 16th at the Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Ballroom located at 777 Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Tickets are available online atportland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503.226.2377. Early Bird rates are good through Tuesday, September 16th, 2014. Single Admission Early Bird Full Conference tickets are $175 and Group Rate Early Bird Tickets are $150 (groups of two or more). Student, government and non-profit registration rates are available.

 

 

Green Line Series PDX | Keynote, Renee Lertzman, Ph.D.

The GoGreen team recently interviewed GoGreen Portland Keynote, Renee Lertzman, Ph.D.,  Author of The Myth of Apathy. Click the link below to find out more about her educational background and motivation to engage communities of stakeholders through communications.

GoGreen: What was your defining moment that influenced you to go into communications surrounding issues with the environment?

R8Renee Lertzman: It really started out when I was an undergrad in college as a psychology major. What I experienced during that time was a cognitive dissonance where I was coming out of my environmental studies classes feeling really devastated and deeply concerned about what I was learning about – going into my psychology classes and anthropology courses with really kind of no mention of what was going on with our environmental situation.

I set out with a focus on connecting the psychological research world with how we communicate and educate people about environmental issues. My main interest is what we can learn and leverage from insights in psychology, specifically clinical or psychodynamic psychology – which has enormous insight into human behavior and how we relate with change, loss and anxiety. My perception is that when communicating about environmental issues we are raising literacy and awareness and need to be exceptionally mindful of the emotional impact — as we are directly informing how people engage with the information and then choose to act on it. It is fundamentally critical that we look at that dimension and not only what people’s values, beliefs and opinions are. We need to always include the emotional and experiential contexts if we want our work to be effective. We are well past the ‘information deficit’ approach, that if people only know more they would activate somehow.

GoGreen: As a communications professional have you seen a gap between individuals connecting and engaging on environmental issues?

Renee Lertzman: I have seen a gap between what people say they value and what they actually value. The orientation that I’m coming from is referred to as psychosocial – we can’t separate out the psychological and social context in which we live and so from that point of view it’s not surprising that we are contradicting.

We often say one thing and do something else. It’s not really a big revelation – the research tools that we use to identify that gap really only reinforces a perception of a “gap” – if we ask people questions, based on surveys, polls, even focus groups or interviews, we often get a very top of mind story, versus the actual, messier reality of how we make choices and negotiate particular dilemmas about how we live. So our methods and the way we are framing the questions have something to do with this “gap” – something I’ve written about extensively and is key theme in the book I’m writing, Environmental Melancholia.

We need to shift from a persuasion orientation and instead think much more about how we can support, facilitate and engage. It’s not about trying to force or coerce (hopefully). It’s about helping connect people with our own creative and caring capacities. One of the main techniques I focus on is designing into our work a way to acknowledge people’s potential experiences; and say we get it and understand that you might be unsure and that’s okay, then move on into what we can do together. If you skip the first step you’re not really connecting with people.

Communications is about humans and human behavior. I don’t think environmental communications is like any other communications — it’s totally distinct from other issue areas for a number of reasons. I think we need to be working to create basically a whole kind of unique and specific approach to the practice of environmental communications, that takes these psychological and social complexities onboard – this goes beyond just framing around values. It also includes insight into how people resist change, manage anxieties, and deal with losses, both actual and anticipatory. Focusing on inspiration and positive solutions is also important, but it is not the full story and is not as effective when we leave out the rest.

GoGreen: What is an example of a communication strategy that you have seen work to engage individuals in environmental issues?

Renee Lertzman: I think that humor, when practiced skillfully, can be a powerful tool. Humor has a capacity to both allow people to engage with difficult issues in a safe way but it also has the ability to be honest. An example would be Brand Cool’s creation of an energy efficiency media campaign called Irreconcilable Differences – a video series in which they used humor to communicate how people in their homes can get into conflicts about how much energy is being used with battles over control of the thermostat. I think using humor is really wonderful and powerful if it’s done right. The campaign has to have substance to it.

The other platform is the use of conversations. Conversations are an under-recognized, powerful behavior change resource, as we tend to learn, change and grow through social interactions. The Carbon Conversations project in the UK, or the Northwest Earth Institute are examples of bringing people together informally to simply talk about how we can face some of these challenges, and come up with some emergent solutions. Conversations provide the support we tend to need to engage with some of the more challenging aspects of responding to our ecological predicaments. We learn we are not alone in how we may be feeling. This is a way to support people to organize and express their own creativity, which is really important. I think we see glimmers of this through online tools where there are competitions of people sending in their own ideas or the model of the challenge. However, creating interactivity is also important. The things that invite people to get involved, engaged and feeling like they are a part of a conversation as opposed to just passive recipients is beneficial.

GoGreen: What are you hoping our organizational leaders at GoGreen will walk away with and gain from your Keynote Address at the event?

Renee Lertzman: It is important for us to think differently about behavior change. It is time for us to shift our orientation in which we’re used to thinking, such as how do we get people to change, towards how can we support and enable people to express their concerns and investment in our world? That’s a fundamental reframe – when we take that on it changes the nature of the work that we do, because it’s less of a sense of pushing against something and more about how we can leverage and support what’s already there. Our innate care, concern for our planet, and our desire to have efficacy, impact and creativity.

I believe every human being fundamentally has an investment in our world. It’s our job to find out what that is and how to really facilitate that. It’s not about pushing and persuading – it’s more about invitation, facilitation and support. For this, we can tap into human insights and specifically our emotional connections, to help us be profoundly more effective in engaging with people.

Find out more about Renee’s book, The Myth of Apathy online. She is also an Independent Consultant currently collaborating with Brand Cool.

Event Details

GoGreen Portland 2014, brought to you by the City of Portland, Multnomah County and METRO will take place on Thursday, October 16th at the Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Ballroom located at 777 Northeast Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Tickets are available online at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503.226.2377. Early Bird rates are good through Tuesday, September 16th, 2014. Single Admission Early Bird Full Conference tickets are $175 and Group Rate Early Bird Tickets are $150 (groups of two or more). Student, government and non-profit registration rates are available.

Green Lines Series | Michael “Luni” Libes, Founder & Managing Director, of B Corp Certified Fledge

Our team met up with Michael “Luni” Libes for a one on one interview to find out more about the successful entrepreneur and the driving force behind Fledge. Read along to find out more about what inspires Luni to support young entrepreneurs and how the the “conscious company” accelerator is helping entrepreneurs who are bringing products and services to the growing number of consumers, who in their consumption are conscious of the environment, their health, of community, sustainability, and even conscious of consumption itself.

GoGreen Conference: “Fledge” is a beautiful concept and name for an incubator that focuses on fostering “conscious” companies. How did you get the idea of bringing cause-driven startups to one centralized environment? Do you have a stand-out story of collaboration between entrepreneurs in your space?

ImageLuni: After 20 years of being an entrepreneur it was time that I help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Instead of starting my sixth company that might only bring something of value to a few customers, I wanted to help entrepreneurs have a bigger reach and to help more people.

I joined as a mentor at TechStars and as a mentor in the Portland Incubator Experiment. I started talking to teams, teams working on other programs, going online and tearing apart websites and trying to understand how the models work. I did a full end to end analysis of 50 other programs to find out how much money they give out, how much money they take in, where their funding comes from and how their business models work.

I came to the conclusion that TechStars was in fact nearly the right model. Just a few things could be changed for success. The question was – what to do with the information? Now that I had the knowledge of yes this model works, the question was where should it be applied?

In doing this research, I was introduced to Brian Howe, cofounder of HUB Seattle. When I met Brian the HUB was only two weeks old and there was no one there. He told me that he had dreamed of having 500 active members and an accelerator within the HUB.

We worked on the plan for months trying to figure out if the HUB would benefit from an accelerator. We knew what worked in general, at least for tech companies and we believed the format might also work for socially conscious companies.

To test out our theory we created #Socent Weekend targeted to benefit social entrepreneurs which took place in February of 2012. During the weekend, 80 strangers stepped forward into a novel experiment, moving from raw ideas into operational social enterprises in just 50 hours and during that time thirteen companies were created.

With that encouragement, I sat down and wrote a business plan for Fledge.  The #Socent Weekend was the proof I needed that said there was a market for this type of project.  If there’s a market in Seattle, there’s probably a bigger market globally.

GoGreen Conference: You launched Fledge in 2012, the first accelerator to foster ‘conscious companies’. Over the past 2 years, what are the key ingredients to success that Fledge has brought to its companies? How is Fledge different from other accelerators?

Luni: The biggest distinction is the culture of the organization. Just like any other organization there’s a corporate culture and ours is focused on collaboration.

Many accelerators provide advice from mentors and guidance on deadlines. The best of these programs will put entrepreneurs together in the same room to talk to each other and help each other. Fledge takes the best practices of those models to the next level, we are all about collaboration.

For example, at Fledge, when we do pitch coaching, all our teams are in the room pitch coaching each other. We have outsiders who come in to provide their opinion and those are equal opinions to everyone else in the room. Everybody participates in everyone else’s pitches, everyone’s stories.

Our entrepreneurs are socially conscious and they are part of the DNA of the system. They understand stakeholders vs. shareholders vs. employees. They understand it takes more than just one person to make a company succeed.

Secondly, our “fledlgings” quickly realize that the problem one of their peers is having today may be their problem tomorrow. Thus in airing issues as a group, not only does one company benefit, but all the participants learn about solutions to problems they are likely to come across as well.

GoGreen Conference: As an instructor, an author and an entrepreneur, you have led five successful startups and you have inspired so many to improve their daily life, community and the world. What other projects are you currently working on and what inspired them? What is a piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur?

Luni: I created Fledge in 2012. A year later I realized that I had turned down over 90% of all the people who asked for help. That made me ask – how do we help the other 90%? I created a second program called Kick. The program helped 13 entrepreneurs who were all happy with the results.With that success, I thought that would simply be my summer program, and nothing more.

Two weeks later I was at the Social Capital Conference. In a meeting after meeting, the head of HUBs from all over the world were saying that they could use accelerator programs in their HUBs as well. But the question was how could they do it? I took that as a problem to solve.

After the third session of Fledge ended, I packaged up Kick for those potential customers. We started licensing it in January and as of yesterday we have 8 licensees: Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Kenya, plus two grant-funded programs, and more on the way.

I don’t think you can be a successful entrepreneur unless you want to solve other people’s problems. You can build a product you like, but unless it solves a problem someone else has, you’re not going to sell very many of them.

Join us on April 30th and hear Luni speak more about his involvement with the B Corp movement during the all group session Benchmark Your Performance with B Corp starting at 9:30 am. We are also proud to have Fledge participate as a Community Partner of the conference. Use their promotional code FLEDGE when you register for 20% off tickets!

Green Line Series | Dennis McLerran on EPA Programs and Outstanding Business Participants

ImageWe were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Dennis McLerran, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator for Region 10 that covers the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, including 271 tribal governments in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Dennis leads a staff of 650 employees, with responsibility for an annual budget of $500 million. Before his leadership role at the EPA, Dennis served as Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, a state-chartered regional agency that adopts and enforces air quality standards that protect the health of 3.5 million Washington residents. As executive director, he led the development of an innovative strategy to reduce emissions at the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Metro Vancouver. Learn more about what Dennis will share at the EPA Executive Forum on April 29th at 3pm.

GoGreen Conference:  What is EPA doing in the Pacific Northwest to help businesses and governments work smarter and greener and to be more sustainable in their operations?

Dennis McLerran: In the Pacific Northwest, the EPA’s role is often as cheerleader or a facilitator for sustainability efforts – directing companies dedicated to sustainability to EPA tools and resources or the tools and resources that other organizations provide. This is what makes the Northwest so exciting for this work.  Companies here recognized early on that success in today’s global economy requires a focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.

Naturally we spend a lot of time showcasing all of the great work being done by regional companies, NGOs and local governments here – that in itself seems to spur new conversations and relationships and sustainability projects. If you look at who’s sponsoring and attending the GoGreen Seattle Conference, you will see the Northwest businesses who have been leading the way for a long time, as well as the ones carving out their niches with their own sustainable business models. It just so happens that these companies are also national and world leaders in their fields.

We like to think that the EPA’s programs have helped spur new ideas and enabled companies to seize opportunities in front of them.  For instance, a lot of these companies have partnered with EPA by taking advantage of tools and resources provided by EPA programs like WasteWise, Energy Star, the Green Power Partnership and the SmartWay Transport Partnership.  In 2013, EPA launched its Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) initiative, focused on reducing environmental impacts of materials use and disposal, while preserving natural capital throughout the life-cycle of materials.  We have literally thousands of companies and communities using these tools every day to make a real difference.

Through our Sustainable Food Management effort we’ve also launched our Food Recovery Challenge to help businesses save money by reducing their purchasing and food-waste disposal fees. They are able to support their communities by using surplus food to feed people, not landfills, and they reduce their environmental impacts through composting their inedible food waste.  Many hotels and restaurants have joined us to take this effort to the national stage.

EPA is also developing an electronics strategy, focused on increasing the amount of used electronics managed by third-party certified electronics recyclers, to ensure they are managed properly and safely from environmental and a worker-safety perspectives.  EPA has pioneered EPEAT which is a comprehensive environmental rating that helps identify greener computers and other electronics — a powerful tool for enhancing a business’s sustainability.

At the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum attendees will be hearing from some excellent speakers representing companies who have made impressive commitments to sustainability, and who have used EPA and local government tools and resources to help them fulfill those commitments.  These partnerships between businesses and governments are a great signal to the community that they are looking to ensure a sustainable future not just for themselves, but for our communities.

GoGreen Conference:  Share a few regional examples of businesses or organizations that have seen significant success with one or more of the U.S. EPA’s programs. How did they benefit and what did they accomplish by working with you to improve their environmental performance?

DM: The Northwest is known for its spirit of innovation and collaboration.  By pushing the envelope on sustainability, our region has created national leaders who have become proselytizers for sustainability.  For instance, Seattle Climate Partnership and the Eastside Sustainable Business Alliance have set a standard for national efforts on recycling, waste reduction, energy efficiency and LEAN manufacturing efforts. Bentall Kennedy, one of North America’s largest independent real estate investment advisors, received an EPA Energy Star program Sustained Excellence award in 2012 for continuing to set and achieve new energy efficiency goals for its portfolio using EPA tools and resources. Their key 2011 accomplishments included: benchmarking 119 eligible office and industrial buildings monthly (representing approximately 20 million square feet); reducing energy use by 2.5 percent in 2011 over the previous year, resulting in a cumulative reduction of 18.4 percent since 2008 and nearly $5 million in energy cost savings; and earning the ENERGY STAR rating for 69 buildings, representing 14.4 million square feet, $2.8 billion in market value, and more than 70 percent of its benchmarked portfolio. As Vice President Biden might say, that’s a pretty big deal.

The University of Washington received an honorable mention award from the US EPA’s WasteWise program in 2012 – a challenge program encouraging business and facilities to prevent waste, increase recycling, and purchase more recycled-content.  Taking advantage of EPA tools and resources, the UW reported a diversion rate of 57 percent for calendar year 2011, translating into 6,417 tons of waste diverted from landfills. Campus waste diversion efforts also aided in avoiding disposal costs of more than $900,000.

Evergreen Public Schools, the fourth-largest district in Washington (serving almost 27,000 students in 35 schools), received an EPA Energy Star Sustained Excellence award for its ongoing commitment to finding new ways to save energy and promote its successes with ENERGY STAR. Key 2011 accomplishments include: saving $1.7 million through a multifaceted energy management approach, for a total of more than $4 million since 2008; earning the ENERGY STAR for an additional elementary school, bringing the total to 22 certified buildings since 2008; and allocating almost $6 million to improve HVAC and lighting, replace boilers, and upgrade thermostats at several large district sites; distributing almost $26,000 in incentives to its schools for participating in energy-saving activities; and presenting about ENERGY STAR successes at meetings and events. And, despite a significant downturn in the local economy the district continued to identify, fund, and complete energy efficiency projects.

The Mariners, the Sounders and the Seahawks are founding members of the Green Sports Alliance, which is transforming the way sports teams and their venues think about their impact on the environment and their bottom-lines.  We’re particularly proud of this work because it started right here in the Northwest – and EPA Region 10 was a founding member. Now the Green Sports Alliance has gone national and even global, which is exactly what should happen because of the tremendous impact on the larger discussion through the enormous number of people sports teams can influence with this work.  Business owners and leaders who attend games understand that the sporting industry is a big-time, cutthroat, bottom line business. If the M’s, Hawks and Sounders can make these kinds of investments and commitments, then it must also be beneficial to the bottom-line.

The Seattle Mariners, a member of both EPA’s WasteWise and Energy Star programs, has received numerous awards for their efforts to prevent waste, increase recycling, buy recycled, and conserve energy and water at Safeco Field.  Their accomplishments are amazing: all paper products used in all the bathrooms are made from 100% recycled content and are manufactured here in Washington; they’ve installed low-flow urinals in all men’s rooms, saving over 1 million gallons of water each year; their motorized grounds-keeping equipment runs on B-20 biodiesel; they recycle or compost over 90 percent of all waste generated at Safeco Field.   That’s not a misprint…90 percent! These efforts have resulted in significant cost savings: diverting over 3 million pounds of waste from the landfill in 2013 saved the team $114,000 in disposal costs and energy and water conservation efforts have saved the team $1.75 million in utilities costs since 2006. Because of this remarkable commitment the Mariners have earned Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League Recycling Champion award, Washington State Recycling Association Recycler of the Year, and Seattle Business magazine’s Green Washington Environmental Leadership Award.  They’re also the first MLB team to stage a “carbon neutral” game on Earth Day.

In summary, companies, universities, school districts, sports teams and small businesses continue to work with us to make sense of their operations to maximize the triple bottom line.  As is most often the case, the businesses and organizations are leading the charge and the EPA is there to support them in their efforts.

ImageLearn more and hear from the organizations featured above at the GoGreen Seattle EPA Executive Forum on April 29th from 3:00-5:00pm, a new day and element featured as part of the GoGreen Conference for our 5th year in Seattle. Join EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran and a very special showcase of Outstanding Business Participants from EPA Region 10 from the EPA Food Recovery, Waste Wise and ENERGY STAR programs. Learn how Region 10 sustainability leaders became “Outstanding Participants” in these EPA programs — including overcoming challenges, best practices and steps to success. Network with 75+ Executives from companies like Starbucks, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Boeing and Microsoft to name a few. *Additional ticket required to attend.