Empathy, Transformation, and Leadership: A Brief Reflection on AASHE 2012

Posted on October 16, 2012. Filed under: sustainability | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

For the past 48 hours, I’ve been taking a deep and nourishing drink from the campus sustainability firehose at the AASHE 2012 conference.  Going all the way back to the very first AASHE conference in Tempe, Arizona in 2006, I’ve found these gatherings to be both educational and inspirational.  Other than that magical first gathering on the Arizona State University campus six years ago, this year’s conference in Los Angeles might very well have been the best one yet.  As I pour over my pages and pages of notes and reflect on the experience, I find that three themes emerge from the pages: empathy, transformation, and leadership.

First, empathy.  This was the theme that caught me by surprise.  The moving keynote performance by Dr. Robert Davies and the Fry Street Quartet humanized our collapsing environmental systems in a collage of images, music, and scientific data so effectively that many in the audience were in tears by the end.  I had to spend a few minutes gathering myself after the session, reminding myself that this is why I chose this profession, that this is why I – and so many others – continue to fight for a better future.  As Monty Hempel observed the next day, human empathy is the gateway to sustainability.  This led Dave Newport to ask a most important question: “How do we turn our human empathy back on?”  I’d like to think that if we can an answer to Dave’s question, we might actually transform the world.

Yes, transformation.  From the opening keynote to the closing awards ceremony, transformation was interwoven throughout the conference.  Hunter Lovins spoke of transformation of higher education with the emergence of online educational tools, a topic I covered recently when I suggested that online education could be the biggest sustainability initiative ever in higher education.  Unfortunately, aside from Hunter Lovins, there were to my knowledge no further serious discussions about online education and sustainability in any of the conference presentations.  If the same holds true next year, I will truly be shocked.

Numerous sessions explored transformations in how we design and construct buildings for university campuses, including experiences with net-zero energy buildings as well as those that meet the stringent guidelines of the Living Building Challenge (LBC).  But even the LBC was itself challenged as not being sustainable, with restorative design identified as the next milestone on the horizon.  Steve Baumgartner of Buro Happold suggested that next year at AASHE, we need to discuss what the word living actually means when applied to a building, because the “living building” designation of the LBC is in itself misleading.  The state-of-the-art has progressed dramatically since the first AASHE conference in 2006, but whether the average new campus building has transformed all that much in the past six years is another question altogether.

That 2006 conference witnessed the announcement of the founding of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, a truly transformational moment in sustainability education in higher ed.  Far too few schools have followed ASU’s lead, although the number of majors, minors, and certificate programs related to sustainability has blossomed.  Shirley Vincent of the National Council for Science and the Environment presented a detailed census of such programs, reporting that there are now 143 sustainability degrees, 298 sustainability specializations within degree programs (such as civil engineering or architecture), and 294 minors and certificates in sustainability.  The numbers look impressive – until you realize that there are about 3,400 two-year and four-year institutions of higher education (not including the for-profits).   In other words, there are only 0.2 sustainability major, minor, specialization, or certificate programs per college.  The transformation might very well come from online programs, because the pace of change at most schools to date – including my own – has been far too slow.

The final emergent theme from AASHE 2012 was leadership.  Mike Shriberg presented a compelling sustainability leadership program at the University of Michigan, with a limited and tightly-knit cohort of 25 students admitted per year traveling together through an 11 credit sequence to equip them to become leaders for a sustainable future.  But what does sustainability leadership mean?  A team from Portland State University led by Dr. Heather Burns posed this question in a workshop at the end of the conference, and the responses from the participants included the following:

  • “Sustainability leadership is a change of heart… beating in rhythm with the world” [there’s that empathy theme again!]
  • “It’s leadership embedded in natural systems, educating and communicating to bring others to that frame.”
  • “It’s setting the example.”
  • “It’s being humble and knowing when to ask the right question.”
  • “It’s being a catalyst, a change agent, a co-creator, a collaborator.”
  • “It’s the ability to reimagine the world, and to motivate others with that vision.”
  • “It’s an emergent quality, shared for a period of time, and then passed on to others.”
  • “It’s showing instead of telling.”
  • “It’s a burden!”

Empathy, transformation, leadership… these were the threads that tied together the AASHE 2012 experience for me.  As Robert Davies instructed, “It’s now time for us to believe what we know…  None of our efforts are enough just yet…  We must transform, or collapse.”  Sobering words.  If ever there was a time for empathetic and transformational leadership, now is the time.  But this is not a task to outsource to others; it’s one to take on ourselves.  As Gandhi observed, “We must be the change we wish to see.”

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The Sustainability Officer’s Dilemma (Thoughts from AASHE 2011)

Posted on October 11, 2011. Filed under: sustainability | Tags: , , , , , |

Earlier today, as I stood on the balcony of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, the first LEED-certified convention center in North America, I was struck by an irony.  Immediately to my left was the Rachel Carson Bridge, a span named for the famed biologist and author of Silent Spring, the book widely credited as sparking the modern environmental movement. Passing beneath the bridge, on the smooth waters of the Allegheny River, navigating upstream against the current, was a coal barge.  I had spent the past 36 hours at the AASHE 2011 conference inside the convention center learning how heroes and heroines (David Orr’s words, not mine) at institutions of higher education across North America and in cities like Pittsburgh are battling to preserve what’s left of our natural resources and chart our schools, communities, countries, and world on a new sustainable course, and yet there was a floating reminder – a sort of industrialist’s drive-by – of what we’re up against.  The world is full of people with clever ideas to remove carbon from the ground and put it up into the atmosphere, accelerating our demise as a civilization.  And they’re still winning.

As I’ve talked with colleagues about the biggest challenges that they face in their jobs, two central themes have emerged, and these two themes get to the heart of the sustainability officer’s dilemma.  The first is perhaps best told through an anecdote.  A sustainability officer at a major university discovered that his university was spending $5,000 on c-fold paper towels (you know, the kind that when you grab one, five drop out) in a highly-trafficked campus restroom, so he convinced the building manager to remove the paper towels and install quick-dry energy-efficient hand dryers instead.  The project was an economic success, it eliminated a waste stream, and it avoided the environmental impact of the manufacturing of paper towels.  Only one person complained about the project, and the basis of his complaint was that he couldn’t use the electric hand dryers on the Sabbath.  The building manager reacted by putting back the paper towels.

From my perspective, this is not really a story about paper towels at all.  Rather, it is that we so often sacrifice system performance in pursuit of responding to a complaint or solving a problem, when in fact we should optimize the system and then handle anomalies as they arise.  I see this with energy management all the time.  We overcool a building to keep a single hot spot from getting too warm, when we should instead set the building at a proper temperature range and then solve the problem of the hot spot.  Or we cool a building 24/7 to keep a rogue server from overheating when that server should actually be in a data center.  In the paper towel example, perhaps the building manager could have offered a school-branded hand towel (an over-the-top act of customer service, as surely this problem must arise for the complaintant elsewhere).  Or the building manager could have just said no.  But that’s not what happened.  Instead, the performance of the system was sacrificed.  The anomaly drives the system.

If the first theme is a common syndrome of the operational and administrative side of campus, the second theme that I heard over and over again is a syndrome of the academic side of campus: our academic departmental boundaries, and the system of rewards and promotions that exist within and reinforce those boundaries, are ill-suited for the fundamentally multi-disciplinary work of sustainability.  We incentivize our academic scholars to think narrowly, to research narrowly, and to teach narrowly (to the extent that they’re incentivized to teach), and as a result we educate our students narrowly, and they graduate without a broad understanding of how the natural systems upon which their lives depend even function.  And for that, they often start their careers deeply in debt.  It’s no wonder we end up accelerating our own demise – that would be the expected outcome of our higher education system as presently designed, churning out graduates who (mostly unintentionally) will outdo each other in doing us all in.

These two syndromes that form the sustainability officer’s dilemma are both problems of systems design.  I’ve attended every AASHE annual conference since the first AASHE conference in 2006 (and several Greening of the Campus conferences as well), and in my view this seems to be the first time that so many sustainability officers have come together and talked about and framed their challenges in this way.  I believe this represents a significant leap forward in the maturation of the campus sustainability movement.  When we reassemble next year in Los Angeles, I expect to hear many lessons about how my colleagues are finding leverage points to change how these systems function, and even perhaps changing paradigms at their universities.  We will need success stories at the systems level, because for all our LEED buildings and energy and water conservation measures and recycling initiatives, we are still on the pathway to demise.  The earth is finite, and it’s high time our universities educate and act accordingly.

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Inspiration From Afar

Posted on July 24, 2009. Filed under: sustainability | Tags: , , , , , , |

In this era of budget cutting, I’m regularly hearing from my fellow campus sustainability professionals that they’ve had to reduce or eliminate their travel.  I’m no exception.  The challenge then is to find opportunities to be inspired by the great thinkers and practitioners of the sustainability arena without actually leaving our campuses, for it’s often after attending these talks that we develop our own big ideas.

This past March, Rice University hosted an extraordinary conference entitled “Transforming the Metropolis: Creating Sustainable and Humane Cities” that featured many of the speakers whom we would hope to see as keynoters when we travel to conferences.  The talks from this conference are now available online and are posted below.  In lieu of actually going to a conference, consider blocking off time on your calendar, closing your email, unplugging your telephone, and allowing yourself the time to be inspired from afar (without the CO2 emissions from air travel!):

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“Wow, What is this Place?”

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: sustainability | Tags: , , , , |

One of the joys of working as a campus sustainability professional is the opportunity to spend time in the classroom, either as an instructor or as a guest lecturer. For my first guest lecture appearance at Rice, I provided a sustainability walking tour of our campus to students in the sustainable design class in our school of architecture. I have since returned to give variations of that tour about eight or nine times, most recently last week. One of the stops I like to make is in our civil engineering building (Ryon Laboratory), where we have an excellent example of a water-efficient restroom. As a tour stop, waterless urinals are always good for conversation.

The center of Ryon is a large open space filled with gigantic pieces of equipment for breaking things like steel bars and concrete beams. While there’s nothing aesthetically pleasing about it, there’s an inherent curiosity and coolness to the space that attracts one’s attention. As we walked past this central area towards the restroom, I couldn’t help but overhear a number of the students commenting to each other, “Wow, what is this place?”

What just happened? That one comment told me everything I needed to know about the level of interaction between architecture and engineering students on our campus. The architects had never been inside the civil engineers’ building, and I’m guessing the opposite held true as well. That’s two different buildings and two separate worlds for two professions that absolutely must become more familiar with one another if we are to create a more sustainable future.

One of the most challenging jobs for campus sustainability professionals is to thread the different worlds of the university together. I’m presently co-chairing a conference entitled “Transforming the Metropolis: Creating Sustainable and Humane Cities” where we’re trying to do exactly that by bringing together architects, urban planners, elected officials, civil engineers, environmental engineers, corporate executives, sociologists, community leaders, energy policy experts, faith community leaders, and many other disciplines and professions to address how an urban future can provide answers to our ecological, social, and economic challenges.

My role in part has been to see beyond the departmental and topical boundaries and to build connections. When planning the conference, there were pressures to compartmentalize the program, and to package the speakers into different tracks for different disciplines. And if left unchecked, there is a general tendency for each interest to just focus on their own preferred speakers, rather than to see a broader context. But the discussion of sustainability doesn’t fit into anyone’s box, and neither do discussions about cities. These topics demand to be handled in an interdisciplinary manner. And so we decided that all attendees regardless of background would hear the same speakers, and like it or not would be fully immersed in a number of topical worlds that might not be altogether familiar to them.

If you’ll allow me to digress for a moment, I would like to briefly describe the flow of the program (you can view the speaker bios here), and to invite any reader of this blog to register for this exciting and affordable event, which will be held on the Rice campus from March 2-4.

The first morning of the conference features a panel of mayors, representing Houston, Texas; Bogota, Colombia; Karachi, Pakistan; and Rehovot, Israel. For the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, so this conference envisions the city as holding the solution to our challenges for building a more sustainable and humane world (if done correctly, of course). The mayors will collectively illustrate progress and problems in their own cities in achieving this outcome. Following the panel is a discussion about the natural limits on our expansion by the originator of the ecological footprint William Rees, paired with a historical view of the human tendency to sprawl, by Robert Bruegmann. In the afternoon, we’ll address our future water and energy supplies with Perry McCarty and Amy Myers Jaffe, respectively. Next, we’ll turn our attention to globalization with Saskia Sassen, followed by discussions of demographics and the middle class with Elijah Anderson and Joel Kotkin. Ray Anderson of Interface, Inc. will close the evening by providing a striking story of sustainability and innovation in the corporate world.

Day two begins with strategies of hope from Cameron Sinclair, whose work in promoting design solutions to humanitarian crises has brought him to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in recent years. Alejandro Guitierrez and David Crossley will present design frameworks for sustainable cities, followed by a discussion of movement and access by Catherine Ross and Antanas Mockus. In the afternoon, Larry Beasley, Peter Calthorpe, and Lars Lerup will address the topic of people, power, and planning. Fred Kent will share snapshots and lessons of successful urban spaces, and Ken Yeang will discuss designing eco-cities and eco-skyscrapers. The evening comes to a close with Majora Carter, whose work as the founder of Sustainable South Bronx led to her being recognized as a MacArthur Fellow.

The final morning of the conference delves into the present and future of the city’s infrastructure with Thomas D. O’Rourke and William J. Mitchell. Alexander Zehnder will offer thoughts on the future of water management, and finally Wayne Gordon and Pastor Harvey Clemons, Jr. will share their experiences on the role of communities of faith in building cities of hope.

But what happens on March 5th, the day after the conference, when all of the attendees have gone home? Will our faculty and staff co-chairs and planning committee retreat to their separate worlds? Are the connections that we’ve been making ephemeral, or are they real? This will be the real test. In some respects, universities are highly conservative places, penalizing those who reach outside their departments or who take unconventional approaches to their scholarly pursuits (witness the struggles of the digital humanities community, for example). Further, the pace of change in the curriculum can be glacial.

However, at this moment in time, my gut tells me that this conference is an important and necessary step in spanning the often wide chasms between the disciplines on my own campus on issues of sustainability and the city. And if I’m lucky, perhaps within just a few years, when I lead students in the sustainable design class on a sustainability walking tour of campus, when we walk into the civil engineering building, I won’t have to hear “Wow, what is this place?” but rather “Hey, I love coming to this place!” Wouldn’t that be more appropriate in a building for a discipline known for bridge-building?

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Between the Sessions: Taking the Emotional Pulse at AASHE 2008

Posted on November 12, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

The AASHE 2008 program offers opportunities for campus sustainability professionals to speak with each other on a broad range of topics: master planning, service learning, utility efficiency, carbon footprinting, and strategies for change, just to name a few. However, it’s only between the sessions where we ask an important professional question: “How are you?”

Ours is a new profession, and many of us are in uncharted territory virtually every day. As such, I find it’s useful when I gather with my peers to take check-in on their emotional pulse. Following is what I’m hearing:

  • First, without exception, campus sustainability professionals are feeling overworked. Many are having difficulty keeping-up with their workloads, and some appear to be sacrificing their personal well-being in the process.
  • Second, many expressed the need for full-time support staff. One even received a promise of multiple support staff upon his hiring, and that promise remains unfulfilled a year later.
  • Third, some are operating without a budget, and many find the lack of financial resources to support projects and initiatives frustrating, especially when such projects have a clear economic and immediate economic payback.
  • Fourth, some mentioned an inability to say no when a request or an opportunity crosses their desk, no matter how busy they already are.
  • Fifth, all are driven by a deep sense of urgency – even emergency – in their work. With many experts suggesting that our window to act on climate change is literally just a few more years in order to avoid dangerous tipping points, it’s no wonder that campus sustainability professionals feel the need to overwork themselves.
  • And sixth, given all of the above, it is quite remarkable that many of my peers still feel hopeful. Certainly the upcoming administration of President-Elect Barack Obama is a hot topic of conversation at AASHE 2008, and there is a genuine belief that issues like energy and climate change will be addressed soon with a thoughtful, science-driven approach. But the sense of hope is not just a function of national politics. Perhaps it’s because they are working so hard on sustainability issues, and because they see so many other people joining the profession and working so hard, that there’s a sense that real progress is being made. But make no mistake, it’s a cautious hope.

So, with a sense of great burden, of being under-equipped and overworked, the surprise is not just that campus sustainability professionals remain hopeful. It’s also that no matter the challenges, they also still seem to love their work. I continue to detect a sense of genuine fulfillment amongst my peers. But I wonder how long that will last. Are we running the risk that the profession itself as currently practiced is unsustainable?

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A Movement Reaches Adulthood (AASHE 2008, Opening Night)

Posted on November 10, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

In the spring of 1990, Oberlin College Professor David Orr launched a movement.

Students graduating from Arkansas College (now Lyons College) in Batesville, Arkansas in 1990 may never know that their commencement speaker that year delivered an address that literally changed higher education. Dr. Orr, in posing the provocative question “What is Education For?”, challenged the university with an assignment to:

“…examine resource flows on this campus: food, energy, water, materials, and waste. Faculty and students should together study the wells, mines, farms, feedlots, and forests that supply the campus as well as the dumps where you send your waste. Collectively… support better alternatives that do less environmental damage, lower carbon dioxide emissions, reduce use of toxic substances, promote energy efficiency and the use of solar energy, help to build a sustainable regional economy, cut long-term costs, and provide an example to other institutions. The results of these studies should be woven into the curriculum as interdisciplinary courses, seminars, lectures, and research. No student should graduate without understanding how to analyze resource flows and without the opportunity to participate in the creation of real solutions to real problems.”[1]

This assignment marked the beginning of the modern era of the campus sustainability movement. Within just a few years, leaders at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston – inspired by Dr. Orr – hired the first campus sustainability officer, George Bandy.[2] By January 2005, approximately 50 people held titles as campus sustainability professionals. This emerging profession needed a professional organization, and thus the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was founded in 2006 to promote sustainability in higher education. The AASHE 2006 conference in Tempe, Arizona drew over 650 registrants, making it at that time the largest campus sustainability conference ever. By the fall of 2008, the ranks of the campus sustainability professional had grown to approximately 160, with new positions created at the rate of about one a week.

Today, 1,700 people are gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for AASHE 2008 in what I can only assume is once again the largest campus sustainability conference ever. This movement is no longer on the periphery of higher education. It is not a boutique activity of “the haves”. This is the mainstream.

As I sat in the audience for the opening keynote address from Lester Brown, I found myself thinking about David Orr, and about the folks who created the first campus sustainability officer position at UTHSC-Houston (who were all eventually shown the door by an administration that didn’t get it), and about those early campus sustainability professionals who spent considerable time just trying to convince others of the relevance of their work, and I wondered if they felt the same optimism and pride that I was feeling that finally – finally – this movement has come of age.

[2] Yes, others played this role in some form or another, but to my knowledge George Bandy was the first to hold the title of a campus sustainability officer.

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Observations from and about the Sustainable Operations Summit

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Campus sustainability professionals are barraged by marketing. Each day, I receive several calls or mailings from sales representatives interested in doing business with Rice University, offering everything from energy-efficient lighting fixtures to carbon offsets to the latest in air filters. When a profile of Rice’s campus sustainability efforts was published in our alumni magazine in early 2007, I quickly learned which of my fellow graduates now held sales positions. Sustainability is hot, and companies see campus greening as a way to make money. Let us be thankful for that.

I attend several conferences every year, and I have come to expect marketing to occur at these events in one of two ways. First, a company co-sponsors the event, and in exchange their logo is featured in the conference program, and perhaps they are allowed to set-up a booth for passers-by or even to address the attendees for about two minutes in the gauzy marketing-lite style that is now permissible on PBS. Or second, the conference features a vendor expo that is of course voluntary for attendees, with the understanding that once you step foot inside the expo hall, you are fair game for the marketing sharks. Swim at your own risk.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Sustainable Operations Summit in Monterey, California, a conference with an unusual – some might say controversial – format that turns the traditional models for marketing at conferences upside-down. Yes, there are the familiar keynote speakers, session tracks, and panel discussions that we all recognize. And yes, there is also an expo hall, featuring booths from about 30 vendors representing a wide range of product offerings. However, the expo hall is part of the conference program itself, and entering that hall is not voluntary. Rather, each attendee is scheduled for a series of half-hour, one-on-one, “mandatory” meetings with vendors as part of the overall conference experience.

During the registration process for the Summit, the attendee is asked to select a minimum of ten vendors from a list of about thirty with whom they would like to meet, and similarly vendors are allowed to review the registration rolls and set meetings with particular attendees. When attendees arrive at the Summit, they receive an itinerary that includes the conference schedule and as well as their assigned vendor sessions. The first time I attended the Summit, I had about eight vendor meetings interspersed throughout the two-day event. This time, thirteen. The vendors of course pay mightily for this privilege, and these fees enable the conference organizers to pay for A-list speakers like Al Gore and Paul Hawken while keeping the all-inclusive registration, lodging, food, and golf (not me!) package at an arguably inexpensive rate for attendees.

With the prospect of spending six and a half hours in a two-day span meeting with corporate sales representatives, I found myself questioning my comfort level in participating in this format, and wondering more broadly why it is that I go to conferences in general, and what it is that I hope to gain when I attend a conference. Perhaps by answering these questions, I reasoned, I could properly assess the value in my attending the Sustainable Operations Summit.

So why do I go to conferences? We each have our own reasons, of course. My primary motivations are to:

  • Gather insights and otherwise learn from others
  • Be inspired
  • Present my work
  • Network with my peers

I personally feel that if I leave a conference with a potentially actionable great idea, then my time was well spent. So what great idea did I take with me from the Sustainable Operations Summit? Actually, I’m happy to report that there were two.

First, Wendell Brase from the University of California at Irvine (UCI) presented several strategies for reducing energy consumption in laboratory buildings. One that particularly struck me as an excellent idea is rethinking discharge velocities from the exhaust stacks on top of the building. The typical value is 3,000 feet per minute, which is required to overcoming cross-winds so that potential contaminants in the building’s exhaust stream are thrown high enough into the air so that they won’t blow back down onto people in the immediate vicinity. But why maintain this velocity as a constant? UCI is experimenting with using appropriate controls systems to lower the velocity if the crosswinds are minimal, or if the exhaust stream is free of contaminants. The potential energy savings could be significant.

Second, I have found a potential new direction for our construction waste management initiatives. Over the past 18 months or so, Rice has been actively recycling construction and demolition waste from many of our construction waste sites. To our surprise and delight, we are seeing diversion rates of over 80% – and in one instance over 90% – on several of our projects [I will cover this in greater detail in another posting]. But as I realized at the Summit, regardless of whether these construction materials are recycled or end-up in the landfill, Rice bought the materials for the purposes of constructing a building. We are paying for waste, possibly even 20% more than we need to be paying for our building materials. What this suggests then is that we need to work directly with our design and construction teams up-front on a program of source reduction, which should lower the overall cost of materials for a project. What’s interesting to note is that this idea came not from a speaker or a peer, but from a vendor during one of my “mandatory” meetings.

So under what circumstances can these vendor meetings be productive for campus sustainability professionals who otherwise disdain hardball sales tactics? I advise the following steps:

  • First, set the tone. Learning about new products is an important part of our jobs, and the chance to meet directly with a vendor to discuss the latest in photovoltaics or water-efficient toilets or green cleaning supplies has real value. But you have to run the meeting, or at least set the tone about your expectations. If you don’t, you’re likely to get the full sales pitch, and if that’s not what you want, then you’re going to walk-away dissatisfied with the experience.
  • Second, have a conversation. Some people do want to start from square one and hear a vendor’s pitch, so that communication is going to be primarily one-way, at least for a while. But chances are you already know something about what the vendor has to offer. So rather than sit back while they turn-on the powerpoint or flip to page one of their sales brochure’s statement of the company’s environmental values, you should take the initiative and ask what’s cooking in the R&D lab. Can they give you a peek at what they plan to feature at NeoCon or GreenBuild? I’ve found that this helps to orient the meeting towards a real discussion.
  • Third, provide feedback. Use the opportunity to tell vendors what you’re looking for from their industry, and even their company. If you’re meeting with a carpet company, and if your hope is that they take back and recycle all carpet – even their competitor’s brands – that is removed as part of a new installation of their product in your facilities, and that they should do this free of charge, then tell them that. If you expect paper products manufacturers to use only 100% post-consumer content recycled fibers without chlorine bleaching, then tell them that. These are people who have the ability to influence product and service development within their companies, and they care about what the customer thinks. They are looking for ideas too!

I found that by following this approach, I was able to turn what otherwise could have been an uncomfortable – and even questionable – use of my time into a productive activity. Still, we all have our limits, and 13 sessions of corporate one-on-ones was a bit beyond my limit. So in the spirit of my third suggestion above, that is exactly the feedback that I provided to the conference organizers.

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    Insights and observations on the campus greening movement, from the perspective of a campus sustainability professional


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