Jan 15, 2014

Get to Know Seattle's Sustainable Heroes!

Every year, the nominees of the Sustainability Leadership Awards inspire the staff at Sustainable Seattle.  These are groups, businesses and individuals go above and beyond when it comes to building a healthy and livable future in the Seattle area. 

This year’s Sustainable Hero nominees are no exception!  They are all working hard in their professional and private lives to incorporate sustainability daily – and the extra steps they take definitely make them inspirational.

We wanted to know more about these motivating individuals, so we asked them a few questions that went beyond their nomination.  We learned something new about each one - one is at a loss when it comes to a Nordstrom's Gift Card, another is inspired by their co-worker's dedication to bikes - and are excited to share more about these community leaders with you.

Here is a look at some fantastic answers from Bill Thorness, Jenny Heins, Guy Lawrence, and Michael Foster: 

[You can learn about the rest of the inspirational nominees, Yoram Bauman (American Economist and stand-up comedian), Mary Rose and Karl Ostrom (Co-Directors of NBIS), Kevin Wilhelm (Author of Making Sustainability Stick and CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, and Ruth Callard (Freeway Estates Community Orchard) here.]

Bill Thorness Solarize Seattle: Northwest, team lead | Cool Seasons Gardener, author | Biking Puget Sound, site curator
What are a couple of ways your sustainable attitudes manifest at home?    I work primarily at home, and try to ride my bike to meetings or errands whenever possible. Also, I grow a lot of food, and save seeds from my favorite plants (and share them at a seed-sharing party each January) in order to cut down on the packaging and shipping of my favorite plants. At our seed party, we develop a group order of seeds, which again cuts down on costs, and ensures that we’ll use most of our seed each year, which cuts down on waste and keeps our seed supply fresh.

What is one of your environmental splurges?  Technology is so hard to avoid, and we have an Internet connection that is pretty much on 24/7. It connects to our computers, phones and television, and I know it is trickling energy away constantly. On the other hand, now that I have solar, I’m not as much concerned about those little energy drains.

Who is a hero or influence in your lifestyle and/or work?  One role model is Wendell Berry, the farmer, writer and philosopher. His respect for nature and feeling that people should be integral with their environment can be seen in his fiction writing, poetry and essays. We can learn so much from the natural world, and instead we so often try to assert superiority over it, which is ridiculous. Mr. Berry’s steadfast adherence over a 50-year career to well-reasoned, logical and calm arguments for a more sane approach to environmental laws and human rights equality is inspirational.

What is a Seattle green feature that you think everyone should know about? Did you know that there are four building salvage stores around the city? These are places that recycle building materials from remodels or tear-downs, and I have found some great, low-cost materials for garden building projects and small home improvement jobs. There’s the ReStore in Ballard, and three in SoDo: Second Use, Earthwise Architectural Salvage, and the Habitat for Humanity outlet. And they’ll even give you store credit for your good used stuff!

Where will your passions lead next year?  Right now, I’m working with a team to put solar energy on the roof of one of the city’s larger community organizations, and I’d like to see it on the roof of more large buildings owned by the public or nonprofits. And I’m continuing to work on a second edition of Biking Puget Sound, which will be expanded with more connecting rides, so hopefully be more useful to people using their bikes as primary transportation.

What are a couple of ways your sustainable attitudes manifest at home?    Most of what I do at home is so second nature that it's hard to remember these are sustainable practices and not just what everyone does.  Plus, so much of what I do is what all my friends do too.  Lots of basic stuff it seems like.  Here are the big ones:
  • I keep my consumption low.  I rarely buy anything new, except food and health items.  And electronics that help increase my productivity and reduce my transportation needs. In the case of electronics, it's hard to know if the ends justify the means.  
  • I grow food and I have chickens.  Lots of people do this – it is not such a big deal anymore.  I used to have a business helping others do this.
  • I minimize my travel.  I stay away from airplanes with a few exceptions (my last trip was my grandma's 100th birthday).  Even around town, I generally stay in my own neighborhood.

Here are a couple of funny things I've noticed recently about how my attitudes affect my life:
I got a $100 gift card for Nordstrom’s for Christmas and I have no idea what to do with it.  Honestly.  I cannot bring myself to buy new clothes even when it's a gift.  I went and looked at the inventory online and recognized that I've developed a repulsion to new clothes.  And it's not that I hate shopping or hate clothes shopping.  Plop me down in a Value Village or Goodwill and I'm happy as a clam.

I have boxes full of things I can't get rid of.  If I think something can be re-purposed but would be tossed in the garbage if I donated it, then I hang on to it.  I have a huge box of half-used notebooks and notepads.  Why?  I use scrap paper (or my iPad) for notes, but who will take the notebooks and use them?  I have a giant box of plastic and metal lids that are the wrong size for recycling.  Habitude stopped taking the small plastic lids for Aveda and the nearest Aveda is at Northgate.  You can imagine how I feel about the mall.  The list goes on.

What is one of your environmental splurges?  I love a fire.  I still have a fireplace in my house, and I have a portable outdoor fire pit too.  I love building the fire, huddling around it, smelling the woodsmoke all amazingly relaxing.  And it's such a comfortable way to connect with other people too.  I could stare into the fire for hours.

Who is a hero or influence in your lifestyle and/or work?  I am really inspired by folks who don't get a lot of attention. I meet people all the time who are showing up for something they believe in and pouring their energy into it.  Like our volunteers at Sustainable Ballard, or the people who show up every week to cook meals for hungry and homeless folks, or farmers growing wholesome and healthy food, or people who write to the city council or the local newspaper or who ask questions at the District Council meeting -- it's all these heroes that fire me up.

What is a Seattle green feature that you think everyone should know about? If I can call local technology a feature: One Bus Away and SEA Next Bus.  There are now 2 apps that were developed locally that make Undriving™ incredibly easy.  I haven't seen any studies, but it seems like putting real time transit information at our fingertips must have an incredible impact on our transportation habits.   I do know that studies have shown that transportation is the hugest contributor to fossil-fuel greenhouse-gas emissions in the world.

Where will your passions lead next year?  In 2014, I have quite a few pet projects:  
  • Continuing to grow and fill out Sustainable Ballard as a pervasive green feature of my own neighborhood.  
  • Getting RainWise installations and Little Free Libraries all over my neighborhood.
  • Co-producing the Northwest Green Home Tour on April 26th, for NW Ecobuilding Guild™ and Built Green®.
  • Working with SCALLOPS (Sustainable Communities ALL Over Puget Sound) and the City of Seattle to produce Hot Ideas to Cool Seattle(a series of workshops to develop cutting edge community-driven projects to address the climate crisis) and Community Forums(quarterly meetings for grassroots volunteer-driven community groups to advise and make recommendations on the City's Climate Action Plan).
  • On the board of Undriving™, we are re-tooling in 2014 for a much broader reach into the national landscape.
  • In my spare time, I've just bought a sailboat (J/35), so I'll be trying to get out on the water whenever possible.

Guy Lawrence TOPS K-8, teacher

What are a couple of ways your sustainable attitudes manifest at home?   I try to follow a plants based diet which means I have meat as a main course maybe twice week.  When buying groceries, I always look for non-GMO items across the board and avoid fruits and veggies that have travelled long distances. 

What is one of your environmental splurges? Once every two weeks or so I’ll buy some grass fed beef and make a nice hamburger with all the trimmings. 

Who is a hero or influence in your lifestyle and/or work? My teaching teammate is a vegetarian and rides her bike to school most days.  We live near each other so we often ride home together.  Another teacher at my school told me she made through 2013 without driving a car.  She bikes everywhere!

What is a Seattle green feature that you think everyone should know about? People should know about the bike routes in the city and support their expansion.  The different farmers markets!  I know that’s two!

Where will your passions lead next year?  I will continue to help kids understand where their food comes from and understand that food choices matter to the health of the planet.  I would like to extend that to an understanding of national food policy/farm bills and how they impact what food is grown and how much it costs.  I want to include a section on how humans( especially in the US) are consuming renewable and non-renewable resources with every purchase we make at a rate that simply cannot be sustained.   

What are a couple of ways your sustainable attitudes manifest at home?    My wife and I drive 2 all-electric cars, have all-electric house (we capped the gas line), and we have chickens as pets instead of a dog. I was born in Houston TX – but I have been all-veggie for the last 20 years. I routinely go through the house switching off lights AND chargers/powerstrips.

What is one of your environmental splurges?  Comfort food: Chips and salsa, ice cream, and beer. Local, organic when possible, but c'mon, this is NOT for nutrition!

Who is a hero or influence in your lifestyle and/or work? James Hansen. Like Galileo and Darwin he has done the work to prove the most important science on the most important topic in history -- just in time -- and is not afraid to bite the hand that feeds him in order to make sure his message gets through. He writes a moral, political, and legal argument for our children's generation.

What is a Seattle green feature that you think everyone should know about  1) Our clean electric grid! We can cut our emissions and starve the fossil fuel industry just by plugging in to the grid! How many cities can do that? We can heat our homes, drive our cars, and cook our dinner, all without buying from the oil and gas industry.
2) Our Green Seattle Partnership, incredibly organized and volunteer-driven. Their mission is to replant and expand Seattle's (withering) Urban Forests. Everybody get out and plant some trees this week! They make it soooo easy.

Where will your passions lead next year?  Giving this program away every day of the year!
At the final CLEW hearing in Olympia, young ambassadors from Plant-For-The-Planet Seattle announced Washington's Billion Tree Campaign by 2020 which is our minimum fair share of the international children's initiative to plant 1 Trillion trees. We're going to be busy getting governments, businesses, and Granny to plant all those trees everywhere, in the backyard, the parks, forests, and overseas. We'll be writing new forestry policy, collaborating with international planting campaigns, and seeding volunteer clubs for ambassadors all over the state.

We plan to help run training Academies in at least 6 towns before the end of the school year, to create a network of children all over Puget Sound. (and by we, I mean child ambassadors and a small group of adult volunteers).

More specifically, the next new steps:
1) Working more with the newly-financed REDD mechanism through the United Nations to reward developing nations for successful efforts to slow down deforestation. Creating connections between local donors and remote forestry projects.

2) Encourage and support the emerging leaders in Plant-For-The-Planet who are learning to speak for their generation to run the Washington clubs, to self-organize activity in the same way the international group does.

3) We've all got to help them spread this work nationally ASAP! 2020 is coming and the world still needs to plant 987 billion more trees! 

The winner of the Sustainability Hero award will be presented on January 31st at the Sustainability Leadership Awards at MOHAI. Learn more about the nominees here. Tickets for the event can be found here. It's sure to be a fantastic night, with live music during the cocktail hour, a great locally sourced dinner and 300+ community leaders, including the evening's welcome speaker Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien.

No comments:

Post a Comment