3-D image of the earth used with the permission of Cornell University                                                                                                                                                                                                
     Sustain-NW written in green and blue script lettering

connecting people with sustainability practices and principles

Make 2013 the Greenest Year Ever!

Start the year off on the right (eco)foot by measuring what matters!  Don't just pay those energy, water, fuel, garbage and supply bills and then forget about them. Start tracking them.  Even a simple Excel spreadsheet can do the trick: kilowatt hours of electricity, therms of natural gas, cubic feet of water, gallons of gasoline, volume or weight of garbage and recycling, reams of paper and other supplies.  Once you have a few months for comparison, challenge yourself and your company to make even a minimal reduction each month.  Have fun in the process.  A little healthy competition can work wonders between departments, buildings, teams, etc.

Having these figures readily available will also be a great start at calculating your carbon footprint when the time comes. 

Let me know if I can help you get started.

Here's to a healthy and prosperous new year for us all!


Connecting the Dots

Sustainability isn't new or trendy or even very original.  The term may not be familiar to everyone, but the concept has been around for thousands of years.  It's recognizing that we live and work on a finite planet; that there are only so many resources to go around and how we use and share them truly makes a difference.  It's only in the past century or two (and increasingly in the last 60 years) that we have become un-sustainable by radically increasing our extraction of fossil fuels and mined minerals while over-harvesting our natural resources - from forests to fisheries - and introducing tens of thousands Image of the earth, with layers that are labeled Ecology, Human Equity, and Economy. Large words circle around the graphic that say Nature, Health, Culture, Economics, Energy. Many smaller words encircle the main graphic and larger words.of new non-natural chemicals into the mix.  As a result, we have drastically intensified levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere leading to the climate change crisis.  We have disturbed, and in some cases even destroyed, those ecological systems that provide clean air, fresh water, healthy topsoil and other services that we usually take for granted and don't capture in our financial analyses.  We have  polluted our bodies through the unwitting ingestion of persistent bio-accumulative toxins (PBTs) leading to illness and disease.  And we have contributed to the creation of a global environment where some people have access to more of everything than they could ever possibly need or want at the same time others will never have access to the very basic necessities, let alone a deeply satisfying and dignified life.  
We can work together to make things better, and everyone benefits in the long run!  Learning and applying the principles of sustainability is how we honor and restore all that is beautiful and meaningful on this little planet we call Earth.
And in the process organizations find that sustainability really is profitable in the long run - and what could be better than doing well by doing good!

Sustainability is Global Risk Management

The first rule of business is to remain “profitable”, but what does that really mean in today’s global environment? Profitable for shareholders or for society in general? Profitable for the current quarter or two or for the next ten, twenty or fifty years?

Companies today are being sued for practices that took place years ago. Lead paint manufacturers have been held responsible for millions of dollars in cleanup and mitigation costs. As Dan Anderson writes in his 2005 book Corporate Survival: The Critical Importance of Sustainability Risk Management, “The basic objectives of risk management are to protect the assets of the corporation and to preserve corporate earnings (profits). I would suggest that the ultimate objectives of risk management are to protect ecosystems as capital assets, to preserve their continuing services; and to maintain fair and equitable social systems.”

Competitive companies and public entities are demonstrating that there are advantages and benefits to embracing “sustainable“ policies and practices. Insurers, reinsurers, bankers, customers and shareholders are not only paying attention, but are often seeking out organizations with this broader vision.

The New Stakeholders

What is your city, county or company doing today that could be perceived in the future as socially irresponsible and/or detrimental to the environment?  In addition to Shareholders and Trustees, all organizations must consider how their actions will be viewed now and in the future by:

  • Customers and employees
  • Regulators and NGOs
  • "Green" consumers
  • Insurers and bankers
  • Communities

Sustainability is a Journey

The good news is that many companies and numerous public entities are already on the road to sustainability.  As a result there are many resources available now to assist you in determining how sustainability can be implemented in your organization.

These sustainability tools include:

You owe it to yourself and your organization to find out all you can about the critically important journey to sustainability when considering:

  • Climate change and "Peak Oil"
  • Competition for limited resources
  • Increasing legal liability
  • EPA and other regulations

Sustain-NW offers training and consulting services to support you on the journey to sustainability.

Sustainability is a term derived from the United Nation’s 1987 Brundtland Report which defined sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

In practice, sustainability promotes the understanding that all activities on the earth, from seemingly small personal choices to multi-billion dollar business decisions, are deeply interconnected and therefore integral parts of the whole.  From this whole-system, cyclical viewpoint, there is great opportunity to contribute to strong economies, healthy communities and a stable environment.  This is often referred to as the Triple Bottom Line: people, planet and profit.

Backyard bounty ~ photo @ Jill Sughrue 2006








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What's your Ecological Footprint? Use the Footprint Network calculator to find out!

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Here's a great resource for getting your green team off the ground:


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Sustainability is Acknowledging that's EVERYTHING is INTERCONNECTED:

Image of the earth, with layers that are labeled Ecology, Human Equity, and Economy. Large words circle around the graphic that say Nature, Health, Culture, Economics, Energy. Many smaller words encircle the main graphic and larger words. 

Copyright © 2006 Atwood Publishing

What does it mean?

Sustain vt: 1: to keep in existence; maintain. 2: to supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for. … 4: to support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage.

Sustainable adj: capable of being sustained.

Sustainability n: the process of making informed decisions for the ultimate success of an organization and all its stakeholders.