I'm in Phoenix, Arizona at the NeighborWorks Training Institute, a training conference aimed at capacity building within community development organizations and specifically focused on the affordable housing sector. I’m officially here to teach a 2-day class on Greening Your Organization, but I've arrived a day early to participate in the daylong symposium, Greening Your Road Map to Succeed in a Changing Landscape. Its been an amazing morning, full of provocative thinking. Here are a few things that struck me as especially note-worthy:
- Shovel-ready vs. shovel worthy – we’re in the midst of a once-in-a-generation investment in the built environment, and we have all heard a lot about jump-starting the economy with shovel-ready projects. But there is currently very little discussion about whether those projects are shovel-worthy. Given the long life span of houses, bridges, highways, and office buildings, we have an urgent responsibility to make sure that each and every project makes sense long into the future.
- Green operations & maintenance – we get a manual for every DVD player and electric can opener we purchase, but we don’t get a manual for the most expensive and most important purchase in our lives: our home. Green building is great, but if the occupants don’t know how to maintain and operate their home or facility to ensure ongoing efficiency and “greenness” then we’ve wasted a lot of time and money.
- Importance of planning early – the earlier in a project that you can incorporate “green” elements – and set expectations and guidelines, the better. This is not a new or particularly mid-shattering revelation, but it’s probably the best predictor of success. I wish more organizations made sustainability part of the initial process for getting ANY new project off the ground. Too often we see companies trying to tack it on in the end, which makes it more complicated, more expensive, and more challenging to integrate into the corporate culture.
Tomorrow I begin teaching my class, and I’m excited to work with almost two dozen participants as we go through the process of calculating their organization’s carbon footprint, understanding their key environmental impacts, and creating an organizational green strategy and action plan. It’s an intense couple of days, but it’s incredible to watch the transformation in the class as people start to see “going green” as something that can be used to drive innovation, employee satisfaction, and operational excellence throughout their business units.