Archive for ‘Natural Resources’

May 13, 2013

Four Hundred

By Scott Lewis, Brightworks CEO

this is a big deal

400 ppm is a big deal

the last time the Earth’s atmosphere had 440 ppm CO2 was over 2.5 million years ago.

the planet was 5 to 10 degrees F. warmer than it is today

“cozy,” you think.

“5-10 degrees warmer, that sounds kind of nice,” you think.

when the Earth’s average temperature was 5-10 degrees warmer than it is today, there was no Greenland Ice Sheet and the seas were 82 feet higher than they are today.

Not cool.

Not cozy.

 We can do More.

March 20, 2012

Good News is Good

by Scott Lewis, Brightworks CEO

As the atmosphere’s CO2 level lurches towards 400 ppm and three-eyed fish are turning up in lakes adjacent to nuclear reactors, it’s important to remember that sometimes good efforts produce impressive results.


image via s.atlantic news agency.

So we were tremendously excited when the UN World Health Organization reported earlier this month that the Millennium Development Goal drinking water target had been met, and three years ahead of schedule.

According to the WHO report, 6.1 billion people, or 89% of the world’s population, now uses “improved drinking water sources” such as piped supplies and protected wells.  Two billion people gained access to these improved sources over the ten-year period from 2000 to 2010. 

Recognizing there is still much work to be done  – over 800 million people still drink dirty water worldwide – this rate and level of improvement is reason to pause and recognize that sometimes, when enough people make the right kind of effort, significant, meaningful results follow.  We’re not finished, by a long shot, but at least in this one area, real progress is being made in the right direction.  Good that.

March 7, 2012

Is Your Supply Chain Prepared for the Future?

Dave Newman, Senior Strategist, Brightworks Enterprise Solutions GroupBy Dave Newman, Senior Strategist

The humble supply chain will undergo a dramatic change as our energy network and systems transition from oil (fossil fuel) to renewable energy. Which begs the question: Is your company ready?

A business’ success or failure always depends on its ability to source and deliver products and services to the marketplace. Let’s look at how that delivery has historically taken place, how it will change as our energy network changes and how smart companies are preparing themselves.

Supply Chain Evolution

A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources that move a product from a company or supplier to the customer.  Picture a relay race of many runners: Each participant moves the relay baton until it reaches the finish line or, in this case, the marketplace where the product can be purchased.

Reviewing the evolution of the supply chain gives us a valuable foundation to discover what it may look like in the future.

Pre-Industrial Supply Chain

Before the industrial revolution, most people grew, raised or hunted for their food. All basic needs were available in the nearby town mercantile. In early America, some products were imported from European nations, but they tended to be expensive and were available only to the more affluent and urban populations. Goods traveled by truly sustainable supply chains – across oceans via sailing vessels powered by winds and currents, and locally via horse-drawn wagons.

Pre-Industrial Supply Chain: Companies, Manufacturing and the Marketplace in One Location

Pre-Industrial Supply Chain: Companies, Manufacturing and the Marketplace in One Location

September 14, 2011

The Port of Portland on “Super-Compliance”

Chris Forney, Brightworks Sustainability AdvisorsChris Forney, Senior Sustainability Advisor

If your company embraced collaboration and innovation from top to bottom, what could you achieve? The Port of Portland’s mission is to “enhance the region’s economy and quality of life by providing efficient cargo and air passenger access to national and global markets.” The Port has enmeshed its economic and community responsibilities with aggressive environmental goals by creating a healthy organizational culture for collaboration and innovation that finds opportunities in its challenges. Our presentation on the Business Case for Sustainability analyzes the value drivers of sustainability for any business. This two-part interview with the Port of Portland will share where and how this sophisticated organization found its business case for sustainability.


Chris: Dorothy, tell me about your role with the Port of Portland.

Dorothy Sperry, Environmental Affairs Manager: I manage the Environmental Management System (EMS) for the Port of Portland, which we use as a framework for implementing our environmental policies. The Port follows the general requirements provided by ISO 14000, an internationally recognized voluntary standard for EMSs. Conformance with the standards is an ongoing process. An EMS asks you to do the minimum required, plus whatever goals you prescribe for yourself. We started with the ISO standard, then implemented a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and targets that address our environmental impacts.

Our environmental managers in the aviation and marine and industrial development departments are responsible for environmental management and compliance within their operating areas. They oversee high quality environmental staff. I work with them, wearing the “Port-wide” environmental hat for the organization’s environmental programs. We also have five environmental program managers focused on air quality, water quality, energy management, water resources management and waste minimization. The Program managers work in their more specific roles in operations and have a dual role in leading a program across organizational boundaries. This allows them to bring their direct experience in operations to development of policy and program objectives and goals.

Chris: Most organizations don’t just decide to be super compliant. How did the Port get there?

Dorothy: The Port Commission adoption of a Port-wide environmental policy jump-started the implementation of our EMS under the ISO 14000 standard. Just implementing the EMS opened a lot of conversations. It’s an integrated system, with many facets, and it encompasses everything we do that has an environmental impact.

The Power of Integration

Chris: The Port seems to really understand that creating change requires integration – not just hiring a Sustainability Manager to “handle sustainability” on their own. We’re seeing this with a lot of organizations, corporate or public.

Dorothy: For how we have to do business, it makes total business sense. We have a lot of environmental professionals here, but we don’t want them to be the environmental police. We want Port staff to feel like, “I can make a positive impact on the environment. I can change things.” Not, “The environmental department will tell me when I need to do something.”

Support starts at the highest levels, with our commissioners, directors, and senior managers and spreads out into the organization. Communication needs to be both top down and bottom up. Our business people need to understand what our environmental impacts are and how those impacts affect our business, and our environmental staff need to help articulate a clear business case for better environmental performance. It works both ways.

Rachel Wray, Environmental Outreach Manager: We’re constantly trying to improve. It requires ongoing, continued mindfulness.

Dorothy: It’s part of our new employee orientation. New staff members get trainings on the EMS and learn that everyone has a role; it’s not just a documentation system.

Chris: So your Human Resources department is involved as well.

Rachel: I gave a presentation to a group of new employees yesterday, which reviewed our environmental goals for the year. We talked about how we don’t always reach those goals, and that’s okay. What is important is that we have them and work toward them. It’s not the Environmental Management team that sets them. They’re set by staff, and staff helps effect that change. It opens the door for questions: What could be better? What could be different?

Dorothy: And potential employees we interview frequently mention our environmental goals and practices as a reason they want to work here.

Rachel: The Port has to think long term, not just focus on short-term crises. The Port has been around for a really long time, so how do we keep it successful? How do we keep finding solutions?

Dorothy: We don’t have endless resources so we have to make the best and most efficient use of what we have. Working toward environmental excellence should not necessarily cost your business more to operate; rather, it should contribute to increased efficiency and enhance the bottom line.

Rachel: We try to be fairly nimble because we’re a public agency that’s working for our money. Less than 5% of our operating budget comes from property taxes, so it’s our other revenue streams that allow us to exist. We do have to have an effective business model.

Integrating Empowerment

Port of Portland Headquarters

Transparency and collaboration at the Port Headquarters

Chris: There are a lot of organizations that can’t make decisions on these kind of initiatives due to internal gridlock, even if their intentions are good. What makes the Port able to move forward?

Rachel: Maximizing collaboration between staff was a very specific goal we identified during the design of our building, and our new office reflects that. We wanted to move away from top-down decision-making and make it physically easy to collaborate and communicate, which improves decision-making.

Dorothy: Collaboration is not something you can just force on people; you need to foster an environment where it can become part of your culture. We have many departments, business lines and varying financial models in our organization…but it all has to come together. We need to embody a systems model of thinking. The “it’s not my job, I’ll let someone else do it” model isn’t as productive.

Rachel: We want to encourage questions like, “This is my job that I have to do, but what else should I be thinking about?”

Click here to read part two of the conversation and learn more about how the Port’s sustainability commitment filters down to action.

June 15, 2011

Calling All Planners: The Earth is Hiring!

Nicole Isle, Brightworks Sustainability AdvisorNicole Isle

Brightworks Sustainability Advisor

If you’re a planner, then you’re primed to take a leadership role in growing the sustainability prospects of your region. Planners have the skills to turn regional aspirations or stretch goals into a real roadmap, steering us toward some seriously needed change. If you’re like many others and tired of overused green jargon, well, here’s some perspective to hopefully turn this tossed-around term “sustainability” into an actionable goal.

Blah Blah into Ah Hah!

Planning for sustainability is a process by which we reduce and eventually eliminate all long-term negative impacts on the planet. Sustainability is different from green in that the latter defines the incremental environmental strategies used to “do better” and make headway toward the overall goal of sustainability.

In so many ways, people are trying to “do better” (e.g. compost, recycle, walk, etc.). It’s unfortunate that all of those incremental green activities get misconstrued as being “sustainable” because it degrades the term. Yet, at the same time, the term suffers from its root origin – to sustain – as if a zero-sum existence on Earth is good enough. What we really should do is ditch the term “sustainability” and use “natural” instead as suggested by conservationist, Spencer Beebe.

Because, at the heart of this movement, what we’re really trying to achieve is a mutually beneficial existence with nature and each other. Beneficial in that we give back to nature and live to create conditions that enable all life to thrive. This can only be done by considering social and economic impacts in tangent with environmental. Organizational change expert and Brightworks’ collaborator, Darcy Winslow, infuses this overused term with new, inspirational meaning grounded back in nature, when she so elegantly explains: “Sustainability is not a problem, but a condition to be created.”

The Planning Niche

Planners are well positioned to be champions of sustainability because day-to-day they help shape the life conditions and orchestrate the developmental roadmap for the communities they serve. Like the condition of sustainability, the planning lens spans three dimensions – social, economic and environmental. And planners have the ability to institute powerful change. They tackle civic issues with broad-based, crosscutting solutions that largely dictate the welfare of communities and the health of natural systems.

No other profession has its hands firmly in all three pots. Planners approach their work as a civic duty, they are an important community voice and they are entrusted to watch over economic and environmental health. Viewed through this macro lens, the role of planners is to recognize and balance all three spheres.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is about making connections between ideas. What connection isn't being made here? Image courtesy of Systems Thinking International.

Planners are systems thinkers, too, and view change from a short- as well as long-term perspective. They are trained to see causal relationships in space and time. Understanding how a new transportation corridor will impact a neighboring community or whether the location of a new super market will spur economic growth requires an interconnected worldview of how we choose to inhabit the landscape. And discovering the implications of change over various timeframes is a critical skill to make choices that lead to a sustainable future for communities.

A Reawakening

Not surprisingly, planning for sustainability is nothing new for planners. The comprehensive planning process is founded on taking a holistic, long-term, systems perspective to social, economic and environmental dimensions. Comprehensive plans are revisited, refined over time and adaptable to the changing needs and desires of the community it serves.

Planning is the perfect tool to reframe our outlook on life and what we envision for our communities over the long haul. Current themes of resiliency, diversity and adaptability are important considerations for bringing safety, security, jobs and health to communities. These themes are also integral to ecological systems.

If you’re not involved in comprehensive planning, take a leadership role in your own planning sphere of influence. Development regulations, zoning, entitlements, habitat protection, design standards, policy, permitting, community involvement and utilities all impact sustainable development and are enabling factors to realizing comprehensive plans.

We’re closer to nature than we think, so reframing how we interpret the comprehensive planning process is not a stretch. In his book, Ecocities, thought leader Richard Register says we need to plan and design cities for living things, not machines: first the pedestrian, then the bike, bus, and rail and very last, the car. Planning places for people benefits other creatures, too, because we’ll inevitably consume less land area than if we continue to build more roads and set tracks to connect increasingly distanced amenities and jobs.

Step In to the Limelight: Your Role as a Planner

Planning for sustainability is really about solid, effective project management. The skills to comprehensively view a project in space and time and its relationship to the broader community and built environment are integral to the planning profession, as is the civic duty to be wise and efficient with resources. As a planner, hone these skills, reconsider your worldview and sphere of influence and press the refresh button. You can press it here:

Refresh Button

Go ahead, hit refresh. Icon courtesy of No Sweat Public Speaking

Do what you do best as a planner, with this renewed sense of purpose, and your community will thank you. Start by identifying where your work touches people and the natural environment and within this sphere of influence, where community or regional dollars are spent. Map this system and start to identify the connections across all three. You will discover relationships and leverage points where you have the power to make change, influencing all three dimensions of sustainability – social, environmental and economic.

Connect with others in your system to expand the map and use recognized tools like The Natural Step to begin uncovering where you can take action. Talk to citizens about their concerns and provide education wherever possible. Ride any momentum you can to launch an initiative, build community support and, most importantly, grab the attention of elected officials to meaningfully impact planning and policy documents.

One of the most important changes land use planners can make right now is to formally establish how sustainability is incorporated into the comprehensive planning process. This goal will give us the momentum we need to dramatically influence change. Work with your community to debate the purpose of the comprehensive plan and connect with your local elected officials and chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) to share your ideas. The Oregon Chapter is currently tackling this challenge through several initiatives, including the development of an online database to share current best practices. As OAPA’s sustainability coordinator, I would love to hear your ideas and concerns.Planning-Sidebar

It’s time for planners to step up and share the limelight with the green building design community. Take a leadership role in sustainable development now. The Earth is hiring – sustainability planning is in high demand!

June 14, 2011

How Did Architects Leapfrog Planners in the Sustainability Race?

Nicole Isle, Brightworks Sustainability AdvisorNicole Isle

Brightworks Sustainability Advisor

It doesn’t matter what type of planner you are or whether you work in the public or private sector. Transportation, land use, environmental and economic development planners as well as community, campus or regional planners — all have the skill set to be leaders in an emerging sustainable economy.

The need I see is to help planners make this connection and to put these skills to work. This will take the sort of leadership and confidence seen in the architectural community that has caused tremendous growth in the green building market.

Early Leadership

The word sustainability caught the greater market’s attention with the green building movement. Before that, the thinking was very much alive in the planner’s world with natural areas’ protection and restoration, social services and business creation, for example. The concept, however, really took off after the U.S. Green Building Council entered the market in 1993 with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new building construction.

The USGBC was the first to formally define what a green building is and to quickly point out that we must focus on buildings because of their enormous resource consumption. Later, with Ed Mazaria’s Architecture 2030 Challenge, architects received the leadership and collective encouragement to take the stage as sustainability champions. And they ran with it, leaving planners in the dust!

Sure, planners have been doing great things for a long time, with thought leadership from Jane Jacobs, Andrés Duany, Ian McHarg and Peter Calthorpe, to name a few. But the accolades and limelight in the built environment has primarily shined on the design and construction industry. Their thought leadership has elevated planners’ thinking, as well as the architectural community’s, and has led to the savvy notion that sustainable design comes from looking beyond the building.

A Meeting of the Minds

Architects are beginning to think more like planners now. LEED Platinum is not good enough anymore. The Living Building Challenge took its place as the next step toward achieving true sustainability at the building scale. Yet, the challenge is tough. Constructing buildings that produce all of their own energy needs and recycle their water on site is a difficult challenge, especially for larger buildings or buildings with high resource demands, such as laboratories and hospitals. To this end, architects are discovering that solutions to this challenge can be found by leveraging resource efficiencies at the block, neighborhood and city scales.

Across scales, energy, water and other resource concerns (such as ecosystem functions, air quality, carbon emissions, transportation access and materials to name a few) can more adequately be addressed and the solution space opens up. Across scales, the economics of solutions oriented around sustainability consistently look better. Moreover, this idea leads to solutions that could serve multiple buildings, which compounds the resource and social benefits and accelerates progress toward higher levels of sustainability.

Living Paris, winner of the Living City Design Challenge

This vision of a "Living Paris" won Daniel and Maximilian Zielinski first prize in the Living City Design Competition. Image courtesy of the International Living Future Institute.

Several tools that took shape in the architectural community are now expanded to encompass larger developments. USGBC’s LEED rating system now certifies neighborhoods, Architecture 2030 has designed a challenge for planners, and the Living Building Challenge now addresses development at all scales and recently hosted a competition to design the most sustainable city. These programs emerged from the desire to qualify well-known sustainability planning concepts by taking advantage of the market penetration success of USGBC. New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Transit Oriented Development are examples.

This evolution continues as new planning programs are launched by entities striking out on their own. These programs are less design-oriented and more about transforming existing communities giving planners the opportunity to take a leadership role. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) Local Governments for Sustainability as well as the Portland Sustainability Institute’s EcoDistrict’s Initiative are two such programs.

So what should planners do to reclaim sustainability leadership?  Find out in our related post, “Calling All Planners: The Earth is Hiring!”

March 11, 2010

Forest Rant

A Call To Action

The non-profit US Green Building Council, which created and administers the industry standard green building certification system called LEED, is poised to decide whether to weaken a very important forest protection provision within the LEED standard.

Love Forests

The provision is within what is called the “Certified Wood” credit of LEED, and pertains to what 3rd party certification standards are accepted for the LEED Certified Wood point.

Currently, only the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard is considered acceptable within LEED.  Under intense pressure from members of the forestry industry who do not follow the strict FSC requirements, USGBC is considering allowing competing standards to be accepted along with FSC.

But NRDC, one of the most highly-respected national conservation groups, says “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) runs the only credible forest certification program.”  (see source here)

Don’t let this happen!  Make your voice be heard.

For more background on the issue, see:

The US FSC web site, here.

Yale did a comparison of forestry certification standards, which supports FSC as the only meaningful certification standard,  here.

Go To USGBC’s Web Site, and Comment Now!

You don’t have to be a USGBC member to comment against the proposed change to the Certified Wood standard.  But the deadline to comment is this coming Sunday, March 14th.  COMMENT, NOW,  Here.

If you are a USGBC member, you can opt in to the consensus body by Wednesday March 24th to be eligible to vote on the final proposed credit revision, here.

In case your browser doesn’t support embedded links, the URLs above are:




Comment Now-

Opt In to the Consensus Body –

— Scott Lewis

Brightworks CEO

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