Saturday, May 14, 2005

Environmental Heroes

Green Magazine
Interiors Magazine-- July issue 2004
25 Environmental Champions

Who are your environmental heroes?

1 comment:

Martie said...

25 Environmental Champions for 2004 + A Tribute to the Trailblazers

By Katie Sosnowchik and Penny Bonda

It began with a simple question: Who are your environmental heroes? It continued with a careful and considerate review of dozens of nominations as well as a lively discussion on the qualities of a true champion. It is completed here with a compilation of 25 “heroes” and a peek into the philosophies and inspiration that fuels their passion for environmental stewardship.

We are pleased that our champions include some well-known individuals who are engaged on the national or international stage, as well as those who are working quietly in their communities to affect change without much publicity or recognition. We have also included for this first year a tribute to those trailblazers responsible for raising awareness and pioneering sustainable design and business practices early on, providing the very foundation upon which the modern environmental has been built. With special thanks to our judges—Donald R. Horn, AIA, Sustainable Design Program, U.S. General Services Administration; Katie Fry Hester, Advisor, SustainAbility; and Gina Baker, Architect, Burt Hill Kosar Rittelman—Interiors & Sources presents this anthology of environmental guardians who are tirelessly working to raise the level of awareness of vital ecological issues, laying forth critical mandates for the future—and sometimes achieving the impossible in the process.


Environmental Trailblazers


Ray Anderson
Interface, Inc

One of the first top-level corporate executives to publicly and passionately embrace the tenets of sustainable development, Anderson has been a highly visible and vocal champion for the movement for the past decade. He has criss-crossed the globe with his message (nearly 80 speeches annually for the past seven years), often standing before audiences and acknowledging that, although he is hailed as a captain of industry, “In the future, people like me will go to jail.” In his book, Mid-Course Correction, Anderson chronicles his “awakening” to industry’s plundering of the earth and the steps his company is taking to adopt “kindler, gentler technologies that emulate nature.” In fact, Anderson says his greatest inspiration “comes from seeing the tangible, measurable progress my company is making toward sustainability. That means to me that my vision of 10 years ago is becoming a reality, proving to anyone who cares to look that it is possible to transform a petro-intensive company such as ours and significantly reduce its environmental footprint, eventually (I am convinced) to zero. The power of example, manifest: As Amory Lovins says, ‘If it exists it must be possible.’”


Rachel Carson
Writer, Scientist, Ecologist

There are relatively few environmental advocates today who do not credit the reading of Carson’s book, Silent Spring, as a epiphany in their careers. The book, published in 1962, was a great departure for Carson, who previously had written numerous books and
articles telling about the wonder and beauty of the living world. But her dismay and outrage at the impact of pesticides on human and environmental health prompted her to take pen in hand to document how DDT and other chemicals being used to enhance agricultural productivity were actually poisoning our lakes, rivers, oceans and ourselves. Though hugely controversial when first published, her research and conclusions were subsequently acknowledged by a Science Advisory Committee appointed during the Kennedy administration, and many state legislatures responded by introducing pesticide-related legislation. Carson died in 1964 after a four-year struggle with breast cancer, leaving as her legacy the early rumblings of the modern-day environmental movement.
Thirty-five years after her death, she shared the cover of Time magazine with Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk as the most influential scientists and thinkers of the 20th century.


Janine Benyus
Nature Writer

Many believe that Benyus’ book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, has done more to teach a diverse readership the mysteries of the natural world than any classroom possibly could. Published in 1997 and hailed for its intelligence and inspiration, one reviewer described it as “a primer that will teach you how to think like a blade of grass, a duck pond, a wheat field, a redwood forest, and thus, to live within the natural order.” Its title, Biomimicry (from bio, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) “refers to a science that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example,” Benyus explains. Her credo is simple: we save what we love, we love what we understand and we understand what we are taught. Her passion, she says, comes from the mysteries of life and her desire to affect others with her knowledge of and enthusiasm for the natural world. To that end, Benyus has successfully brought biologists, industrialists, inventors and designers together to explore why organisms can perform highly technical maneuvers without leaving any damage behind—and how we can be as elegant and restorative.


John Elkington
Environmentalist, Author

Elkington rocked the foundation of traditional corporate thought when, in 1997, his ground-breaking book, Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of the 21st Century, hit the book stands. His inspirational, practical treatise demonstrated how all businesses can successfully adopt a three-prong strategy for the future, one that includes not just economic prosperity, but also environmental protection and social equity. He currently serves as chairman of the consultancy firm SustainAbility, which he founded in 1987 with Julia Hailes. It works with businesses from a variety of industries and world regions, helping them understand and respond strategically to the evolving challenges of sustainable development. Personally, Elkington cites eight core values on his Web site ( that drive his thinking and actions: evolution (real change happens over generations); sustainability (future generations as stakeholders today); diversity (evolution feeds on difference); transparency (sustainable economies are see-through); conversation (wellspring of insight): memory (capture lessons of experience); intuition (facts only get you so far); and serendipity (learn from mistakes and fortunate accidents).


Paul Hawken
Environmentalist, Author

Well-known and respected as an environmentalist, educator, lecturer, entrepreneur and journalist, Hawken is considered one of the leading architects and proponents of
corporate reform with respect to ecological practices. He helped found The Natural Step in the United States and internationally, a non-profit that assists business and government leaders in establishing a long-term commitment to environmental sustainability as a core part of their overall policies. His 1993 book, The Ecology of Commerce, shattered the mainstream consciousness of business, causing many CEOs to rethink and transform their internal corporate culture and business philosophy toward environmental restoration. It has since become a classic text on business and the environment and, in
1998, was voted the #1 college text on business and the environment by professors in 67 business schools. This success was subsequently followed by the publication of Natural Capitalism, authored by Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins, which is described as a groundbreaking blueprint for a new economy and a future in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, and in which businesses can better satisfy their customers’ needs, increase profits and help solve environmental problems all
at the same time. “The future,” Hawken once told Interiors & Sources, “belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous and enduring, and thus more intelligent and even competitive.”


Denis Hayes
Earth Day Network

Twenty million Americans took to streets, parks and auditoriums on April 22, 1970
to demonstrate for a healthy environment. The coast-to-coast rallies of that first Earth Day—conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin—were organized by Hayes, the national coordinator, and a youthful staff. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political
alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city dwellers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. That first Earth Day also led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Hayes next organized the first International Earth Day in 1990, which mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries. He returned yet again in 2000 to chair Earth Day’s 30th anniversary, including the activities of 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries. “I suppose the last thing we expected when we were putting it together in 1970 was that we were creating a permanent holiday . . . Instead what has happened is that over the last 30 years this has now evolved into a true secular, global, theme-based holiday,” Hayes told Robert McClure, a reporter with the Seattle Post-Intelligence, this year. Hayes continues these long-lasting ties as head of Earth Day Network, which coordinates Earth Day activities worldwide, and as president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, a $100 million environmental foundation located in Seattle.


Robert Massie
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economics (CERES)

For more than two decades, Massie has been working on issues of corporate
governance and responsibility. For most of the past eight years, Massie was executive director of CERES (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies), a coalition of investment funds, environmental organizations and public interest groups whose mission is to move businesses, capital and markets to advance lasting prosperity by valuing the health of the planet and its people. And though he recently stepped down from this role due to health reasons, he continues to serve CERES as a board member and senior fellow. His bold thinking is credited for the creation of both the Global Reporting Initiative and the Sustainable Governance Project and he is often lauded for his ability to create networks among diverse and what might appear to be opposing groups. “We live in a society where the dominant model is winner take all,” Massie once said. “That is not a sustainable model. The sustainable model is people coming together from many points of view, from cultural and global diversity, and coming to understand what goals we really want as a community on earth.”


Samuel Mockbee
The Rural Studio

Though he passed away in December 2001, the legacy that Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee bestowed in the hearts and minds of his architecture students—as well as the citizens of some of the poorest counties in Alabama—will live on in the work of The Rural Studio, a program he founded in 1993 with colleague D.K. Ruth. The Rural Studio provides Auburn University architecture students the opportunity to put their education and skills to work through “context based learning,” where they live in and become a part of the community in which they are working. What it has ultimately achieved is the creation of architecture that uplifts the spirits and souls of those who experience it. “Does anyone in the Hamptons deserve anything less than anyone in Masons Bend and vice versa?,” he once asked. Indeed, “Mockbee cast a spotlight on an aspect of our culture that most avoid . . . and he demonstrated that socially responsible architecture can delight the senses, inspire the masses, and serve the soul,” wrote Daniel Bennett, FAIA, dean of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction at Auburn University. “Mockbee presented architecture as a discipline which is rooted in community . . . a principle that must be committed to environmental, social, political and aesthetic issues.”


William McDonough & Michael Braungart
McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry

Though their early careers took different paths—McDonough as an architect and Braungart as a chemist—their chance meeting in 1991 forged a future that has since been intrinsically linked. Among their first projects was to co-author The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability for the 2000 World’s Fair; they have since gone on to champion the concept of eco-effectiveness—human industry that is regenerative rather than depletive. “Nature—highly industrious, astonishingly productive and creative, even ‘wasteful’—is not efficient, but effective,” they wrote in a 1998 article entitled, “The NEXT Industrial Revolution.” From an industrial design perspective, it means products that work within a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle, rather than cradle-to-grave. They are famous for many well-coined terms, most especially “waste = food,” where all products are seen as nutrients within biological (natural) or industrial (technical) metabolisms.

With clients that have included Ford, The Gap, Nike, Shaw, Herman Miller, Steelcase, Unilever, Dow and Honeywell, McDonough and Braungart are leading a business revolution by proving that it is possible to do well by doing good.


Daniel Quinn

Millions of people have read Daniel Quinn’s bestseller Ishmael since it was first published in 1992, and most feel the same way as Jim Britell of Whole Earth Review: “From now on I will divide the books I have read into two categories—the ones I read before Ishmael and those read after.” The book begins with a simple personals ad: “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world.” A young man searching for direction in his life answers the ad only to find that the teacher is a lowland gorilla named Ishmael, a creature of immense wisdom. Ishmael goes on to challenge his student—and the reader—to consider the consequences if humanity continues down its current path as a civilization driven to destroy the world in order to live. Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to come from within ourselves. Is it man’s destiny to rule the world? Or is a higher destiny possible—one more wonderful than he has ever imagined? Quinn believes the story of Ishmael is a story of hope. “This book shows that we can learn about what [our] destiny is from the life around us—and in Ishmael it just happens that life speaks with the voice of a lowland gorilla."


Theodore Roosevelt
26th President of the United States

Though certainly not the inventor of conservation, it is inarguable that President Roosevelt was instrumental in propelling the conservation movement forward and into the public consciousness. Upon becoming President in 1901, his long-time interest in the outdoors translated into policy. In fact, in his inaugural address Roosevelt asked Congress to set up a federal forestry bureau, which led to the establishment of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905. “Conservation means development as much as it does
protection,” Roosevelt noted in Views from the Rough Rider. “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.” National Geographic estimates that under his watch, the area of the United States placed under public protection totals approximately 230 million acres. The areas preserved and activities for conservation included: 150 national forests, 51 federal bird
reservations, four national game preserves, five national parks, 18 national monuments, 24 reclamation projects and seven conservation conferences and commissions.


Sim Van der Ryn
Van der Ryn Architects

For over 35 years, Van der Ryn’s design, planning, teaching and public leadership has advanced the acceptance and knowledge of ecological principles and practices in architecture and planning. “Design should tell a story about place and people, and be a pathway to understanding ourselves within nature,” he once said. He has made
ecological design a real solution for single and multi-family housing, community facilities, resort and health centers, schools, office buildings, commercial buildings and planned communities. His greatest inspiration, he says, “is the wonder and beauty of the living world all around us. I want it to be there for generations to come. Today, dysfunctional government, unrestrained corporate greed and mindless technology are threatening the very basis of our survival. Is that an extreme statement? I wish it were, but science confirms it every day. It ain’t pretty. We designers go about our business, adding a few words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘green.’ Sure we’re trying, but not enough—and not together. We need to all stop being servants to a system that doesn’t work and get on with the work of bringing design back to life.”


David Suzuki
David Suzuki Foundation

An internationally respected geneticist, environmentalist and broadcaster, Suzuki is recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology. A “gifted interpreter of science and nature,” he has authored numerous best-sellers (more than 300 articles and 32 books) and hosted more than 10 weekly television shows/series and nearly 20 special programs that explain the complexities of science in a compelling, easily understood way. Suzuki was a full professor at the University of British Columbia from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. Today, he serves as chair of The David Suzuki Foundation, a group that works through science and education to protect the balance of nature and our quality of life, now and for future generations. One of its most recent works, Sustainability Within a Generation: A New Vision for Canada, explores how Canada can achieve economic and environmental sustainability within a generation if government works with industry and public policy groups to address major issues. “This is neither a lofty goal nor some obscure academic idea,” Suzuki said. “We need to understand that a healthy economy is inextricably linked to a healthy environment—it’s not one or the other.”


E.O. Wilson
Harvard University

Considered by many to be the father of the modern environmental movement, Wilson has, through his teachings and writings, contributed greatly to the field of conservation by exposing nature’s glories and frailties with both elegance and clarity. He has identified the components of our ecological plight—biodiversity lost through species extinction, an environmental footprint already too large for the planet to sustain, the effects of population stress and habitat destruction—and examines them from many perspectives, including human behavior. He is a self-admitted pragmatist who hopes he doesn’t sound like a “mamby-pamby centrist.” “I feel that some of the great problems we have in society and the environment seem insoluble because of polarization,” Wilson has said. “The answer is, in my view, to define the problem and get both sides to examine it and agree on a solution. That is the way I believe democratic societies can and will evolve.” In his book, The Future of Life, Wilson makes a passionate plea for a new way to manage and protect our eco-system—one that marshals arguments from science, economics and ethics to drive home the necessity for proper stewardship.


Environmental Champions


Environmental Champion #1

Stefan Behnisch
Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner

Described as an architectural visionary, Behnisch doesn’t consider himself a green
architect because he believes that architecture and environmental responsibility are
eternally meshed. He incorporates specific, targeted environmental strategies into every single component of the design, planning and construction process. His foresight and innovation have contributed to stunning, functional and environmentally “whole” structures including the NordLB Bank building in Hanover, Germany; the Institute of Forestry and Nature Research in the Netherlands; and most recently the Genzyme Center in Cambridge, MA. An important aspect that enriches his work, he says, “is the
fact that the clients, engineers and colleagues with whom we are collaborating on these innovative projects are interested, ambitious and innovative people.” The tangible outcomes of his work can be measured in lowered waste, energy and pollution output. The intangibles are most visible in the increase in workmanship, productivity and collaboration experienced by occupants of his buildings. In fact, he says that he finds that the people who inhabit these buildings are “quite satisfied people who usually, once they have embraced the idea, carry it further than we have anticipated in the outset.” His candid approach to environmental design inspires many and is summarized in his statement, “The greatest frustration is the widespread politically conservative argument that ecological thinking is economically counterproductive. The contrary is the case. One should accept that this will be a huge market in the near future.”


Environmental Champion #2

Josie Briggs
Studio Celadon

In 1999, Briggs brought sustainable design to the forefront of the Seattle design and architecture community by planting the seed for GreenWorld™, a symposium on green design organized by the Seattle chapter of the IIDA. Under her direction, GreenWorld has grown tremendously since its inception and is now an annual and well-respected event in the Northwest. Briggs served as the IIDA chapter president in 2001-2002, and as the sustainability advisor to the chapter for the past few years. Her career has encompassed impressive work at prestigious Seattle design firms, as well as at her own firm, which she founded two years ago. She is widely regarded as a leading
sustainable designer and her work has been published in local design publications. She also serves as a sustainable design instructor at Bellevue Community College and the University of Washington. What most inspires Briggs to continue her work, she said, is
“observing the moment when someone begins to truly understand the philosophies of sustainability. As members of the design community, we have the ability to profoundly affect people’s personal environments, as well as influence the natural environment through our building methods. Once we understand that everything is environmentally connected, it becomes apparent that we can make a difference through design and lifestyle. I find this sense of inclusion exciting, and it encourages me to push the envelope and strive for innovation.”


Environmental Champion #3

Randy Croxton & Kirsten Childs
Croxton Collaborative Architects

Long before it was fashionable, Croxton Collaborative Architects was designing green. Founded by Randy Croxton, FAIA in 1978, the firm has long been recognized as an early innovator in the field of sustainable architecture. Its first environmentally-informed project, completed in 1989 for the National Resource Defense Council headquarters, stands today as the seminal project that “turned the ship” by addressing the full ecology of the building: light, air, energy and human health and well-being. Of the project and its effect on him, Croxton says, “NRDC exemplifies the power of environmental intelligence effectively leveraged for change. Architecture seemed to be inspiration enough, but a larger vision, the resourceful integration of built and natural environments, ignited a self-sustaining quest.” In recognition of his international standing, Croxton was invited to present another leadership project, Audubon House, at both the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio (1992) and the United Nations Social Summit in Copenhagen (1995). Kirsten Childs, ASID joined the firm as director of interior design in 1985 and has played a key role in developing Croxton Collaborative’s sustainable agenda. Unique among interior designers, Childs recognized “the disturbing impacts caused by the design and construction process on all life, as well as on natural systems. I realized in 1987,” she states, “that there was a way in which I, personally, could contribute to a restorative action in nature, which might begin to address this damage. Through the application of environmental/sustainable strategies, I could use my education and skills to diminish the impact of my work on this fast deteriorating natural world.”


Environmental Champion #4

Mayor Richard M. Daley
City of Chicago

What most people probably don’t know about Chicago—yet—is that its mayor is firmly committed to making his town “the greenest and most environmentally friendly city in America.” Why? Because, says Daley, during the 15 years that he’s been mayor, “We’ve learned that protecting the environment makes sense both economically and politically. We’ve learned that we can actually save money—on taxes and on household and business expenses—by paying attention to the environment. At the same time, we enhance our quality of life, which builds pride in our city and helps us attract new employers, residents, tourists and conventions—all the ingredients of a strong local economy.” Daley’s scorecard looks pretty impressive. For example, over the last 11 years, the city has reduced daily water use by 160 million gallons. The city’s new libraries and police stations have solar panels, reflective roofs and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, which reduce energy and operating costs. It operates nearly 200 alternative fuel vehicles, and the Center for Green Technology on the city’s West Side is the first municipal building in the world to be awarded a LEED Platinum rating, and one of only six buildings worldwide with that distinction. Finally, the City Energy Plan, adopted in 2001, calls for 20 percent of the energy used by city facilities to come from renewable sources by 2006. An ambitious plan, but one Daley is sure to see happen.


Environmental Champion #5

Earth Pledge
Earth Pledge Foundation

In the words of Leslie Hoffman, its executive director, Earth Pledge operates “in an urban atmosphere where the impact of human activity is extreme, and city dwellers are often disconnected from what sustains their lives. Earth Pledge works to reconnect people to the systems that support us by promoting innovative technologies that not only mitigate environmental problems, but also provide a bit of the ‘wow’ factor that
can reconnect us to nature in a life-enhancing way. We are inspired to facilitate a transition that is motivated to achieve long term security and health.” Founded by Theodore Kheel in 1991 to stimulate interest in and support the upcoming 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and motivated by the findings of the summit, Kheel set the promotion of sustainable development as EP’s primary goal. Despite its urban
setting, Earth Pledge is highly involved with sustainable agriculture through its Farm to Table and Sustainable Cuisine programs. It is perhaps best known, however, for its Green Roofs Initiative, which aims to lower New York City’s ambient air temperature and prevent pollution in its waterways by creating a city-wide green roof infrastructure. “Our real interest,” Hoffman states, “is to twiddle the imagination of people so that they start to see that life can actually be enhanced by struggling for sustainability. It’s not about giving things up, it’s about having an enhanced intellectual engagement with what it takes to really sustain life on this planet.”


Environmental Champion #6

Team at Envision Design

A Washington, DC-based multidisciplinary design firm with a focus on sustainability, Envision Design is involved in a broad range of project types both locally and nationally, including commercial interiors, retail space, base buildings, graphics and product design. Integral to the firm’s design philosophy is the belief that sustainable design is more than just the specification of natural, renewable or recycled materials, but rather it is a synergistic effort to minimize the ecological impact of a building and improve the lives of the people who dwell within. “Our greatest inspiration is the growing awareness of the positive benefits of environmentally and socially responsible design strategies,” says principal Ken Wilson. “Without awareness, you can’t initiate change.” Much of Envision Design’s extensive experience has been for high-profile NGOs that share a common pro-environmental philosophy: Greenpeace, the United Nations Environment
Programme, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense, the National Audubon Society and Friends of the Earth. With each project, the firm delivers increasing evidence that sustainable design does not diminish the vitality of the design. “We want to inspire other design firms to take our approach to sustainability and make it a priority for their practice,” explains Wilson. To that end, members of the Envision team (half of which are LEED Accredited professionals) actively participate in various organizations within the environmental design community, and each year the firm funds scholarships for students to attend the EnvironDesign conference.


Environmental Champion #7

Rebecca Flora
Green Building Alliance

Raising public awareness about the need for green building has been central throughout Flora’s career, most especially in her current role as executive director of the GBA, a non-profit that drives market demand for green building through education and project facilitation. What’s more, she’s highly effective and motivated for the task, earning the 2001 Three Rivers Environmental Award for her work. She’s also a part-time economic development professor at the Heinz School for Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Her commitment to emphasizing environmental and social responsibility in traditional economic development practices was honed during her years at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and again at the South Side Local Development Council, a non-profit community development corporation. It also was highly visible in her role on the project team overseeing the greening of Pittsburgh’s $350 million Convention Center expansion. Her position as chair of that project’s design commission earned her the Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitor Bureau’s Award in 2001. “I am inspired,” she said, “by the leadership of women in the environment, like Rachel Carson, who stood her ground against powerful forces and scientifically proved her case; and Teresa Heinz, a modern-day visionary and strong advocate for quality design of the built environment at all levels and for all people. I am driven by my desire to leave behind a cleaner and safer earth for my daughters to inherit—or at least know their mother tried to make a difference.”


Environmental Champion #8

Mark Ginsberg
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

A Native American expression, “Leave a place nicer than you found it,” sums up Ginsberg’s ethic and has helped define his career direction. Through his long tenure with the Department of Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Ginsberg has been involved with some of the most important environmental
initiatives of the past decades. He led the Greening of the White House, supported the Greening of the Pentagon, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks and funded the development of tools like EnergyPlus and LEED. “Watching the revolution that began with these programs and the explosion in interest in energy efficient and green design that followed, has inspired me to continue my work,” Ginsberg states. “If I have a regret, it is that these simple and effective approaches are not yet universally accepted and incorporated into every new building. Every building that doesn’t incorporate these features will drain resources for their 50- to 100-year lives. Doing it right the first time makes so much sense.” Ginsberg continues to work within the EERE and with the green building community to develop and promote energy policy and technologies. “It is an honor,” he believes, “to be in a profession where others believe as I do, that the world can be a better place.”


Environmental Champion #9

Robin Guenther
Guenther 5 Architects

Since she began designing healthcare spaces more than 25 years ago, Guenther has engaged in an evolving dialogue about archetypal healing environments, which has led her to an increasingly active role as an advocate for environmental responsibility in healthcare
construction. Guenther serves on the 2005 AIA Guidelines for Health Care Construction Revision Committee and the Environmental Standards Council for the Center for Health Design, among others, where her devotion and solid knowledge has influenced the way environmentally-related design issues will be incorporated into future healthcare projects. She also has identified the need for linking the design profession with wider advocacy efforts, and as such co-chairs the Building Green Healthcare Construction work group, a joint project with the Healthy Building Network and Health Care Without Harm. She is described as a strategic thinker at the crossroads of design, policy and markets, a professional who holds herself, her firm and her outside contractors to the highest standards. Guenther’s inspiration, she says, is summarized in a single word—nature—which brings to mind a favorite quote from Charles Jencks’ book, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation: “‘Take one’s pain into nature’ is an old nostrum. Nature spreads it out and is big enough to absorb and delineate incomprehensible feeling.’” Guenther asks, “Could there be a better reason to pursue this agenda in healthcare? Nature connects us with our humanity—in our moments of stress and pain, it always answers.”


Environmental Champion #10

Judith Helfand
Toxic Comedy Pictures

The real life experiences that have helped shaped Judith Helfand’s environmental activism began innocently. Her mother, following a doctor’s abysmal advice, exposed Helfand while still in the uterus to an ineffective synthetic hormone, DES, leading first to an adult bout with cancer and an eventual exploration into the long-term effects of toxic chemical exposure. Years later her parents’ decision to reclad their home with vinyl siding triggered her investigation into the vinyl industry. Focusing her research on the high incidence of poor health of the plant workers and the residents in the towns near the production facilities, she documents both the plight of the “little guy” and of the consumer trying to make good decisions with only industry-driven information. Helfand has turned these very personal experiences with cancer and toxins into precautionary tales told with infectious good humor through two award-winning films. In A Healthy Baby Girl she tells, together with her mother, how at age 25 she had a hysterectomy caused by her DES exposure. Blue Vinyl, produced with her filmmaking partner Daniel Gold, tackles the health and environmental hazards of vinyl production and its bi-product, dioxin. “In order for one generation to rely on the next,” Helfand says, “you
cannot pass on a legacy of toxic chemicals.” Helfand is continuing her outreach activities on two fronts. In 1999 she and Robert West formed Working Films, a nationally recognized activist-driven bridge between high quality documentary filmmaking and serious grassroots organizing. She and Gold have formed a production company, Toxic Comedy Pictures, to create highly accurate, slightly droll, socially conscious films. Their next film, Melting Planet, is a feature documentary about global warming.


Environmental Champion #11

Dr. Richard Jackson
California Department of Health Services

Dr. Richard Jackson has devoted his career to matters of public health in India where he worked on smallpox eradication, in California studying farm worker health and pesticide issues as well as infectious disease control programs and, finally, at the Center for Disease Controls where he ran the environmental health center for the last nine years. He currently works as the state public health officer for the California Department of Health Services. Jackson believes that there is a close connection between the physical environment and human health and has been studying environmental epidemiology for 25 years, investigating cancer and birth defect clusters, water contamination with pesticides and other chemicals, air pollution studies, etc. and how to design environments that are safer and healthier. In September 2003, Jackson was the driving force behind the official journal of the American Public Health Association which focused on the connections between the built environment and health. Dozens of authors contributed articles on community design, smart growth, links between walking, bicycling and health, school policies, automotive impacts and similar issues. Despite current evidence to the contrary, such as increased incidences of diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and the like, Jackson is optimistic.

“We have to turn it around,” Jackson states. “As Winston Churchill said, always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else. Eventually we’ll get it right, because we don’t have any choice.”


Environmental Champion #12

Brian Johnson
City of Santa Monica Dept. of Environment and Public Works

The City of Santa Monica is commemorating 10 years of sustainability due in large part to the efforts of the manager of its Environmental Programs Division, Brian Johnson. Under his guidance, the Sustainable City Plan being celebrated this year has established Santa Monica as a leader in policy-setting initiatives to address the economic, social and ecological issues that face all cities. Newly added is a study of the city’s ecological footprint to measure and communicate human impacts on local and global ecosystems. It and the City Plan are designed to help the community think in a sustainable manner, to identify the root causes of problems and to develop long-term solutions—in other words
to think about the future as decisions are made about the present. For Johnson, his motivations are simple. “I would say, although it’s a cliché, that children have always provided the lion's share of my inspiration. When you act for the children, you are likely going to achieve for the whole of society.” His department is also responsible for the Santa Monica Green Building Program, which outlines the city’s standards of excellence in green building design and construction and has established Santa Monica at the helm of the municipal green building movement. Johnson has made presentations on these programs in Europe, Asia and Latin America and in his 11 years with the city has served on numerous state, national and international advisory boards and committees.


Environmental Champion #13

Dave Johnston
What's Working?

Johnston has been tirelessly involved in environmentally friendly construction for 30 years, and at the forefront since 1993 when he founded What’s Working. He helped originate the Denver Metro Home Builders Association’s Built Green Program, which has certified over 4,000 new homes per year. “Green building is such a win-win proposition,” he says. “It’s fun to work with all segments of the residential industry and watch light bulbs go off when major players understand they have a role in designing the future.” Johnston is also the main designer and consultant to the Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s program, which is a template for other building market transformation programs in the San Francisco Bay area. A frequent and powerful speaker, his Green Building: Changing the World One Room at a Time will be published this year. The Boulder Chamber of Commerce and the University of Colorado have awarded him for his work. Johnston continues to be inspired by Buckminster Fuller, who he studied with in college, and his belief that one person can indeed change the world. He also cites Ken Wilbur’s systems approach to the social side of developmental change as key drivers to his own work. Ultimately, though, Johnston is inspired most by “protecting the next generation, from whom we are borrowing the future. It is up to us to solve the problems we have created during our watch, not leave them for their generation to figure out.”


Environmental Champion #14

John Knott
The Noisette Co., LLC

A third generation builder/developer, Knott heeds the family creed that it has a long-term responsibility for the social, ecological and economic health of the places it creates and the larger community in which it participates. “We understand that we are not in the building or development business, but the human habitat business,” says Knott. “This forces you to continuously learn and think about the impact of your actions on those whom you serve.” Previously, Knott was CEO and managing director of the 1,206-acre Dewees Island resort community near Charleston, SC, recognized as one of the leading eco-friendly residential developments in the world. Currently he is leading the Noisette Project Development team, a public-private collaboration with the City of North Charleston to restore 3,000 acres of the city’s historic urban core. “The development community has some of the most creative and effective leaders in this country,” Knott says. “We are the solution to many of our country’s economic, social, environmental and human health problems. And when you finally are able to plan and think holistically, you end up with the best surprise of all. The economics for sale and income producing property are better and land development costs are significantly lower, thereby reducing capital risk and increasing profits. Best of all is that those who lease or buy your product are happier and healthier. Not a bad day’s work.”


Environmental Champion #15

Chief Oren J. Lyons
Onandoga Nation Council of Chiefs

An internationally respected advocate for the causes of indigenous people for more than three decades, Lyons’ beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Iroquois Confederacy that date back some 1,000 years: base your decisions today upon the welfare of the seventh generation to come and you will have peace. “We see life and life-giving forces as our relatives, not as natural resources,” he says. “We respect these forces and are grateful to them. And we teach our children to do the same.” He is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, a member of the Onondoga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, and also teaches American Studies at State University of New York-Buffalo. His ability to move people through the spoken word has taken him around the world, and even to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, where he participated in a roundtable discussion reserved for heads of state. His message is a cautionary one: eventually nature will seek its own balance, which may come at a great cost to the element violating the balance—human life. “Natural law states that there cannot be one entity overpowering the rest without serious consequences,” he says. “If the day comes that all life is destroyed, then the earth will rebound in its own time. Time is not a problem to the earth—only to people.”


Environmental Champion #16

Susan Lyons
Product Designer

In 1991, Lyons recalls, she was sitting in Bill McDonough’s office when he said three words to her—”waste equals food”—that subsequently inspired her to design products that are “ecologically intelligent” as well as beautiful and useful. As head of design for Designtex at the time, Lyons brought together three players—McDonough, Michael Braungart and Albin Kaelin, head of the Rohner Textil mill in Switzerland—to help
create the Climatex Lifestyle fabrics, the first 100 percent biodegradable fabrics in the
textile industry. Lyons broke new ground again in 1996 when the Climatex Lifestyle manufacturing system process was opened to the entire industry. Inspired by the idea of interdependence, Lyons, who left Designtex last year, is starting a product design and development company with McDonough that seeks to operate like an ecosystem—engaging a network of like-minded individuals to affect change, using the Cradle-to-Cradle Design Framework as its operating system, and aspiring to design safe and healthy products. “I have the abiding belief that by using nature as a model we can create safe and regenerative products and sustaining and profitable businesses,” Lyons says. “I am hopeful that new business models will emerge that are collaborative, not hierarchical, that are integrative instead of self-assertive.” She is proud, she says, that the design industry is leading the way. “There is much work to be done, but a lot has also already been accomplished. There is hope in this work.”


Environmental Champion #17

Sandra Mendler & Bill Odell

Individually Mendler and Odell have established themselves as sustainable design leaders; together they have guided HOK to a preeminent position as one of the top sustainable design firms in the world. A record seven of the firm’s projects have been
honored as a “Top 10 Green Project” in the annual list published by the AIA’s Committee on the Environment. They’ve co-authored The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design, now in its third printing, which has become a valuable tool that defines what good green design is all about. Mendler’s key projects include the U.S. EPA Research Campus, World Resources Institute headquarters and the National Wildlife Federation headquarters. “I am tremendously inspired by the myriad of people from diverse backgrounds who have joined the sustainability ‘quest’ with a tenacious commitment to overcome the inertia of the status quo,” says Mendler. Odell, also the director of HOK’s Science + Technology Group, has designed projects that include the SC Johnson Wax Commercial Products headquarters, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis headquarters and the University of Illinois Technology Incubator. His inspiration, he says, “comes from the knowledge that the lives of my children and grandchildren will be fundamentally affected by our success or failure in changing the way we conceive, design, construct and operate our buildings, our communities.”


Environmental Champion #18

David Orr
Oberlin College

Since 1990 Orr has been the chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Ohio’s Oberlin College. While there and throughout his career he has won numerous awards, authored many books and articles and spoken widely on subjects ranging from ecology, politics, pedagogy, culture and global issues. Though not a design professional, Orr has received great acclaim for shepherding the planning and construction of the $6 million Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, which not only embodies the best attributes of green design, but serves as an example of a building that teaches. The building and landscape were designed to teach mindfulness of the environmental impacts of development, material use and energy consumption. Orr’s inspirations have come from many sources. “There are, first, the indelible memories of sights, smells, sounds and feel of the places I’ve known from childhood to the present. There are those who have inspired by their faithfulness and charity. There are others, such as my grandchildren, who inspire by their innocence and potential. I am continually inspired by the dedication, courage and brilliance of colleagues around the world. And I am inspired by the idea that collectively we are bringing about what later generations will see as an ecological enlightenment—the dawning awareness that this is one world
connected in more ways than we can imagine, that violence in all of its forms is self defeating, and that health, wholeness and holy are one and inseparable.”


Environmental Champion #19

Nellie Reid

In March 2001, Reid became the first LEED Accredited Professional at Gensler, the world’s largest design firm. Three years later, that number stands at 160 and counting, thanks in no small part, says Gensler management, to Reid’s ability to bridge the academic, technical and practical aspects of a sustainable future. As the regional leader of Gensler’s Firmwide Sustainable Design Task Force, she effectively promotes sustainable design throughout the firm, to clients and to project team members. She helped to populate the Gensler Standard Specifications with sustainable principles and products, and serves as a sustainable design consultant on a variety of projects. She is, says colleagues, constantly innovating and discovering the “what,” then determining the “how,” and finally communicating and educating the “why” of sustainable practices. “As a high school student concerned about the destruction of our natural environment,” Reid recalls, “I was faced with a dilemma: does development equal destruction? I had a choice—I could either focus my energy on fighting development or on finding ways to make development not destructive, but beneficial to the environment. I chose the challenge and that is what keeps me going every day.” In fact, Reid’s ability to put sustainable design practices into a real-world context is instrumental in leading Gensler and its clients and partners forward. Said a managing principal, “Nellie has helped to turn sustainability from a noble goal to a core principle of our daily activities.”


Environmental Champion #20

Mogens Smed
DIRTT Environmental Solutions Ltd.

It has been said that Smed does everything from the heart; certainly he is well known for his candid commentary and generous sharing of his time and experience in a personal
crusade to halt the degradation of the planet. It began about 20 years ago when he started a company dedicated to building modular and adaptable office interiors. What especially appealed to Smed were the environmental benefits:
modular interiors eliminated the drywall, flooring, wiring and wood that fills 15 percent of every landfill. He pushed moveable wall systems, plug-n-play modular power and data, access floors, energy efficient lighting and modular furniture. And though he sold the company in 2000, Smed continues his crusade. He purchased the derelict Pinkington Building in downtown Calgary and, along with the architectural firm Simpson/Roberts, transformed it into a thriving office for the 21st century. He also is a frequent speaker, sometimes forcing corporations to closely examine the way they conduct everyday business. While Smed believes that we have managed to devastate our environment and resources, he also believes it is still not too late. “If we remain committed to raising individual awareness and adopt proactive behaviors for our environment then there is a solution,” he says. “My favorite quote and slightly paraphrased as it relates to the environmental solution: ‘If a butterfly flaps it’s wings in the rain forests of Brazil, by the time it gets to India it will be a hurricane!’”


Environmental Champion #21

Team at T.S. Designs, Inc.

The town of Burlingame, NC, is not generally known for its environmental endeavors, but a small screen printing company there is working hard to leave an indelible and positive impression on its people, the community and, ultimately, the planet. Thirteen years ago it set upon a course to build a sustainable company, knowing that innovation and thinking outside the box would be critical to the tenet of being a responsible producer. To that end, it developed and patented a process, along with the Burlington Chemical Co., called Rehance that prints shirts with a water-based ink and then dyed with a low-impact reactive dye. A surprising result: a better quality shirt than those printed conventionally. T.S. Designs also traces every element of the product. For example, working with sweat-free production, the assembly process is traced all the way down to the grower of the organic cotton. It is a staunch supporter of supporting local businesses and works through a cooperative with Maquilador Mujeres, a company that helps employ many low-income workers in Nicaragua. The company’s goal, says president Eric Henry, is “to be able to demonstrate a sustainable alternative that can be utilized today that will have a positive impact on future generations.” To that end, it willingly shares technologies and ideas with consumers and companies alike through its quarterly newsletter, helping to spread the word about sustainability and why it makes good business sense.


Environmental Champion #22

Bill Walsh
Healthy Building Network

Walsh is the national coordinator for the Healthy Building Network (HBN), an organization that promotes green building strategies that are closely linked to the goals of the environmental health movement. He is the quintessential environmentalist — passionate, committed and accomplished. He is inspired, he says, not by one thing, but by many and, as evidenced by his work, by injustices. He takes on causes with great fervor. Walsh believes that “Honesty in an adversary is a source of great inspiration when one engages in advocacy work as I do.” As an example of a true success story, HBN brought together a diverse coalition of stakeholders to rid wood used in decks, picnic tables and playgrounds of arsenic—a known carcinogen that leaches out of the wood throughout its lifecycle—exposing children and other users to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical. In less than one year, Walsh and his organization changed a $4 billion industry. They have also taken on other building materials, such as PVC, that are directly linked to some of the worst environmental health problems, such as cancer, reproductive disorders and childhood disease. Working closely with an advisory panel of grassroots activists, health professionals and leaders in the green building movement, Walsh and HBN prioritize these “worst in class” materials for replacement with healthier, commercially available alternatives that are competitively priced and equal or superior in performance.


Environmental Champion #23

Rob Watson
Natural Resources Defense Council

As a senior energy resource specialist with the NRDC and director of its International Energy Project, Watson has plenty to keep him busy. Since 1987, for example, he has
been active in international sustainable building issues and utility issues in a dozen countries including China and Russia. Stateside, however, Watson is best known as the “father of LEED,” the U.S. Green Building Council’s highly regarded green building rating system. As the LEED Steering Committee chairman since its inception, he has set direction, authored credits, cajoled volunteers and watched his work take hold in the marketplace. New construction registrations now number more than 1,340, representing in excess of 165 million square feet. Additionally, three more LEED products are in development. In 2002, he was the first recipient of the USGBC’s Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also is a board member of the International Design Center for the Environment, where he is helping spearhead the development of a Web-based LCA tool to facilitate environmentally preferable product purchasing. Reflecting upon all that he has done, Watson says, “I think about how much the earth gives to us without asking for anything in return and I think about all of the beautiful places and magnificent creatures great and small who have no voice in what humans are doing to them and the places they live. I feel such gratitude and awe for everything we’ve been given on earth that I want to do what I can to repay even a small fraction of what I’ve received.”


Environmental Champion #24

Peter Wege
The Wege Foundation

Since establishing the Center for Environmental Study in 1969 to help protect and restore the environment, Wege has devoted his talents, time, energy and financial resources to a number of green causes, most often working behind the scenes, never wanting recognition for himself, but rather letting the outcomes and accomplishments of the projects he has funded speak for themselves. At 85, his energy, passion and drive leave many younger people scrambling to keep up. He coined the word “economicology,” which means we can’t have a healthy economy without making sure we have a healthy ecology—and then went on to write a book on the subject. He has committed that the Wege Foundation will only contribute to capital projects that are LEED certified. Wege also is aware of the need to educate the next generation of leaders. He was a major force in the creation and success of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan and provided the leadership, vision and funding to create an undergraduate sustainable business degree program at Aquinas College. The foundation’s work also extends beyond the country’s borders through rain forest preservation efforts in Costa Rica. For 35 years, Wege has worked tirelessly to preserve what sustains us: air, water and land. He provides inspiration, say many who know him, by what he is, what he writes, what he says, but most especially by what he does.


Environmental Champion #25

Cheryl Welch
Tualatin Valley Waste District

Hired by the TVWD in 2001 as a financial analyst, Walsh also assumed the task of sustainability coordinator because of her 12 years of previous experience owning and operating an environmentally sound printing brokerage. Since then, she has turned random acts of environmentalism into a written Sustainability Plan that identifies goals, objectives and metrics because she believes that what gets targeted and measured gets done. Accomplishments include a decrease in energy usage for 24 consecutive months, implementing a waste management program, instituting an employee education program with a monthly newsletter, overseeing LEED Silver certification for a building expansion, creating a nine-member Green Team, instituting a Buy Recycled program and establishing a Recycled Art Contest to encourage individual efforts. Her leadership and focus has set the district on a high-profile and highly-regarded path in the industry and the community. Walsh, in turn, credits the support and enthusiasm of the TVWD employees and the progress that has been made as her inspiration to continue her efforts. “From the Board of Commissioners and management team on down, a large percentage of us understand the importance of protecting our environment for the future, and are even willing to change our behavior to promote that! This gives me hope that together we all can turn some of the negative trends around and actually restore much of the damage we have done to the earth.”