Restorative Sustainability – Once something exists, no one can say it’s impossible

Insights from a Sustainability Leadership Conversation with Denis Hayes:

Martin Brown and Andrea Learned

As part of the Sustainability Leadership Conversation series we held a twitter conversation with Denis Hayes, founder of EarthDay and CEO of the Bullitt Center in Seattle – the worlds greenest commercial building. The full transcript from the conversation can be found on storify, with insights from others, but here is an summary of insights, compiled from Denis’ tweets

MB: What is inspiring you at the moment?

Denis: Big change happening, but is it fast enough? That’s the question. I’m inspired by huge amount of talent and money flowing to sustainability investment and by young people rolling up sleeves to make things better.

MB: What are your views on Effecting Change

Denis: Media plays big role, for example President Obama engaging meteorologists, trusted and relevant Best place to effect change is in City Hall – whether as employees, elected, NGO, advocate. I’m bullish on cities right now.

MB:  … and on Nature and Natural Laws?

Denis: We have been breaking lots of little laws in the built environment. Now the big law, Nature’s laws, are catching up with us. You can’t break Nature’s laws.  When you try, you wind up proving them.

We need to align human and natural laws, then economy will fall into place.

And yes I agree we need more circular  thinking, buildings only ‘borrow’  materials, we need to design with senescence in mind, the Building’s not mine. Biomimicry just makes good sense, nature has been beta testing ideas for millions of years, the least we can do is observe and learn.

 MB: What is the role of Big Data in sustainability?

Denis: Analysis of big data is key, living buildings need cerebral cortexes and Central Nervous System to function, big data helps see patterns, offers vast potential, but right now there is too much noise and not enough signal and analysis.

MB: How important is Equity within ‘Restorative Sustainability’?

Denis: For too many people, environmental performance is a luxury. Race or income shouldn’t determine whether your building is full of poison. Everyone deserves clean air to breathe.

MB: Why the Living Building Challenge as the standard for the Bullitt Centre?

Denis: The LBC is most ambitious metric for sustainability in built environment. It’s hugely challenging.  LBC Buildings sequester carbon, generate more energy than use, remove toxics from ecosystem and promote human health. LBC Buildings have no toxics, compost all waste, use only rainwater and sun, they put water back into soil to recharge aquifer. All are natural ideas.

“But the Bullitt Center is about opening a wedge into the future. Once something exists, no one can say it’s impossible”

MB:  why after 40 years of Earth Day are we still pessimistic?

Denis: 40 years happened. Still possible to mitigate worst impacts, but is now expensive and difficult instead of cheap and easy.   Not too early to think about Earth Day 2020, aka ED50, a month long Earth Celebration

MB:  where Next?

Denis: I’m writing a book – COWED – with my wife about the impacts of bovines on North America.   COWED is not anti-cow but “pro-cow but with limits.” 93 million cows in America are way too many.

MB: And finally your views on twitter and (sustldrconv) tweetchats?

Denis: This is an exciting day to be doing this with @fairsnape @AndreaLearned and with the new NCA out, the chatter class is talking climate change

This article was originally co-authored by Martin Brown and Andrea Learned with contributions from Denis Hayes and Brad Khan. 

Denis Hayes, founder of EarthDay and CEO of the Bullitt Center in Seattle – the worlds greenest commercial building. Brad Khan is Principal at GroundWork Stratries and communications consultant to the Bullitt Centre in Seattle

Martin Brown @fairsnape is a UK built environment sustainability and social media advocate, Andrea Learned @AndreaLearned is a US based social engagement and thought leadership strategist. Both are Guardian Sustainability Business contributors and are co-founders of Sustainability Leadership Conversations, a transatlantic and global twitter based social media programme that enables sustainability leadership sharing.

Contact us to discuss support in amplifying your messages, experiences and commitment within the sustainability leadership arena through our monthly #SustLdrConv series and other social media programmes.

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  1. Pingback: #SustLdrConv – Update to our autumn series. | fairsnape isite

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