Author Archives: C. Griffin

Speaker Spotlight with Mami Hara | General Manager/CEO, Seattle Public Utilities

How has 2020 shaped you and your organization’s strategy/work regarding sustainability and a more equitable regional economy?

Seattle Public Utilities manages waste and water for all businesses and residents in Seattle. The utility has an annual budget of $1.4 billion and about 1,400 employees, and our work spans from managing urban flooding and drainage to collecting and sorting City’s compost, recycling, and solid waste; from forest management in the pristine Cedar and Tolt River Watersheds to ensuring high quality drinking water for 1.5 million people; from supporting hygiene stations and RV pump-outs for our unhoused communities to maintaining extensive green and gray infrastructure throughout the City. Our core businesses are on the frontlines of climate: they contribute to climate change and are impacted by a changing climate.

As we recover from the health, economic, and social crises of 2020, we must prioritize building a circular, regenerative and holistic Seattle economy. Climate change, environmental pollution, social unrest, economic disparity are complex problems that require inclusive and interconnected approaches. Seattle Public Utilities can contribute to this recovery in the following ways:

  • Influence a regional ecosystems economy via blue-green jobs training and workforce development
  • Contribute to livability and quality of life via green stormwater infrastructure, access to clean drinking water, and investment prioritization in environmental justice communities
  • Lead with racial equity as we evolve our business into the future

2020 taught us that climate change will exacerbate existing inequities. Our communities of color will bear a disproportionate burden of climate impacts. To move forward we must recover in ways that address inequities and disparities, build community wealth, prevent displacement, foster partnerships, lead with community priorities, and act now to adapt to a changing climate.

Tell us your plan at Seattle Public Utilities to drive new action and growth around green facility operations, carbon neutrality, water conservation and zero waste.

Seattle Public Utilities, with our community, is a national leader in protecting and sustaining community health and the environment. We have long recognized that how we manage water and waste has the power to drive transformative change for our employees, community, environment, and economy for generations to come. Today, this is more important than ever, as new and continuing challenges test our resiliency and resolve.

SPU’s 2021-2026 Strategic Business Plan focuses our priorities, guides essential service delivery, and maximizes the benefit of every dollar. The plan reflects guiding principles that are at the center of our work ethic: understanding and responding to customers and community, ensuring affordability and accountability, addressing risk and resilience, enhancing equity and empowerment, and delivering service and safety.

The vision, priorities and goals of SPU’s Strategic Business Plan will guide us in our work to collaboratively prevent waste; prioritize sustainable resource management; facilitate greener and more efficient building; invest in and maintain our aging utility infrastructure; and partner to create new, green jobs that will benefit traditionally underserved communities and restore our environment. A few examples of programs that are moving us towards these goals include:

  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). For nearly two decades, SPU has been investing in GSI or nature-based approaches like rain gardens, floodable open space, creek floodplain improvements, and stormwater capture and reuse to mimic how native forests manage rainfall. These investments complement and improve our underground pipe and tank structures to help prevent flooding and water pollution, improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods with nearby nature and health benefits, and help make our city more resilient to the long-term impacts of climate change, like increased occurrence and severity of flooding.

Until recently, SPU’s predominant approach has been to identify and build GSI projects according to capital infrastructure needs and engage community only when that infrastructure is being delivered. On the path to becoming more community-centered, we are now flipping our approach to lead with community-defined priorities—access to affordable housing, public health and wellness, workforce development and green jobs, safe and walkable neighborhoods, internships and career pathways for youth, clean air and water, access to healthy food—and determining how we can help meet those needs with our system investments.

  • Urban Forestry – Trees for Seattle Program. The City of Seattle recognizes how valuable urban trees are to Seattle residents and established the Trees for Seattle program in 2008 to serve as the umbrella for all urban forestry work conducted by the City. Seven city departments work together to keep our valuable trees healthy and growing. While urban canopy cover is critical to human wellbeing, we know that canopy cover is not equitably distributed, and that people of color are more likely to live in parts of Seattle with low canopy cover. Trees for Seattle works to grow equitable canopy cover across Seattle and to protect existing healthy canopy cover.
  • Waste Prevention. SPU is an internationally recognized leader in recycling and composting with a long history of working with customers to divert these materials from landfills. As this work continues, SPU is also taking a leadership role in other waste prevention efforts including residential and commercial food waste reduction, reuse and repair, clothing waste prevention, sustainable purchasing, waste prevention education campaigns; and funding for community-initiated and led waste prevention programs. These waste prevention efforts not only reduce carbon emissions related to the manufacturing, transportation and disposal of the materials but also result in the reduction of water and air pollution, marine debris and litter.
  • Fossil Free Facilities and Fleets. SPU is developing a strategy as part of advancing Seattle’s Green New Deal to transition our buildings from fossil fuel use to carbon neutral electricity. SPU is also continuing to electrify our fleet and equipment including the contracted solid waste collection fleet.

You are helping to advance an equitable and sustainable region through collaboration, strategic investment and community partnerships. Can you give us a/some specific examples of work you have done to move action forward on equity?

Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Job Training: One example of SPU’s work to support communities across Seattle is the utility’s workforce development partnership with South Seattle College in 2020. Initial efforts have been focused on curriculum development and planned delivery of “The RainWise Bootcamp” (an 11-week contractor incubator program), followed by GSI-focused training. This work is a foundational step toward leveraging SPU’s RainWise, GSI public works, and O&M contracts to advance equity, provide pathways to living-wage jobs, and support anti-displacement efforts for underserved communities and communities of color while building capacity to support increased GSI installation.

In addition, SPU has partnered with Seattle Conservation Corps (SCC) since 1986 to provide a one-year work training program for homeless adults, paying minimum wage plus premium pay for 40 hours a week. SCC provides work experience, education, training, and support services that lead to stability and self-sufficiency. SCC has supported the City of Seattle’s GSI program for over 16 years by conducting vegetation management of GSI, concrete work, hydrant and irrigation system management, large capital improvement program retrofit projects, problem solving, and working with communities in diverse neighborhoods that are highly impacted by homelessness.

Duwamish Valley Resilience District: Driven by Seattle Public Utilities’ business and drainage system investments in South Park and Georgetown, and our role as City water managers, SPU is working with City departments, communities and philanthropic foundations to develop a holistic approach to climate change adaptation and shared decision-making for local wealth building in the Duwamish Valley. This effort acknowledges that access to affordable housing and living wage jobs today are as critical as bricks and mortar infrastructure in fostering climate resiliency tomorrow.

The Duwamish Valley Resilience District is a place-based effort focused on pairing public enhancements with community capacity building, neighborhood stabilization policies, and community wealth building. It will include programs and initiatives to proactively mitigate and adapt to flood risk, and to support people and businesses to thrive in place. It will aim to ensure that the benefits of environmental improvements in the area accrue to the current residential and business communities.

At this moment, the City, and other local public agencies, are on the precipice of cleaning up the Duwamish River Superfund Site, expanding Duwamish Waterway Park, vastly improving stormwater drainage, adding green stormwater infrastructure, improving roads, investing in sea level rise adaptation and investing in community spaces. These improvements will change the community and put displacement pressure on current residents if no action is taken. These are planned, and in many cases, funded, projects. The community (and the City) have a choice: Do we establish policies and a platform that can provide a clear pathway to jobs, property ownership and management and additional funding sources related to these projects, or do we engage with each other on a one-off basis for each of these projects, ultimately generating no lasting capacity for collaboration in the community or the City and potentially scattered benefits? In the Duwamish Valley Action Plan, the City committed to long-term strategies for climate adaptation, anti-displacement, and workforce development in South Park and Georgetown by 2023. We are beginning to deliver on that promise now, so that community members can directly benefit from these public investments.

If you’d like to hear more from Mami – register to join us at the virtual conference on April 6th! See the full schedule and grab your tickets here.

Speaker Spotlight with Garry Gilliam | Former Player, Seattle Seahawks; Founder, The Bridge: Eco Village

We look forward to having you at GoGreen on April 6th speaking on our Sports Venues Take The Climate Pledge: Commitments and Action session. As a former player for the Seattle Seahawks playing in the venues that we will be discussing, can you share with us your view on how our local sports venues should lead the way on climate commitment, support the community and create positive long lasting environmental change?

Sports venues, teams, and athletes must recognize that what they do for climate and for social equity is not only about their immediate impact, but is also about their platform to showcase positive change.

In terms of climate, the physical venue should be a positive example – or showcase features – which are not only sustainable behind the scenes (with reduced energy footprints, efficient water consumption, low waste infrastructure), but also sustainable in ways that engage fans or through visible features that can be seen from outside of the stadium or that gets media attention.

Not only should the building lead the way on climate, but the front office of the teams that play within can have a huge impact on climate action as well. The front office staff must come together to talk about sustainability goals to determine what makes sense for them – If they’re based in San Diego, maybe it makes sense to have a goal related to plastic ocean waste, for example. They must also understand the material impacts within the organization and take strides to address those… What is producing the highest carbon emissions, where are they consuming a lot of energy, where are there inefficiencies in water use?

When creating commitments, it’s so important that teams don’t avoid the difficult topics – For example, yes – sports teams travel a lot and therefore their emissions may be higher than other types of businesses. However, this is an opportunity to overcome that fact instead of avoiding it. Until we get more strategic with setting our schedules, teams can have the power to at least offset their carbon emissions, even if they can’t do much to avoid it.

Once a set of commitments are defined, it must be owned by the highest levels and responsibilities to achieve those goals must be integrated into each element of the business. There are so many opportunities for teams to leverage their brand partnerships to showcase the brand’s sustainability commitments; social media and communications can use their voice to bring attention to climate-related information or events; fan engagement can host environment-related promotional events; food and beverage can renegotiate contracts to integrate sustainability goals into their supply chain. 

The ability to perform a sport is so mental that many of the factors that feed into performance are not even understood or recognized. While good athletes can focus their minds, the built environment can hugely impact the effectiveness and ability to do so. The physical venue should not only be environmentally sustainable, but should also promote health and wellbeing for the athletes inside. This is about designing an environment that supports mental and physical performance (air quality, light quality, acoustic comfort), while not being wasteful with resources. These qualities will impact the coaching staff and back of house support staff that are also critical to the athletes’ performance. 

When a venue does all of this well, it inherently touches the surrounding community. The ‘Community’ team within a front office is usually pretty good at creating local partnerships for philanthropic efforts – It’s time that they integrate the environment into an element of their work to address climate justice. This can be done through the commitments that the team has already established, integrating their climate goals into strategies to align with the community. This creates long-lasting positive change while enhancing the team’s legacy. 

Above response by: Kristen Fulmer | CEO & Founder, Recipric; Head of Sustainability, The Bridge

You are the Founder of The Bridge: Eco-Village, a real estate development company that acquires old properties like schools, malls, and warehouses, then turns them into “eco villages” in the inner city. Can you tell us your Eco-Villages are a model for venues/business/buildings, as sustainable and self-contained mixed-use communities?

In many inner cities throughout the country there are a lot of issues which have been recently identified as systemic oppression and systemic racism.  Essentially what that is showing is that it’s magnified the gap between different socioeconomic statuses, races, genders and more.  This gap has continued to grow in different sectors and throughout generation after generation and the most affected community is the black community. We hear about these issues often through redlining, food desserts, lack of representation of black individuals in Fortune 500 companies, lack of funding towards certain school districts, lack of home ownership rates, high obesity and cancer rates and although there are programs and institutions out there to help combat these issues separately, unless we are approaching these issues holistically and working on all these issues as a whole, rather than separately, the black community will continue to struggle. It’s too big of a system to combat, you have to create an entirely new system to eradicate the old, this is what The Bridge is doing through systematic empowerment. 

The Bridge is combating this system that oppresses certain communities and bridging the gap through our five main pillars, Work, Eat, Live, Learn and Play.  If you want to start to impact a community, you have to create a space for the community to be empowered by providing them a space with all of the different aspects they may be lacking- financial literacy courses, healthy restaurants and grocery stores that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, technological equipment such as 3D printers, affordable and safe housing, etc.  The Bridge is  not only identifying problems in underserved communities, but providing an actionable plan to solve these issues promoting empowerment within these struggling communities.   

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is an important issue that we focus on and create action around at GoGreen Conference. Can you tell us how The Bridge is creating a system of empowerment for black americans and people of color? How does The Bridge help to create communities and neighborhoods facing challenges around food security, access to healthcare, affordable housing, adequate paying jobs, training and education, transportation, sustainable infrastructure (power, water, waste) and inequality?

The way that The Bridge is pursuing a lot of those different areas is through the built environment. If there is a need for a grocery store in a community, then build a grocery store in the community and figure out why there is not a grocery store to begin with in that area.  In most cases, it’s because the disposable income in that community isn’t high enough to justify a performa being successful for a grocery store and/ or the population density is not high enough in that area.  However, that doesn’t mean that the residents in that community do not deserve a grocery store, so it’s up to us a development company, who is about empowerment, to make these communities more attractive for other development companies to put the grocery store there.  How do we do that? That’s directly linked to the “Learn” pillar of The Bridge where we teach the community credit repair, setting a budget, saving tips, teaching how to invest money and teaching how to use your money as a tool to bring in more money ultimately creating more disposable income.  Although one of the main pillars of The Bridge is to educate the community through the Learn pillar, we’re also not just going to sit and wait for another developer to bring a grocery store to the underserved community we are transforming. We will partner with the local bodegas and restaurants, and provide the produce right on site to the community by building the space to allow local entities to offer their services. This also works similarly to The Bridge providing quality community healthcare.  Although we don’t specialize in healthcare, we will build the clinic and space and partner with a local healthcare provider to bring in the personnel and equipment.  We as a development company are in the business of building these much needed places and sparking those partnerships and collaborations to bridge the gap and provide these services to underserved communities.  Essentially, we build the space, create the partnerships and provide the programming and the education that promotes economic restoration for the community.

If you’d like to hear more from Garry – register to join us at the virtual conference on April 6th! See the full schedule and grab your tickets here.

Speaker Spotlight with Laura Zapata | Co-Founder, Clearloop Corporation

Laura – we are thrilled to have you speaking on our Effective Partnerships: Building an Equitable and Clean Energy Future at GoGreen Conference on April 6th. Can you share highlights of how you think companies in attendance can best become part of the movement to advance an equitable and just clean energy and low carbon future?

A: Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited not only to share what Clearloop is all about, but to learn how other leaders in the industry are creating a clean energy future. At Clearloop, we fundamentally believe that companies of all sizes can take immediate action to expand clean energy in forgotten America – delivering environmental justice, economic opportunity, and improved health outcomes. Typically, only the wealthiest corporations have been able to invest in cleaning up the grid by building new renewable energy infrastructure. We offer a new pathway for companies to build new solar power facilities in communities getting left behind. 

It’s going to take all hands on deck, from both the public and private sector, to beat climate change. We believe there are sunnier days ahead! 

Clearloop was created to accelerate the greening of the U.S. electricity grid in the next 10 years through the force of everyday actions. Can you give us an example of everyday actions our community, private and public sector leaders can take in their businesses to help make this happen?

From the shoes we wear to the flights we take, every product and service we use has a carbon footprint. After years of nibbling around the edges, companies are taking up the mantle of climate leadership. We’re excited to see companies from all industries pledge to meet reduced emissions or net-zero targets. In order for those pledges to become a reality, private sector leaders should do everything they can to reduce the carbon footprint of their products and services, from the supply chains, to the materials they use, to the logistics and end of life assessments. 

However, after ringing out all of those inefficiencies, all of those products and services still have an irreducible carbon footprint. In order to truly achieve net-zero goals, we’re inviting companies of all sizes to use that remaining carbon footprint as an opportunity to clean up the grid, which accounts for over a quarter of all U.S. emissions, and help us expand access to clean energy by building more solar capacity in the communities that are otherwise getting left behind.

You have stated that expanding access to clean energy to corners of our country that are often forgotten is a priority. How are you driving support from multiple sector stakeholders support make clean energy available to all?

Although the electricity grid is responsible for over a quarter of our country’s footprint, that pollution is unevenly distributed across the country, hurting some communities more than others just based on where they happen to live. If the South were a country, for example, we’d be the 6th largest polluter in the world! That’s why it’s so important that we not only invest in clean energy expansion, but we start by building new solar projects in communities that are getting left behind. 

Companies across every industry have begun to invest not only in climate action, but have made pledges to deliver social justice as well. They understand that by expanding access to clean energy, we can not only permanently replace dirty fossil fuels, we can deliver environmental and health benefits and create lasting opportunities for economic investments. Climate justice is social justice and we want to do our part to deliver on that promise.

If you’d like to hear more from Laura – register to join us at the virtual conference on April 6th! See the full schedule and grab your tickets here.

Meet Our Keynote Speaker: Colleen Echohawk | Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club

We are thrilled to have you as our Keynote Speaker at the upcoming GoGreen Conference on April 6th. We understand that you are hoping to be Seattle’s first Indigenous mayor with a spotlight on equitable renewal. Can you tell us what that means to you and what action you hope to achieve?

The events of the past year have laid bare the extent of health, racial, and economic inequality in our city. We can’t just assume that our most impacted neighbors and small businesses will recover equitably from the overlapping crisis facing us. The status quo simply isn’t working for most of the people in our city. 

Ensuring public safety and health are critical to restoring comfort levels with public transportation, working conditions, and education. I’m focused on getting people safely back to school and using multi-modal transit. 

I’m committed to a holistic approach to our city’s renewal. By bridging silos to connect the already-people-first champions working within City departments and neighborhoods, we can reshape the norms of our City: from childcare and early learning, access to local and nourishing foods, neighborhood-based mental health workers, economic as well as artistic partnerships, and providing tangible opportunities for public influence on policy. 

As mayor, I would leverage Federal dollars to create family wage jobs that are good for workers, families, and the environment. The COVID-19 recession has impacted Black and African American workers, young people, women and communities of color most in King County. ⅓ of those who filed jobless claims in King County are people who have the equivalent of a high school degree or less. This is not right. Our workers deserve better and to build back stronger, we must center an approach that focuses on the experiences of our most impacted neighbors. 

Seattle has an opportunity to develop jobs to simultaneously address the climate crisis and build back stronger and smarter with a people first approach. Equitable pathways into the trades could help build infrastructure like low income and affordable housing that deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits to foster community resilience in the face of climate change. 

As Mayor, I would lead an equitable renewal process that invites Seattle to return to behavior and practice that recommits to reciprocity. When we make choices that account for the potential impact our community and our planet, we are making smarter choices for today and tomorrow and for generations to come. 

You are a member of Kithehaki Band of the Pawnee Nation and a member of the Upper Athabascan people of Mentasta Lake. How has this background/alliance changed your focus to equitable low-income housing development and Indigenous-led design?

We have to reflect on the relationship between white privilege and urban design. There are many ways that Native populations are victimized by patterns of development. And there are many troublesome patterns in our ever-changing city’s cycles of expansion— we need to explore the potential for reframing our urban narrative by creating an ethic of design centered on Indigenous knowledge.

This means centering a community based approach while recommitting to a right relationship with the land. We need to develop low-income housing that is good for people and the planet. This means making design and development decisions today that supports sustainability for future generations. We need to be building in a way that minimizes impact to our planet. Buildings account for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle and are steadily going up. If we do not solve this issue and build in a climate smart manner, we will continue to worsen our chances of curbing climate change.

We should be building with human dignity in mind. Housing like my team and I are building through Chief Seattle Club or housing in the High Point community are exemplary housing that accounts for human dignity, environmentally friendly and community centric design. 

I would love to encourage and enable infrastructure design that reflects the rich diversity of cultures in Seattle, especially that of the Coast Salish tribes. Indigenous led design can mean imagining how a building can keep people safe and healthy while keeping the Puget Sound healthy. It means pairing design with investments in the beauty of parks, greenspace and trees to support spaces for families and children to gather and play while addressing urban heat island effect, air and water pollution. 

On April 6th we will have a session at GoGreen that recognizes how historically white the environmental space is and the necessity for diverse voices to be centered in the work that we do now and moving forward. Can you give us your opinion on steps we can take to create positive change and move away from inequalities? How do we make initiatives focused on just and equitable economies a top imperative?

It is no secret that the mainstream environmental movement consistently misses opportunities to play a strong leadership role in investing in environmental solutions that come from communities most impacted by environmental injustice. That said, Native and Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and the Asian and Pacific Islander communities come from cultures whose identities are intertwined with caring for the land. Our cultures understand the interdependency of the survival and well being of humans on our ability to steward our natural spaces. There is a saying, “those closest to the problem are closest to the solutions”. Environmental solutions must directly address the climate crisis while dismantling systemic inequities. As Mayor of Seattle I would listen to the community and City staff to collaboratively identify ways to build upon the important work of the Race and Social Justice Initiative and the Equity and Environment Initiative. The Equity and Environment Agenda identifies key strategies for the City to advance equity and environmental justice in partnership with communities. I want to make substantial investments in those strategies by supporting a Green New Deal for Seattle. Seattle has long been seen as a leader in climate nationally and internationally. I want to see Seattle continue to lead through our climate justice work. 

One way the mainstream environmental movement can begin to change is to hire Black, Indigenous and people of color in leadership positions at all levels of the environmental movement. This includes non-profits, foundations, private and public sector. The only way that we will effectively curb the impacts of climate change and move away from an extractive economy to a regenerative one is to center the leadership of those who bear the burden of environmental, racial and economic injustice first and worst. 

As Mayor of Seattle I would appoint leaders who intimately understand what it is like to experience these inequities and who also know what it takes to co-develop the solutions with our communities in order to lift us all up. I will prioritize making deep investments in Seattle’s immigrant and refugee communities, in our Indigenous communities, Black communities and communities of color. 

Many of the most promising solutions to displacement, environmental, and economic injustice are already taking place within Seattle neighborhoods. These community-assets deserve support from City Hall, not an obstruction to progress. Central to my platform is an investment in community-based solutions and businesses so City contracts are awarded equitably, and profits are shared with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations. We need to model this for other cities around the country and have equitable local economies in all our communities.

For example, the City of Seattle has $1B+ right now in current capital projects, but those contracts and profit aren’t being awarded to people of color owned businesses. An Echohawk administration will renew and update the Community Workforce Agreement and restructure city procurement practices to invest in workforce development and expand priority hire, mentorship and skill building programs, and explicit equity requirements for City contract holders. 

If you’d like to hear more from Colleen – register to join us at the virtual conference on April 6th! See the full schedule and grab your tickets here.

Interview with Sce Pike, CEO and Founder of IOTAS

Sce Pike_HEADSHOTBy making it easy to turn off electronic devices when not in use—IOTAS’ technology helps to save electricity. Was this technology created with sustainability in mind?

First and foremost we designed it for comfort and convenience for residents and messaged it that way because we were concerned that sustainability may imply something that could make the residents work harder. However, we knew that the technology could have huge implications on how individuals save energy (without having to go out of their way to do so) and how the building could be managed and optimized to save energy. If the residents leave for the day and everything automatically switches off behind them such as the lights, thermostats, and designated plug-loads without them having to think about it, there is an opportunity to save tremendously. Same with building controls, if the IOTAS system knows that the south east section of a building has very few residents in it right now, the system could automatically turn off common area thermostats and lights in that area.

As part of your pilot program, you’ve offered smart technology for free in at least one building in Portland. Moving forward, do you envision such technology being a standard feature?

We hope so. We’re facing strong demand so we believe that will be the case. We believe the demand is there because the apartment developers and owners also see a benefit to their net profits through cost savings and marketing differentiation for their buildings which increase the valuation of their buildings. We also see strong demand from residents who are moving in to experience the IOTAS Smart Apartment in the pilot building.

What is next in development for IOTAS? How does this help drive our sustainable future forward?

At the moment, we’re in the process of integrating with Amazon Echo, Nest, Apple HomeKit to allow for seamless integration of consumer devices that residents bring on their own. We’re also going to be integrating with building systems such as boilers, HVAC, etc. to make them more efficient by giving those systems more data such as presence/occupancy information.

There are 24M apartments in the US out of 124M total US households. IOTAS focuses on those 24M apartments. For residents, IOTAS automates energy savings without the resident having to actively do anything to save energy while providing smart home control plus insights about their usage patterns. For building owners. IOTAS automates energy savings, enables building-wide control, and provides insights in all vacant units and shared areas. We are engaging 24 million families and building owners in helping reduce energy usage even further by saving them money and providing them comfort and convenience.

Interview with Augusto Carneiro of Nossa Famillia

AugustoIn what ways did B Corporation certification benefit Nossa Familia? What challenges did you face when trying to get your B Corp certification?

‘Nossa Familia’ means ‘Our Family’ in Portuguese. My family has been growing coffee in Brazil since the 1890’s. I believe the generations of coffee farmers in my family approached sustainability as ‘sustain-ability,’ or ‘the ability to sustain,’ both environmentally and economically. So pursuing the B Corp certification was simply a continuation of the hard work done over our 5 generations of coffee.

Now more specifically, I’d say the challenges and benefits go hand in hand. Let’s start with some of the challenges:

  • The certification process is very involved and time-consuming. This is good because it makes the certification thorough and meaningful, giving every B Corp a high level of credibility.
  • As a fast growing company we more than tripled our staffing level from 2012 to 2015, going from 8 to more than 24 employees. This meant writing our first employee handbook, creating and perfecting systems and procedures. The B Corp process instigated more motivation and even provided guidance for what to focus on. It helped us codify and put into writing things that we were already doing, and also think hard about adopting best practices when it comes to taking care of our employees.
  • Coordinating with our coffee suppliers was not easy. There is a whole section of the B Corp assessment focused on our suppliers – who are coffee farmers around the world. They are not sitting at their computers waiting to answer our questions and documenting every single part of their operation, and they might not even speak English. They are usually out in the fields or in their coffee labs, working on preventing fungus from taking over their coffee trees, or working on harvesting and processing their coffee.

Different languages in different time-zones, all in developing nations. The very cool thing we found out is that some of the farmers already did a great job tracking many important sustainability factors. Other farmers and small coops are sustainable and ‘semi-organic’ simply because they can’t afford to purchase pesticides / herbicides, and these are harder to record and harder to get adequate data from.

As for benefits:

  • This process helped us codify much of the good we were already doing in a way that allows us to tell these important stories, both externally to customers and prospects, but also internally helping get our team fired up!
  • The certification gave us great ideas on what other areas we could focus on, as well as forcing us to look at the business from outside-in, giving us a new perspective in certain practices and area of operations, leading us to improvement.
  • The community has been very welcoming and supportive, and the events have been great networking. We are already working on some really fun collaborative partnerships with other local B Corp companies that we hope to announce soon!
  • We are newly certified (Jan/Feb 2016), so there are still many of the benefits to realize. Something big we are looking forward to is in the recruiting process, we believe it will helps us continue to attract a diverse workforce that share in our core values.

The farmers you work with share your B Corp values. How do you evaluate your partner farms practices?

My family in Brazil produces beautiful coffee and we were not in a hurry to add new origins, but we recognized that, much like wine, coffee from other parts of the globe offer distinct and exciting flavor profiles. Once we decided to open up our world to other coffees, the connections just started happening. This will sound a bit esoteric to some…but I believe the universe loves connecting like-minded people!

As we began to hone in our values, become focused on our purpose, and transparent on our way of doing business, the easier it became to find and be found by people who care about the things we are passionate about. Most new connections came in the way of an introduction, however some are mere chance, bumping into people in the corridors of a 10,000+ industry trade show, and knowing immediately that we have something in common.

Now for an evaluation…1. We start with trust, based on how the connection was made. 2. Then we travel. Nothing is as meaningful as visiting farms and seeing for ourselves how the operation is run, how people are treated on the ground and what, if any, emphasis is given to the environment. So we try to visit ALL our suppliers. It helps that I love traveling, and love to offer my staff a chance to travel. In the rare occasion that we cannot visit a coffee supplier, we always work with an extremely reputable importer that has direct relationships with the farmers, such as another local B Corp, Sustainable Harvest.
You’ve said that the City of Portland’s recycling program was taken into account when selecting sustainable packaging.  Can you tell us more about this? Did you consult with local agencies when selecting materials?

Unfortunately, the coffee industry is inherently riddled with waste and one-time use packaging. From to-go coffee cups to foil coffee bags, there is so much that gets thrown in the garbage when it comes to coffee! This applies to both the retail café environment as well as when we’re talking about coffee bags at the grocery store. Because of the need to preserve freshness in coffee, most coffee bags use materials that cannot be recycled or composted. We currently use a paper, PLA-lined coffee bag for our retail coffee, a choice that was made to lower the upstream environmental costs of our packaging. Unfortunately due to the lining in this bag, it still cannot be put in Portland’s recycling program. We are also now going through another packaging overhaul, in which we will be moving to a biodegradable/compostable material called Biotre, which is manufactured by Pacific Bag Inc. This bag is made from renewable wood pulp and Polyethylene, and has undergone significant research and testing. According to PBI, “It is best disposed by placing it in a privately managed compost pile where the 40% PE layer and one-way degassing valve can be removed manually and disposed in the regular trash. When a portion or all of Biotre is properly disposed with regular trash, its impact on the environment will be much less compared to a standard plastic/foil material which is made from 100% non-renewable resources and is not considered biodegradable in any way.” We feel that this is the best option out there in terms of sustainable packaging options, and want to invest in a company and material that shares our values of environmental responsibility and the cycle of continuous research and improvement. More info on Biotre:
Where do you see Nossa in five years? Are you hoping to begin new sustainability initiatives and/or expand those that are already in place?

We are super excited for the future! It’s been a lot of work building our base and now we’re ready to grow. We are actively working on expending our retail presence in Portland, opening 2-4 new locations in the next 5 years. We’re also expanding to a new market. We have rep in the L.A. area working on growing our presence there, where we hope to have a new hub. We will also have an international presence with retail and wholesale (still a secret at this point, as we’re still in negotiations for our first licensing agreement).

Green Line Series | Deb Hatcher, Founder of A to Z Wineworks

Deb Hatcher

Our latest installment of the Green Line Series digs into the wine industry, sustainable practices and what it takes to become the first Certified B Corporation winery in the world. Deb Hatcher will be joining us at GoGreen Portland in October as a moderator for our closing plenary: Oregon Wine Industry Sustainable Showcase with Wine Tasting where she along with five industry experts will share their know-how as well as some of their delicious wine!

GoGreen Conference: Can you share some of the best practices you have put into action on the business side in the past year?

Deb Hatcher: One of the most exciting developments for us this year is that our Director of Viticulture, Ryan Collins, developed a unique Comprehensive Vineyard Summary we provide to many of our grower partners.  This report has helped us to improve our margin growth, cost controls and quality control by giving an accurate picture of the fruit we receive from their sites.  The summary covers chemistry and quality parameters (measurements of the water or various tannin content, for example), a general assessment of their soil breakdowns and a vineyard management scorecard that measures everything from canopy management to disease severity.  Importantly, they are also able to see how their fruit quality compared to their peers.  This tool is a game changer.

When we purchased REX HILL in 2007, we installed an Integrated financial and inventory system   At the end of 2014, we upgraded to their newest web platform introducing multiple features including an easy to use point of sale system for our tasting room that we helped to develop.  We continued our infrastructure expansion creating more efficiencies and economies of scale by adding 14,000 square feet of production space to be followed by an additional 20,000 square feet next year.   To continue deepening engagement at every level of the company,  we coach new presenters for our national marketing meetings.  At our spring meetings this year, we had 25 individual staff presenters.  These presentations help to build confidence and increase competency as we push authority down the ranks along with increased responsibility.

Last year we became the only certified B Corporation winery in the world.  We are working to help others certify and are pleased to welcome this year additional wineries including two from Oregon.  This year we have also been able to begin to support bee health research.  We added bees to the floral graphics on our Riesling bottle to indicate that we are donating a portion of the sale from every bottle to bee associated research.  We bought some specialized equipment for the Bee Lab at Oregon State University and contributed to Bee Girl’s research at Southern Oregon University into compatible vineyard flora for healthy bee population support.

GoGreen: Which example of sustainable best practices or innovation in the industry really stands out to you as cutting edge and leading the way for other wine businesses to follow?

DH: The Oregon wine industry developed the LIVE Certified Sustainable program for vineyards and wineries.  While being rigorous, LIVE takes a practical approach recognizing that trade-offs are sometimes necessary in agriculture.  For example, if in a wet year an excessive number of tractor passes in the vineyard are required because of mildew pressure, then LIVE allows a winery to improve even more in another area to compensate.  It is important to realize that if a business isn’t economically stable, then any other sustainable practices will be short-lived.  In some cases, growth and size can bring more opportunities for innovation and improvement.  We think more wineries should become LIVE certified and not just vineyards as more change can be made in the winery to not only ensure better quality fruit but also improve the treatment of natural resources and employees.

It also seems time to welcome improved technology which other countries long ago pioneered because they had no agricultural labor force.  Our recycling sprayer captures 98% of any excess spray and eliminates drift.  Our cross flow filter uses dialysis technology to clean the wine without stripping it.  Pulse air technology breaks up the cap in a large fermenter in seven minutes instead of having someone punch it down for an hour and ten minutes.  Finally, using state of the art robotic technology in the field can now deliver individual grapes from the vine to the press in as little as thirty minutes not only improving quality but greatly increasing efficiency.

GoGreen:   You are one of only a handful of wine organizations to be a certified B Corporation. Why did you decide to get certified? How has this certification been beneficial to your business?

DH: As certified Biodynamic farmers, it is a bit like applying Biodynamic principles to business: engage the whole business and examine ways everything is interconnected and serves the greater good.  We are not a “benefit corporation” so we don’t receive tax benefits but we have received media attention and have found more opportunities to inspire others through collaborations with other B Corps.  We hope the changes we made to our legal language, to take into account all stakeholders with our decisions rather than to be required to make the greatest return on investment for shareholders, may offer protection from a possible undesirable purchase.  We are more aware of the importance of documenting all of our practices as well as discovering more best practices.  Finally, it distinguishes us in the marketplace as customers are increasingly concerned with the origins of their food.

We appreciate having third party certification of our practices every two years.  Objective, documented measurements give us a legitimate way to measure our improvement and authenticate that we are being a force for good. Until our B Corp certification, we had few ways beyond modeling best practices that didn’t seem boastful to try to inspire other companies to review and improve the effect of their established ways on their staff, their community and the environment.

Event Details: The eighth annual GoGreen Portland, will take place Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the White Stag Building. Tickets are available at or via phone at 503-226-2377. Save 30% on tickets with promotional code GREENLINESERIES.

Green Line Series | Virginia Mason and the Washington State Climate Declaration

Katerie ChapmanOn this installment of the Green Line Series we had the opportunity to interview Katerie Chapman, Senior Vice President and Hospital Administrator, Virginia Mason Medical Center from the plenary session Washington Businesses Call for Climate Action. Read along to find out more about Virginia Mason’s commitment to better environmental practices and their leadership in climate action.

GoGreen Conference: Why did Virginia Mason sign the Washington State Climate Declaration in 2014?

Katerie Chapman: Virginia Mason did more than sign the declaration — we chaired the team that  developed the Washington State Climate Declaration.  We led the effort in Washington state because climate change impacts human health significantly.  Not only is it a risk to health, but climate change is forecast to have major impacts on Washington state’s economy.  Embracing clean energy and technology provides an opportunity to respond to climate change while growing Washington state’s business sector.  By acting on climate, we can protect our region’s health and keep the economy growing.

GG: What is the biggest opportunity/challenge that climate change presents for Virginia Mason?
KC: Our biggest carbon emissions relate to our energy use. Our hospital is one of the most energy efficient in the country and we have achieved Energy Star ratings for three years in a row.  We have been working on reducing our energy use and running our buildings more efficiently since the 1990s.  We have a culture of innovation, so this is a natural process for us.

The big challenge with climate change will come when we see its effects on our patients expand.  Over the next decade, we anticipate seeing more respiratory issues and heat stress due to high heat days and wildfires.  We are leading on climate to ultimately help reduce the impacts of climate change, and our team will be ready to respond for our patients.

GG: How has Virginia Mason’s vision and strategic planning evolved in response to climate change?
KC: Virginia Mason was honored to participate in the Health Care Climate Resilience Roundtable at the White House. During that discussion, the White House highlighted President Obama’s plan to create resilient and sustainable hospitals.  As a result of the meeting, the National Institutes of Health created a toolkit for assessing health care climate resilience.  We were the only health care organization in the Pacific Northwest to test the toolkit prior to the roll-out. The tool kit gave us some “ah-ha” moments. For example, we realized we are not necessarily sizing our HVAC systems for the additional high-heat days that are forecast due to climate change.

GG: Can you describe how Virginia Mason has implemented programs to engage employees with sustainability efforts?
KC: In 2002, we implemented our own “lean” or “kaizen” program by adapting the Toyota Production System to health care.  The resulting Virginia Mason Production System is fully integrated into Virginia Mason’s culture.  Employee engagement and respect for people are at the core of the production system, which empowers employees to facilitate process improvement.

Our focused commitment to quality extends to environmental sustainability.  Sustainability is  integrated into our everyday work along with patient safety and other organizational process improvements.  One simple way that employees can engage in process improvement in their department is through our online “Everyday Lean Idea” system.  Employees enter ideas into the system where they are tracked from testing to refinement and full implementation.  We have a “green idea” category for sustainability ideas, and these “Everyday Lean and Green Ideas” are shared across the organization. Another way employees are engaged is through Kaizen Events, during which a team of employees work together to create solutions to a problem or opportunity.  Kaizen Events have included sustainability topics like hospital pharmaceutical waste management and missioning supplies from the OR.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle 2015, brought to you by King County, will take place Thursday, April 30, 2015 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at or via phone at 206.459.0595.  Single Admission Tickets are $195 and Group Rate Tickets are $175 (groups of two or more).  Special registration rates for student, government and non-profits are available.

GoGreen Phoenix 2013 | Captured Moments

On December 3, 2013 we completed our 3rd annual GoGreen Phoenix Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center West Building. Each year we learn something new and love the enthusiasm our attendees bring to the day. It wouldn’t be possible without all of you change-makers, doers & shakers and most importantly our Title and Presenting Sponsors; The City of Phoenix and ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Have a gander at some moments throughout the day and stay tuned for news on GoGreen Phoenix 2014!

Photos courtesy of Vanishing Moments Photography by Emmery Rose


GoGreen Phoenix | Sport’s Game Changing Model for Sustainable Performance