Category Archives: GoGreen 2010 Portland

GoGreen Portland 2011 – Photoshoot!

The Pictures from GoGreen Portland 2011 are up and ready for your viewing pleasure! Thank you again to all of our sponsors, partners, exhibitors, and last but not least – our attendees! We couldn’t have done it without all of you there. Our fourth year in Portland reached new heights and we can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Green Vid: GoGreen Portland 2010 New Manufacturing Renaissance

A surge of sustainable companies is doing what many thought impossible just a few years ago–manufacturing goods in the US in sustainable + profitable ways. At GoGreen Portland 2010, we wanted to highlight this trend and gain insight into how four of Portland’s savviest green business leaders were competing in a tenacious global manufacturing market with surprising success.

In The New Manufacturing Renaissance: Innovative Companies Changing the World session moderator Johanna Brickman (Manager, Sustainable Built Environment Program, Oregon BEST), Sattie Clark (Co-Founder, Eleek, Inc.), Mark Stella (Founder, Green Mountain Woodworks), and Marie Franklin (Director of Marketing, Portland Roasting Coffee) share stories and advice for making and selling goods in a market that increasingly supports sustainable value over mere price points.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Green Vid: GoGreen Portland 2010 Branding Your Sustainable Biz

You’ve worked hard to integrate sustainability into key aspects of your business—now you need to integrate it into your brand story. But how do you do that without smacking of greenwashing? Bring in four of Portland’s brightest CEOs with advice on how to talk sustainability in a distinctly genuine way. In this session from GoGreen Portland 2010, Eric Friedenwald-Fishman (President & Creative Director, Metropolitan Group), Lisa Sedlar (President, New Seasons Market), Alysa Rose (President, Rejuvenation Hardware), and Tom Kelly (President, Neil Kelly) tell their sustainable stories with lessons for telling yours.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

P.S. This session was so popular in Portland, that we’re taking it to Austin + Seattle with local CEOs from those metropolitan areas! Stay tuned to Twitter + Facebook for speaker announcements.

Green Vid: GoGreen Portland 2010 Alternative Vehicle Strategies for Business

Alternative Vehicle Strategies might not sound like the sexiest panel session to hit a green business conference, but rest assured—this one is worth a watch! Steve Hoyt-McBeth (SmartTrips Program) guides Ann Widmer (Chair of Sustainability at Widmer Brothers Brewing), Franklin Jones (CEO + Founder of B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery) and Mark Frohnmeyer (President + Founder of Arcimoto) through a candid, yet optimistic conversation on how to scale sustainable vehicle systems for your business.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

GoGreen Portland 2010 Videos Are Here!

Videos from GoGreen Conference Portland 2010 are here! We affectionately refer to these recordings as green vids (really creative, we know!), so if you see us post about them on Facebook or Twitter, you now know exactly what’s waiting for you here on the GoGreen blog.

The first video we want to share with you is the opening segment from the conference. It includes introductions from Margie Harris (Energy Trust of Oregon), Patrick Reiten (President of Pacific Power) and Mayor Sam Adams. It also has the inspiring keynotes delivered by Dave Dahl (President and Founder of Dave’s Killer Bread) and Chandra Brown (President of United Streetcar)—both of whom blew us away! Whether you missed GoGreen Portland this year or just want to relive the day, we hope you enjoy. Thanks again to all the speakers for supporting sustainable business everyday and for sharing their wisdom with the people of Portland this year.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

GoGreen Portland 2010 Photo Album

Relive the excitement of GoGreen Portland 2010! Photos from the amazing Sara Gray are here + we’re excited to share them with you. Thank you again to all our sponsors, partners, exhibitors—and of course attendees! You’ve pushed this event to new heights and we look forward to next year!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Chandra Brown + United Streetcar Leading A Green Manfacturing Movement in US

Before you lament once more that everything these days is made overseas, Chandra Brown and United Streetcar (a branch off company of Oregon Iron Works) are surging ahead into the future of modern, efficient manufacturing and creating a lot of green jobs in the process. Chandra will keynote tomorrow’s GoGreen Portland and we cannot wait. Her enthusiasm is absolutely contagious and her company is a model for green companies looking to compete in the global market. We know you’ll walk out of this session inspired to continue pushing the sustainable movement for US businesses.

GG: How did you come to United Streetcar? What are your personal motivations for working in a field that is so plugged into the sustainable business community?
How I came to be involved with United Streetcar actually starts a while back. I began working with Oregon Iron Works— which is a large, traditional metal manufacturing company—in the early 1990s. We built boats, bridges, and now wave energy devices. I’d been a vice-president at Oregon Iron Works for several years doing outreach and business development. One of my jobs was always to be on the look out for the next growth opportunity.

So it all started when I was sitting around, actually talking about the city and the old Portland Streetcar with some friends. I live in Southeast Portland and had loved the streetcars. One of the women I was speaking to was Lynn Peterson from Clackamas County, although at the time I believe she was with Lake Oswego, and Shelly Parini, who at the time was with Clackamas Country Economic Development team. We were chatting and they told me there were no modern streetcars built in the United States. I couldn’t believe it. It just didn’t seem correct—I mean streetcars were founded here. I knew that Portland had imported their streetcars from the Czech Republic, but I didn’t know that was because there was no US made option available at the time.

I went back and did a bit of research and found out that, indeed, my friends were correct. There were no modern streetcars being built in the United States. I thought it was a great opportunity. I absolutely believe streetcars have revolutionized downtown Portland and I think they are a great model for other urban centers across the United States. It’s a very green industry and I knew that [Oregon Iron Works] could build them. We had built much more complicated and larger scale products in the past. I was confident in our workforce here and that if I could figure out a way to get the project funded, they could figure out a way to get the cars built. So that was how United Streetcar came to be.

That was four years ago, and the course of these past four years, we have built a prototype—a gorgeous red, white and blue, “Made in the USA” streetcar, which was opened up by US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, in July of 2009. People always ask where that streetcar is these days and it will eventually be running on the streets of Portland—right now we have it back in our shop in Clackamas, Oregon, because we’re making the car have a greater level of US made content. We have a great commitment, not only to the green community and the sustainable movement, but also to the US manufacturing sector and to creating US jobs. We don’t think just being green is enough. We also want to have all the requisite jobs and work happening here in the United States.

Our first “Made in the USA” car was around 70 percent US-content. That’s instead of a 100 percent European content car. We made it using over 200 vendors in 20 states across the US with a huge amount of local vendors in the Northwest. So it really is the creation of this nation’s new green industry. And the big reason we have the car back in is because we’re changing out one of the largest pieces that was not US content—the propulsion system. Thanks to the Federal Transit System and excellent work by our congressmen—particularly Congressmen DeFazio and Blumenauer—we received an FTA innovation grant, which is allowing us to take out that foreign propulsion system and put in a US made propulsion system. Once that is completed, it will take the car up to around 90 percent US content. After that it will need to be tested for months and hopefully before the end of 2011, the car will be back on the streets of Portland and we’ll all be riding a US built streetcar.

GG: There’s the obvious reasons why streetcars are more sustainable than individual auto transportation due to the increased numbers of people they carry. Tell us about the deeper levels of sustainability United Streetcar is building into its product, whether its actual physical components or on the operations side of things.
The streetcar itself is inherently more green. It runs on electricity, so there are zero emissions, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a catalyst for economic revitalization downtown, which helps increase the overall density of people living there and allows Portland citizens to walk, bike or ride a streetcar to work instead of driving in from a suburb. One statistic that many people don’t know about is that the current Portland streetcar line currently reduces total miles traveled by over 70 million miles per year. That’s people getting out of their cars and taking these short trips on the streetcar—it makes a huge difference. And the density along the streetcar line is much higher, so you’re getting a much more advantageous use of land. In addition, as many people know, there was over $3.5 billion of investment within three blocks of the streetcar line in downtown Portland. So there are a lot of things that make it very sustainable.

Within the vehicle itself, since we’re building an American made streetcar, we do things very differently than they do overseas. We’re much more efficient in our shop. We’re lean, we use highly efficient machines that use much less electricity and draw, we put in things like LED lights and design the car in a different way so that we can use fixtures. That allows us to build hundreds of thousands of things out of the same fixture and every one will be the same and repeatable.

Also, we use a lot of steel. Most people don’t know that the most recycled product in the world is steel. That means everything that we do here has a huge amount of recycled content. It’s recycled much more than paper and plastic, because steel can be melted down without losing any of its properties. In addition, we’re doing things like putting in different flooring that will make the car quieter and decrease the overall noise. We consider noise pollution a green issue as well.
There’s a whole variety of other small tweaks we’ve been making to create a car that is as green as possible. However, I think the biggest thing, which often gets overlooked, is that we source locally as much as possible. There are a huge number of parts and pieces that go into each streetcar, many of which we don’t build. We don’t make seats and wires, etc. here at Oregon Iron Works. We integrate all of those things and put them together, but we don’t actually make them. Our commitment to buying local means that we heavily decrease transportation costs and emissions on the shipping of products. We work very closely with all of our supplier networks. I think that’s a huge advantage versus others manufacturers that buying parts from Europe and have them shipped over here.

GG: How have Oregon Iron Works and United Streetcar managed to be competitive in the green manufacturing space versus foreign competitors? Is it important to keep green, manufacturing jobs in the US?
We think it’s absolutely critical to keep good, green manufacturing jobs in place in the US for a wide variety of reasons. It’s something we have a huge passion for. People don’t often think about it this way, but many times it boils down to being green because of national security and where we’re going as a nation. If we lose the capability to build things here in the United States, we are going to become more and more dependent on foreign companies and countries. We can’t just trade our oil dependence on the Middle East for a manufacturing dependence on China and Korea. It doesn’t make sense. We’re still not helping the country in terms of being in charge of its own security and its ability to move forward in the more sustainable direction we want to take. So it’s absolutely critical to have US manufacturing here.

A simple example is bridges. If we lose our capability to build bridges here, if something were to happen—if an earthquake in San Francisco collapses the Oakland Bay Bridge—we would have to wait months and months to get that bridge back in place. The pieces area so big and so heavy that they cannot be air freighted. They would have to go on a long flow ship that’s large enough to carry the weight of these huge bridge pieces. In terms of damage to a green economy, think about the impact of shutting down the city of San Francisco for months. All the alternate transportation would be less accessible and there would be millions of extra miles added onto commutes as people have to go around while you wait for those ships.

If things can be done here in the United States, you could get a new bridge in weeks. So keeping manufacturing in place is something that’s related to most everything, especially transportation and infrastructure. And transportation is one of the largest issues we have in terms of building a green economy here. That’s just one example of why we think it’s so important.

We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to be really successful—and people always ask us how we continue to compete internationally. The US manufacturing worker is still the most productive in the entire world. So what may take 20 people to do outside the country, because the labor rates are low and they don’t have the same insurance and healthcare, etc., takes one or two people here. Our one person is 10 times more productive. So as long as we’re investing in state of the art equipment and machinery, we’re able to get a sufficiently high amount of efficiency out of our workers that we still can be competitive.

Also, when you take into account decreased shipping costs—because if it’s going someplace in the US, you don’t have to ship the material half way across the world—building it here allows us to use our entire vendor network and reduce the miles things travel. That saves a lot in the costs of transportation and emissions, both for components and final products.

GG: What do you think the role is for alternative transportation options like streetcars in maintaining a sustainable city?
I like to think that streetcars are one piece of an important puzzle to keep our downtown urban centers going. Streetcars can’t do it alone, but I think they’re a critical component, because they produce zero emissions and decrease the total amount of miles traveled to get people from point A to point B. Even more than that, they are catalysts for the downtown areas. They have increased economic development along the entire line, which is even different than the light rail, where you see development around stops, but bigger, less developed areas between them. So streetcars are piece of it. Do you need buses? Absolutely. Do you need light rail? Absolutely. We are big believers that for urban centers to survive and thrive, you need a variety of types of transit infrastructure to achieve the greenest and most efficient way to move people where they need to go.

GG: How do you think supporting streetcars and other alternative transit options help businesses in general? What’s in it for the average business-owner in Portland to get behind these initiatives?
Well if you’re a good business person, you’re interested in decreasing your city’s emissions. We should be supportive of these kind of initiatives because they’ll decrease pollution. We should also be for more alternative transit, because it decreases congestion, which is bad for business because 1) it can delay my workforce and 2) it’s creating pollution and 3) congestion is inhibitive to any business that ships or does any type of product transport.

It can also be a benefit, because depending on where your business is located and what industry you’re in, it brings you customers. That’s why there is so much investment along a streetcar line. All the developers, whether it’s for housing or retail, are thrilled because it’s going to help their bottom lines and increase overall profitability. It’s a little bit different if you’re a suburban businessperson, but you would still want it because it enhances the quality of life of your employees. Higher quality of life is a part of a crop of advantages that can lure talented and skilled workers to your city and therefore your company.

GG: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges cities face as they develop alternative transportation systems? Do you have any insights as a leader in your industry on what we, as businesspeople and citizens, can do to conquer those challenges?
Sadly, the biggest challenge facing pretty much any local, state and federal government, is funding. Obviously, we’re in the middle of a federal crisis in terms of funding infrastructure and transit—even roads—across the United States. So each city has to struggle with the prioritization of where to put their limited resources. It’s very challenging. And anytime you’re talking about any kind of transit investment, you’re talking about a long and big investment. It pays off so much over time, but it’s hard to remember that. Our streetcars can last over 35 years. So while there may be a lot of upfront costs, as time goes by, cities recoup all of that back and get other benefits as well. It’s just a difficult thing to put in a new infrastructure project, when it’s fairly expensive for most cities.

Money really is the biggest challenge and fixing that is difficult. Awareness is a tough one too. Citizens really need to understand the benefits, so they’re willing to let some of the city’s or the county’s or transit agency’s resources go towards these improvements. There have been other things that have been pretty successful for renewable energy, like incentives. We’re always looking to see incentives for streetcars, light rail and buses—anything that’s going to decrease miles traveled and emissions. Should we be rewarding that and incentivizing that? Especially in polluted cities? We think so. It’s one of the ways we think the challenges could be met over time, but it’s a complicated equation, no doubt about it.

GG: What are you most excited to share with GoGreen attendees about the work United Streetcar is doing and the success that you’ve had?
I think one of the best things we can do is to show that the US green manufacturing and industry is alive and well. If a traditional, metal manufacturing company that builds boats and bridges, can eventually be building wave energy devices and modern streetcars, it’s a pretty huge compliment to the innovation and ingenuity of the American public and the American worker. To me, that’s so incredibly exciting. We’re creating jobs for this new economy and if we can continue to get the right kind of support, hopefully this could turn into a pretty big piece of the United States’ industry fabric. That’s something I really love sharing. It’s not just about United Streetcar and Oregon Iron Works. Yes, I love my company, and we’ve invested millions to take a leadership role in this, but it takes all these other suppliers succeeding as well to create an industry here in the United States. And I think that’s something we should all be proud of supporting.

Chandra Brown is the CEO of United Streetcar and the keynote speaker at the GoGreen Conference in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. The conference is this Tuesday + GoGreen 2009 sold out, so register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland soon to join us:

To learn more about Chandra and United Streetcar, visit:

PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Verde’s Alan Hipólito Talks Equitable Access To The Green Economy

We’ve heard the rumors and seen the proof about explosive growth in what’s called the new “green economy.” But not everyone’s getting a fair share of the benefits. Verde’s Executive Director, Alan Hipólito talks with The Green Line Series on how to better integrate underrepresented populations into this new green economy, the advantages of a richly diverse workforce and why it’s crucial to the sustainable business movement’s success.

GG: Can you give us an overview of Verde’s programs and what your mission in the community is?
We used to say that our goal at Verde was to connect low-income people and people of color with the economic benefits of protecting the environment. But over time that’s evolved into a broader goal of building environmental wealth in those communities. Environmental wealth coming from traditional, natural resources —like clean air, clean water, uncontaminated land, parks, green spaces and habitat—to environmental technologies—like storm water management, ecoroofs, solar installations, weatherization, etc.—and then lastly a third kind of group which involves knowledge and economic opportunity—so environmental education, job training, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

We build wealth in a community in two ways –through social enterprise, and through outreach and advocacy activities.

GG: We obviously talk a lot about making businesses more sustainable at GoGreen–what’s the missing link in your mind that Verde is trying to address?
If you accept, as I think most folks do, that the definition of sustainability involves a triple bottom line or a three-legged stool—highlighting environment, economy and equity—the sustainable movement has done a pretty good job delivering environmental performance and economic performance, but it does a terrible job of delivering equity. It comes down to the fact that most sustainability practitioners do not wake up in the morning and think about how their activities are going to impact lower income people and people of color. They wake up thinking about how they’re going to make money and protect the environment. They’re lacking that focus and so it doesn’t always happen.

GG: Other than the obvious reasons of fairness, what are the additional advantages to bringing those stakeholders to the table?
There are a number of them. One is, as we’ve seen with climate change legislation, sustainability practitioners don’t have the political numbers to consistently carry or achieve their legislative priorities. That’s a big building block right there in front of them, that’s often completely discounted.

There’s also an intellectual benefit, that’s been documented many times, to having diverse perspectives around the table. Instead of coming from one limited perspective, you have broader perspectives that tend to uplift the entirety of a program or movement. And there are competitive advantages to having a more diverse workforce as well, because we live in a global economy and the nation is getting more diverse over time. Monocultural, monochromatic initiatives and businesses aren’t well poised for success as we go forward.

GG: Do you think it’s possible for us to make the transition to a green economy if we leave behind low-income populations and people of color?
No. Absolutely not. It’s not possible. Some states are majority minority now. How are you going to have sustainability when you leave half the population out? You can’t do that.

There’s a train of thought out there, which recognizes that a lot of sustainability involves adopting practices that low-income immigrant communities never got rid of. So these notions of basic reduction of consumption, and reusing items that have already been purchased, local economies, bartering and exchange, local economic networks, alternative transportation—these are behaviors that low-income immigrant communities use all the time. Granted, some of them are forced upon these communities because of economic marginalization—they can’t afford a car or to dispose of items purchased that could be used again. But there are a lot of sustainable practices that already exist within these communities that the mainstream culture is just trying to reorient itself towards.

GG: How is the green economy specifically suited to provide high-quality jobs to historically underserved populations?
It depends on which people you’re talking about. For adults and specifically adults of a certain age, generally speaking there are more limited career pathways available. A 47-year-old immigrant laborer has less of a chance to become a wetland hydrologist or an environmental engineer as opposed to their son or daughter or granddaughter or grandson, who are exposed to issues of environmental protection or environmental careers early on, and have the opportunity to make decisions about their future that a lot of other people make all the time.

For us, the way we always identify appropriate business avenues is through a combination of market demand–what environmental industries or businesses seem to have demonstrable demand for the foreseeable future—capital needs—how much do these businesses need to get started—and training needs—what are we training people to do and what’s the skill set required for the job. If, given the adult population that we want to serve, it doesn’t make sense for us to be heavy on professional services then we won’t. With the population we’re working with in Portland, you can see why we would have a nursery, and landscape and weatherization contracting businesses based on our populations criteria.

Speaking more broadly, a number of organizations exist at the community level that have begun to develop resources and programs to help take individual community members, who might be underemployed or unemployed, with some or multiple barriers to employment, and provide them with both the support and training necessary so that they can be ready for a long term job or career opportunity in the green economy. We have programs like that which have started up over the last three to four years—which was not happening before—in which we’ve started to see the community-based organizations that serve low-income people, people of color or a given geographic area, really try and figure out how to take somebody from where they are all the way to a good job, that’s going somewhere, at a green business.

GG: What are some of the best practices, methodologies and things that need to happen in terms of legislative support or government support to manifest a shift towards a more diverse and equitable sustainable movement?
I won’t jump into all the things that need to happen in our education system to support the children of low-income families and youth of color, because I’m not really qualified to speak to that—other than to mention that what we try to do is bring them real world examples from their own community that can say: “I’m your neighbor or someone who lives down the street. I look like you and talk like you and I have a green job. I have health benefits and am getting job training. We’re improving your neighborhood. We built that playground over there and planted that tree over here and weatherized the homes on your street—and you can do it too. In fact, you can do things beyond what I can do. The physical work that I do is good and honorable, but you have even more choices. And myself and my partners want to tell you what they are.”

But that’s just a small part of the solution to support disadvantaged youth in our communities. Governmentally and with other organizations, there are two big things. The first is concerning governments, and this is something we work on quite a bit with our partners, where we’re looking for progressive or inclusive public contracting mechanisms. These kinds of best practices are pretty late to come to the sustainable movement. In the past, many people all over the city and country have worked really hard to develop models and practices that help incentivize participation by minority and women owned businesses, support a diverse work force, etc. And those have, to a great extent, happened on large construction projects like stadiums and skyscrapers.

These practices are late to come to sustainability for a lot of reasons, although we’ve started to see a change in that over the last couple of years. But if environmental policy makers—who are trying to incent the growth of an ecoroof industry or the green building industry, or who are trying to bring the Oregon Sustainability Center to life—if they adopted progressive and inclusive contracting practices they would make a big difference in the economic lives of low-income citizens and people of color in the community, not to mention the businesses that employ them. When government comes to the market place it can make a big difference and government is certainly coming to the marketplace around sustainability.

The other thing that I’ll say is that one of the challenges that has existed in connecting disadvantaged community members with good, green jobs that are going somewhere, is the current and historical disconnect between these communities and the environmental movement. So, for example, there are people in the community and at community-based organizations who know all about these inclusive contracting practices and all about designing a job-training program to meet the needs of a certain employer or sector. They know how to create public contracting models that would incent and employer to hire a diverse workforce—but they don’t know a lot about sustainability. They generally don’t know a lot about the specific job skills that are required for a particular green business or sector.

On the other side of that divide are the business owners and industry advocates. There are folks who know everything you every possibly want to know about how to fund, build and operate a bio-fuel facility or to grow the alternative fuel industry in the region or the state. They know everything about ecoroof design and construction, and what kinds of public policies would encourage further ecoroof use in the region. But these practitioners, correspondingly, don’t know much at all about how to create jobs for low-income people and people of color.

What we see is a real need to bring those two arenas together—the people who know how to create jobs and know how to train people with the sustainability practitioners who know what kind of job their businesses are going to need and know what is driving demand for these jobs.

GG: If I’m a business owner, and I want to integrate progressive and inclusive hiring practices into what I’m doing. What are some things I need to start thinking about and resources to reach out to in order to start the process?
Obviously, we’d encourage you to reach out to us, but only because we’re part of a larger group of community-based organizations from the Native-American community, the Black community, the Latino and immigrant communities—and we’ve come together to design a comprehensive training pathway to connect our residents to good green jobs. Together with the workforce system, trainers, apprenticeship programs and some employers, we were awarded a $4 million Federal grant to further design this pathway. So if an employer knows they will have a need for four weatherization technicians and six solar installers, and so on—then that’s the arena to engage, because we’re designing the training to meet the needs of the employers.

Alan Hipólito is the Executive Director of Verde, a Portland-based non-profit working to provide green career opportunities to disadvantaged citizens and communities. He’s also a featured speaker at the GoGreen Conference 2010 in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. The conference is next Tuesday + GoGreen 2009 sold out, so register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland soon to join us:

To learn more about the awesome work going on at Verde:

PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Jill Fuglister on Equity + the Triple Bottom Line

GoGreen: Can you give us a primer on the work you’re doing at Coalition For A Livable Future?
Jill Fuglister:
Coalition For A Livable Future (CLF) is a partnership of about 100 different institutions working together to shape big decisions being made about Portland’s future—and how it grows and develops. In terms of the content we’ll be discussing at the GoGreen Conference in October, the panel will be talking about the equity part of the work and looking at it in terms of advancing the concept of sustainability.

We’re very committed to taking a triple bottom line approach to that. In our experience, what we’ve seen since CLF’s inception in 1994 is that the equity part of that equation—if we look at it as environment, economy and equity—is the portion that is least understood and least acted upon in the context of regional development and decision making.

Since about 2002, we’ve put a significant amount of time and energy into shining a light on that part of the triple bottom line equation so that we can shift that dynamic.

GG: Why do you believe that addressing sustainability beyond environmentalism is so important?
From both a philosophical and a practical place, I don’t believe we’ll get closer to true sustainability if we ignore the equity part of the equation. There is ample research and evidence which shows that in places where environmental degradation is the worst—particularly when you look at developing nations—social inequality is the most extreme. So it seems that those two phenomena go hand in hand. With that in mind, we believe we have to work on all of the facets of sustainability if we want to get to where we want to end up.

GG: What is the role of partnerships? Is there no one organization that can do it all?
I think sustainability is all about holism. We’ve built our whole society and culture around becoming experts in very specific disciplines. And what we’ve found is that, in reality, the way we need to approach the world is not just by looking at things in silos and specific disciplines. It’s very helpful to have that expertise, but we need to be able to integrate across those separate areas if we want to come up with truly comprehensive solutions. Otherwise, what happens is that we only address one part of the problem with the consequence of externalizing the other impacts of our decisions and actions.

GG: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve come up against in terms of “fighting the good fight” for equity? And how has CLF overcome those challenges?
Well to start, there are issues surrounding even the definition of what we’re talking about. In the context of regional developmental decision-making, usually the main conversation about equity has centered on geography. It’s not been about what populations within the different geographic areas of our region, neighborhoods, counties and cities have the least access to the sustainability and the great livability we have in this region.

From our perspective, we’re falling short, because we believe that equity is about looking at populations that have historically experienced the greatest burdens and negative impacts of our decision-making—or has experienced the least benefit from the development we’ve put in place. That’s not true for every single issue, but for the bulk of them we think that if we’re going to make a push for sustainability, we need to ensure that every population is getting their fair share of the benefits.

GG: Is there a growing issue concerning equitable access to opportunities within the green economy?
Absolutely. We’ve been a part of several initiatives covering this issue—particularly the City of Portland’s Clean Energy Works Program—and making sure that the jobs that are created in those programs and the broader green economy, are accessible through training and contract awards guidelines, so that populations that are historically the most underemployed or unemployed are able to participate equitably.

If we look at unemployment in our region and state right now, it’s at about 10 percent. But if you look at niche communities, such as the African American community here, their unemployment rate is double what the general rate is. When we look at this phenomenon through an equity lens, we want to see that we account for that disparity and make sure that in the context of creating jobs in the green economy, we are very proactive in implementing a set of strategies that will help shift that dynamic positively. We know we can’t fix it immediately, but we need to start doing things that will continuously move the needle in a positive direction.

GG: Do you think the responsibility for catalyzing that shift lies with governments and NGOs? Or do business owners and stakeholders need to help bridge the gap as well?
Our ultimate vision is that all sectors are contributing to enacting solutions. I absolutely think the private sector has a role to play and probably has a lot of know-how to bring to the table. It’s got to be all of us working together, proactively tackling these issues. We need to acknowledge that there are these disparities and start finding ways to create pathways for those that are in poverty, and those who are part of populations that are historically underemployed above the general average.

GG: What are some of the programs and ideas CLF uses to accomplish those goals?
Within the context of Clean Energy Works—and this is something a private sector employee can adopt too—we’re actually creating a public community workforce, we’re establishing targets around the numbers of individuals and businesses from different communities of color, etc. that are employed or contracted with. We’re looking at who is providing training to them, what kind of benefits they receive, etc. You can get very specific if you outline your targeting and figure out what groups you want to reach—and again this is something that any private sector business can do as well. There are lots of organizations to connect with in terms of workforce development and they’re very open to partnerships. It just takes a little extra effort.

GG: Are there any developing trends or programs you’re seeing that are especially exciting to you and have great potential to change the landscape of equity in the Northwest?
One of the really neat projects we’ve been involved with is through Portland State University. It’s a social bottom line project and it’s focused on development. It’s a tool for developers and others in the industry to integrate more equity best practices and the social part of the sustainability triple bottom line into projects. They’ve been very explicit about saying that this is a tool and it’s supposed to be responsive to any particular context you find yourself in, so as not to overwhelm businesses that are using it. It’s very comprehensive and it gives people a place to start finding answers for a whole bunch of different questions that come up when you start integrating that equity piece into green development plans.

GG: What are your goals for the GoGreen session you’re moderating in October? What information do you hope attendees walk away with?
I think people who come to this conference every year have bought in wholeheartedly to the green part of the sustainability movement. I hope that folks will walk away from our session with the inspiration to integrate a piece of the equity part of sustainability into what they’re doing. I want to spark their interest and get them to recognize that it’s an important piece of the solution, but without overwhelming them with a menagerie of new things to be worried about if they’re actively pursuing status as a green business. We want to inspire them to start questioning and acting on behalf of equity.

Jill Fuglister is Director at the Portland-based non-profit Coalition For A Livable Future. She is also a featured speaker at the GoGreen Conference 2010 in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. To register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland, please visit: GoGreen ‘09 sold out, so make sure to sign up soon!

To learn more about Jill Fuglister and Coalition For A Livable Future, visit: Follow their work on Facebook:

PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Brewing up a Green Storm With Ann Widmer

Ann Widmer GoGreen ConferenceWidmer Brothers Brewing Company is a Portland institution and a national ambassador of our beer culture. But they’re also doing a lot to promote sustainability as an important—and profitable—part of being a business in the 21st century. The Chair of Widmers’  Sustainability Committee and GoGreen Portland 2010 speaker, Ann Widmer, chats with us about their values, how they implement sustainable initiatives and where the conversation needs to go from here.

GoGreen: Widmer is a staple of the Portland community and an ambassador for the region in other areas of the country and world. How does your team tackle that responsibility as far as sustainability is concerned?
Ann Widmer:
We take sustainability seriously, but we also have fun with it. I should say that sustainability, to us, is not just about the environment. We include financial, social, and employee responsibility as well. So, as our CFO reminds me, we must be fiscally responsible, so that we can afford our environmental programs. We are also in the process of becoming an ISO 14001 company, which helps us build a management structure that supports sustainable practices in our breweries and our restaurants like the Gasthaus.

GG: How does Widmer leverage its overall success and success with sustainable ventures specifically, and roll it into the narrative that you’re building for the company?
It’s a part of our brand. It’s become who we are—authentic–not just a line in our brochure.  It includes the fact that Kurt and Rob [Widmer] were and continue to be incredibly honest about sustainability.

There are these parts of your brand that illustrate who you are as people and what you believe in. For us, sustainability is one piece of that, along with honesty and quality. So if the beer isn’t up to our standard or that of the tasting panel, we don’t sell it. We’re also innovating in sustainable ways. I know these are really old values, and they probably sound really hokey, but they’re important to us.

GG: Brewing beer is a very technical business. There are a lot of intricacies and complexity built into your value chain. What have been some of your challenges in taking sustainability to scale and how did you craft solutions that fit your business?
There are many levels on which we try to implement sustainability in our company. The first is all of the things our employees do. I’m really fortunate—I didn’t have to ‘sell’ sustainability to our employees. I get more suggestions from employees on what we can do to be more sustainable in a year than we can possibly ever do. And they’re really good ideas that usually don’t cost a ton. So we try to keep all our employees engaged, because they’re so valuable in this process. We are presently working on a system to support and reward employees for their contributions, and I would welcome any advice from others about how best to do this.

The other thing is that I’ve always had executive backing for the bigger things that have to do with our distribution chain and brewing operation such as our usage of natural gas, electricity and water. We’re really proud of the fact that we have one of the lowest water to beer ratios in the craft brewing industry. Those are big initiatives that go through multiple departments and the executive team, because they often require expenditures and changes in the way people work.

GG: You went into how you engage your employees in this direction, but how do you engage the broader Widmer community in these initiatives?
We recycle everything at our events and in the Widmer Gasthaus. We also support other causes that are working to enhance the environment  through donations to other organizations that support sustainability. There’s this cyclical effect. It’s not just about us. We try not to throw things out into the community that represent our work poorly, or are not sustainable. We have point-of-sale touch points—everything from the beer labels, packing materials, cups, and wearables We  try to make sure that as many of those are biodegradable or recyclable as possible.

GG: Do you feel that in Portland and the Northwest (and maybe a few select other areas around the US) that there is a growing expectation that companies be sustainable? And if so, do you think that kind of peer pressure is a good thing?
Yes—Usually incentives are good, because they raise awareness. I have no problem with people asking me, ’how much water do you use?’ or ‘what do you do with your spent grain?’ The key, to me at least, is whether or not companies can demonstrate what they do through monitoring and metrics. We do very extensive monitoring on all of our energy use, our water use, recycling and transportation costs.

I think the consumer is starting to demand this kind of behavior from businesses. The other thing is that we sell beer from coast to coast. I think it becomes our job in the Northwest to be a beacon on this issue. I mean, not become the environmental police, but Oregon products that do hold high standards turn into ambassadors of sorts.

GG: What advice can you give to a business owner that wants to take things up a notch and get their business to a darker shade of green? What do you tell a business that’s already using recycled paper and off-setting their energy use with renewable energy credits (RECs)—what’s the next step for them?
Many businesses are doing a great job—some much better than us, but I would suggest getting in touch with the Portland’s BEST Business Center and requesting someone come out and do a site appraisal. They are not going to tell you how bad a job you’re doing. They’re really good at taking a snapshot of where you are and pointing out places where you can improve. They can tell you what is feasible within your budget and can even help you prioritize.

Maybe something you were looking into doing wouldn’t have much effect, but another initiative that is about the same in cost would have a much bigger impact. They can help you understand what will get you the most bang for your buck, and can often recommend resources that are available to help you.

The other thing I would suggest is to recognize that many components of sustainability are not very expensive in the long run. There are some things you can’t do—we couldn’t buy every employee an electric car, for example—but many initiatives are ultimately good for your bottom line. I think it’s important to make those choices now—particularly in this economy. This is a newer concept in accountability that also considers the “top line” value of long-term sustainability.

GG: You mentioned at the beginning of our conversation that sustainability is about more than just the environment. Where do you think the conversation on sustainability—as it becomes more sophisticated—needs to go and what are the issues the green business community needs to tackle in order to make progress?
That’s so complex. It’s a book! One is to realize that sustainability has to be global. I think we’ve passed the point where acting locally is the only thing we need do. That’s still important, but we have to recognize there are decisions we’re making, politically and financially, as a country, that are having global environmental impacts.

And locally, we are in a tough economy and people need jobs. We need green employment opportunities—ways to transfer the technology and knowledge from the present working generation to the next.

I also think that universities need to find ways to bring environmental and social responsibility into all areas of their course work, rather than just a few select areas. It should be a thread that runs through the humanities, the sciences, health care, business, etc. in order to instill a greater respect for the diversity of people and our planet.

GG: What can business owners do to help push the process? Is it to focus on ourselves and do our own thing? Or do we need to get more involved?
I think business owners influence more than their own companies  by their choices—both upstream and downstream. For instance, we influence it by selecting vendors who enact sustainable principles and use green products.  Increasingly there are certification processes in place to rely on. When you select those vendors who are investing in certification and sustainable actions, you are encouraging people who want your business to participate in best practices.

Businesses buy as well as sell. If we can’t know the genesis of a product because it’s made in a place we can’t environmentally monitor, then I think we have to reconsider that purchase even if the price is less. If companies keep engaging in this cycle, everyone will eventually have to improve, and at some point that becomes the standard. The Northwest is further along in their expectations that businesses be sustainable.

GG: Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
I just want to emphasize how important it is to be in sync with what your employees believe and what they want. You are far more likely to be successful if you start with what your employees value and believe in. Listening is the key, then prioritizing and choosing what people want to do and can afford to do. We’ve been really lucky to have employees and a sustainability committee who are passionate about their company, their community and the environment. They really are the heart of our efforts.

Ann Widmer is the Chair of Widmer Brothers Sustainability Committee and Emeritus Professor at Concordia University’s School of Management. She is also a featured speaker at the GoGreen Conference 2010 in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. To register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland, please visit: GoGreen ‘09 sold out, so make sure to sign up soon!

To learn more about Ann Widmer and Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, visit: Follow them on Twitter at: @Widmer_Brothers.