Day 2 of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit

I must say, I’m impressed. My questions from day one have almost all been answered in one way or another. A few things really caught my attention today, some of which I didn’t really expect.

To start we had Ray Anderson of Interface. If you would have asked me what the company was just from the name I would have immediately jumped to technology. However, that’s not the case; Ray is in the business of carpets…and has been for 30 years or so. He also took a pledge, both for himself and for his company about 15 years back. A pledge to reduce environmental impact and do no harm. And they have succeeded so far (I didn’t get the feeling they were planning on quitting anytime soon). Here’s some of their broad stroke statistics on how they have progressed over the past 15 years:

  • 76% reduction in waste since 1996
  • 74% less water used to produce the carpet tiles
  • 44% less total energy used in production
  • 60% less fossil fuels in production
  • 27% use of renewable energy for production worldwide
  • 100% use of renewable energy for production in Europe
  • 24% recyclable or bio-based materials.
  • $405 million saved due to these reductions since 1994

Ray went on to explain the importance on reducing the overall impact of the technosphere on the biosphere (his words). He maintained that if we continue using technology in the wasteful, disposable ways we currently are, the future looks bleak. However, if we bring technology on as a reducer of waste instead of a primary contributor, great progress can be made towards a very low usage, need-driven (as opposed to want-driven) society. If I had to sum up the wonderful presentation by Ray Anderson, it would be this: do no harm in business and you will succeed. The results he has produced with his company Interface are a great example of renewable, sustainable practices producing a better shareholder solution and a better company for customers and the environment.

From there, we went on to explore the next stage of the AI process, the “Dream” stage. I believe this was an important component, trying to postively visualize where we believed the city could end up and finding a creative way of expressing it. There were many bold dreams of a Cleveland of tomorrow mixed in with a many themes that resonated throughout the presentations (more on those themes later). Some were sillier than others, which I have first-hand experience with: I was the captain of the Best Times 2019 boat.

Once the creative fervor was scaled back a bit, we smoothly transitioned into the design phase. This was by far the most exciting part and really what I had been waiting for. It is the meat of any AI gathering; when stuff really begins to come together and progress is finally made. We first were reminded about good brainstorming concepts. Personally, the concepts and ideas presented on how to brainstorm reminded me that this entire process was a great example of a crowd-sourced kind of activity. Key among the concepts was the notion having a multitude of ideas, so many that your head would spin. The concept is that among a large large group of ideas, a few winners would rise to the top, along with some accompanying themes. From there the groups would be able to identify the favorite ideas, group other thematic elements and begin to focus intensely on the top ideas. Hopefully, they can all be implemented into a single prototype that would later be presented as a final product, at least as a tangible result of the design/brainstorming process. Dr. Cooperrider used Ideo, the design firm and prior client of his, as an example of rapid prototyping and idea generation. I had heard about them previously but plan on finding out more about the world-renowned design firm.

Before going further, I think it’s important to list of the top-level themes that were identified from the “Dream” stage implemented earlier in the day:

  • Advanced Energy Research
  • Advanced Energy Generation
  • Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
  • Communication Campaign and Branding of the final ideas of the summit
  • Engaging 1.6 Million People
  • Fostering Social Capital
  • Green Buildings
  • Health
  • Vacant Land Use
  • Local Foods
  • Maintaining Post Summit Momentum
  • Metrics of Success (for the summit)
  • Public Compact (or Manifesto if you will)
  • Social Entrepreneurialship
  • Strategic Partnerships and Learning
  • Sustainable Business Innovation
  • Transportation
  • Waste to Profit
  • Water
  • World Class Sustainability Education

As new visitors to the site might guess (given the graphic at the top of my site) , I chose the very first topic. As an engineer really interested in renewable energy (and how it can be implemented), I felt it necessary to talk about the research aspect, as opposed to the generation, of the energy. I feel the latter can be left up to others for a time when the energy is cheap enough to be widespread; until it has reached the tipping point of being more economical to use renewables over other forms of energy, the research will never really be done. Past that, once commercial interests begin using renewables on a regular basis, investing in efficiencies will be a self-sustaining activity and one that only adds to the new benefit of renewable energy technologies. I plan on saving the results from today’s brainstorming session for a post tomorrow or the day after, simply because of the length of this post and in order to report on our finished idea, as opposed to an undeveloped seed of an idea.

While day 2 of Sustainable Cleveland 2019 was effective (OK, and a little bit fun, I’ll admit), I think tomorrow will really decide the final outcome of the entire summit. Without concrete action plans, the whole thing is for naught. The fears that the summit is actually just another run-of-the-mill convention will or will not come to fruition. If instead we take action on the plans we have in place tomorrow and the next day and the day after, then we will truly be able to say we have achieved something. I look forward to experiencing and writing about tomorrow.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for publishing this and so quickly. It’s very inspiring stuff. I look forward to hearing how the third day went.

    Appreciative Inquiry is great. I use it in my consulting work and it’s so much easier than trying to find and fix problems.

    There are lots of free articles and resources on my website http://www.nickheap.co.uk about developing people and organisations. If this interests you, please help yourself!

    I am going to forward a link to your blog to two friends who are passionate about sustainability. It may inspire them too.

    Best wishes,

    Nick

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