BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 34

OPINION: SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING MUST EMBRACE DIVERSITY

INCLUSIVE DIVERSITY
KEY TO
SUSTAINABILITY
BY HELIANA
VERÓNICA HIGBIE

FIGURE 1: RECYCLING BIN
GIVEAWAY PROGRAM.
PHOTO CREDIT:
RAWPIXEL.COM

D

espite progress in the United States over
the past decade toward implementation
of sustainable development policies and
practices, the average American remains
mystified about how to participate in
the greening of our economy. To be most effective,
sustainability must be broadly practiced, but myths
and mystery around sustainable practices and even
the word "sustainability" remain an obstacle. In this
essay, I argue that inclusive diversity is the key to
demystifying sustainability, which will be necessary
to efficiently address the challenges humanity
faces, especially climate change. I invite the reader
to expand their definition of sustainability while
considering how any organization can benefit from
nourishing diverse leaders with both visible and
invisible diversity traits.
We live in a time where most people understand
that centuries of environmental illiteracy have
contributed to a loss of ecosystem services and
increasing threats to human health and the
environment. Yet everyday people struggle with
things like recycling. According to a 2015 study by
Yale University published by the Nature Climate
Change Journal, the average American household
sends five pounds of waste, per person, per day to
landfills. That means that the average American

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34 * BUILDINGENERGY VOL. 36 NO. 2 | FALL 2017

discards their body weight in trash each month.
According to the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), American households recycle and
compost approximately 34 percent of the waste
we generate. Though this figure seems low, the
Yale study suggests it is inflated. According to
the Yale study findings, Americans only recycle
21.4 percent of the waste we generate. That
means 78.6 percent goes unrecycled, which is more
than double EPA's statistics associated with solid
waste disposal.
I have observed the mystifying effects of
sustainability first hand. We sustainability
professionals tend to work on large scales and often
in the abstract. As the Director of Sustainability
for Yonkers, New York State's fourth largest city,
I had the privilege and opportunity to practice
sustainability at the ground level. While my
responsibilities went far beyond recycling, that is one
aspect of sustainability that has managed to reach
people broadly. I was surprised but motivated when
I was confronted with how much people struggle
with recycling. I found that recycling stations
were consistently misused. I wondered whether
the misuse was the result of apathy or something
else. I discovered that people genuinely wanted to
recycle but generally felt unsure about which items
were recyclable and which were not, and where
those items should be placed. So I spearheaded a
project that entailed designing new visual aids to
help residents recycle, which they were sincerely
interested in doing.
Through my interactions with the community, I
discovered that not only did people not know how to
sort recyclables, most didn't have bins, compounding
the problem. I was tasked with designing a program
to manufacture and disseminate household recycling
bins throughout the city.
But the deeper issue I pondered was, why was
it falling to me to be designing and re-designing
something so basic? Shouldn't the sustainability
field have figured this out by now? The conclusion I
have come to is that sustainability professionals are
not communicating effectively about sustainable


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BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017

From the Executive Director: A strategic plan for emerging professionals.
From the Board Chair: Taking flight into new territory.
What is Strategic Electrification? Simply Put, It’s an Energy Transformation: A core pathway to deep carbon reduction.
Better Steam Heat: Generating steam system upgrades in New York City.
Going All the Way:What it will really take to achieve net zero energy in Burlington, VT.
Are You Forging the Weakest Link?: A deeper dive into how the quest for resilience alters the design process.
Air Quality in Your Bedroom: Nighttime Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Bedrooms of 22 Vermont Homes: Can occupants of leaky houses breathe easy in their sleep?
Inclusive Diversity Key to Sustainability: Opinion: Sustainability planning must embrace diversity.
BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: An interview with Jonathan Orpin.
High Performance Walls: Discover an alternative to traditional insulation methods that can reach superior insulation performance with thinner walls.
SAF®– A Solar Faade to Stay?: A technical overview of the newest attachment systems in the low-energy construction market.
NESEA Green Pages: This premier resource for sustainability professionals in the Northeast and beyond is just a few pages away. To have your business listed in next year’s Green Pages and become a NESEA business member today, visit nesea.org/join.
Index to Advertisers
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Intro
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 5
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - From the Executive Director: A strategic plan for emerging professionals.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 7
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - From the Board Chair: Taking flight into new territory.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 9
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - What is Strategic Electrification? Simply Put, It’s an Energy Transformation: A core pathway to deep carbon reduction.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 11
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 12
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 13
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 14
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 15
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Better Steam Heat: Generating steam system upgrades in New York City.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 17
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 18
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 19
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Going All the Way:What it will really take to achieve net zero energy in Burlington, VT.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 21
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 22
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 23
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Are You Forging the Weakest Link?: A deeper dive into how the quest for resilience alters the design process.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 25
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 26
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 27
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 28
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 29
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Air Quality in Your Bedroom: Nighttime Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Bedrooms of 22 Vermont Homes: Can occupants of leaky houses breathe easy in their sleep?
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 31
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 32
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 33
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Inclusive Diversity Key to Sustainability: Opinion: Sustainability planning must embrace diversity.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 35
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: An interview with Jonathan Orpin.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 37
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - High Performance Walls: Discover an alternative to traditional insulation methods that can reach superior insulation performance with thinner walls.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 39
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 40
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 41
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - SAF®– A Solar Faade to Stay?: A technical overview of the newest attachment systems in the low-energy construction market.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 43
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 44
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 45
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 46
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 47
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - NESEA Green Pages: This premier resource for sustainability professionals in the Northeast and beyond is just a few pages away. To have your business listed in next year’s Green Pages and become a NESEA business member today, visit nesea.org/join.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 49
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BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 75
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 76
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Index to Advertisers
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 78
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert5
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert6
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