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Monday, January 24, 2011

Opportunity Green 2011: Sustainability in Action

Jeff Hayes

Last night we kicked off Opportunity Green's 2011 sustainability program. Karen Solomon (Co-founder, Opportunity Green) hosted the G-Team at her place in the marina. While it’s hard to believe that we’re already planning our 2011 effort, I also see it as a testament to our team’s persistence and enthusiasm. This will be the fourth year OG puts resources into reducing the negative impacts that result from our conference, and reporting our findings back to you. Here’s the report from our 2009 conference.

Barent Roth (Executive Director, Sustainable Works), Karen and I are really pumped that we’ll have so much lead-time going in to this year’s conference. Last year we started planning just a few months prior, and between a short lead-time, moving to a new venue, and the fact that the US East Coast (where many of our sponsors are headquartered) goes dark in August, we were really up against it.

Coordinating this type of effort across multiple organizations and time zones is complicated. Over the course of 2011 I’ll be highlighting our team’s progress, sharing some war stories - and maybe even save you and your green team some time and energy as a result. At the very least I hope it’ll be entertaining reading.

Some of 2010’s ‘lessons learned’ were:

  • When it comes to executing a sustainability plan, downstream thinking can be just as important as upstream thinking. We diverted liquids introduced to our system (you’d call it ‘backwash’) so that paper could be collected in the same bins as cans & bottles - but we’d never field-tested the actual diversion process. Our team learned the hard way that just because a system looks like it can accommodate 50 gallons of backwash per-go doesn’t mean that it actually can. Imagine the horror of standing ankle-deep in coffee and soda backwash!
  • Feelings count. Transparency - via written and signed agreements - is critical to avoiding hurting the people we respect and love. When misunderstandings flair up, energy gets diverted away from the mission at hand. Patching-up formerly strong relationships is wasteful, and its the kind of waste that can only be converted into value by by setting clear boundaries, needs and expectations.
  • A clearly defined objective is critical, and everyone on the team needs to buy-in to that objective. Without aligned intentions it’s nearly impossible to keep volunteers and staff focused and motivated over the long-haul. The Main Thing for 2010’s G-Team: “Use the Global Reporting Initiative framework to produce a sustainability report for Opportunity Green stakeholders by February 28, 2011”. I'll post a progress update on how The Main Thing 2010 is coming along in a future posting.

We love bringing this conference to the global business community. Karen, Barent and I hope to see you again in 2011! This year we’ll be running November 9 thru 11 - mark your calendars for another great event.

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