Saturday, October 21, 2017

Finding your purpose(s)

Many people feel like they aren't "there yet" if they can't define their calling. In Great Work, I provide suggestions for how to discover your purpose in life. In this HBR post, the author has a different way of thinking about it: building your purpose in different contexts. It may not be just one thing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Writing to enhance your other career

I was asked to write an article for TCK Publishing to promote the latest edition of The Business Guide to Sustainability. Rather than writing about the book, I thought it would be interesting for writers-- and also people who don't consider themselves writers-- to understand how writing articles or even a book can help your career. Here's a link to what they published.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Is there a business case for a municipality to buy carbon offsets or RECs?

Courtesy Stuart Miles,
At a recent Sedona City Council meeting, one of the Councilors asked what the business case might be for Renewable Energy Credits (REC's). (Basically these are the renewable portion of the kWh's produced, the cost premium, which can be bought and sold.) I wanted to broaden the question to include carbon offsets/credits where you compute your greenhouse gases and via a third party, pay for a project that offsets that amount of carbon dioxide or equivalent gases. (Nature doesn't care who reduces greenhouse gases and it may be cheaper for someone else to do it than you.)

Here's my answer.


It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.
A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. 

—Thomas Jefferson

Every day that we as a society continue to be unsustainable, we are leaving debts for the future generations (environmental, social, and genetic), in some cases, for the current generations downwind or downstream.

While it is still legal to buy energy based on fossil fuels, it doesn’t make it right. Purchasing RECs or carbon offsets are a way to internalize costs imposed on others, what economists call ‘externalities,’ basically problems you caused that you don’t have to pay for: asthma medicines for kids living near coal-fired power plants, rebuilding costs for survivors of more frequent extreme weather events, managing disposal and storage of nuclear fuel for thousands of years, etc.

While this moral argument might not impress your Finance Director, there are ways to use these methods to improve your competitiveness.


A number of companies now have internal carbon fees. You could ‘charge’ each department the equivalent of a carbon offset, giving them incentives to be more energy efficient, and then allocate those funds for renewable projects or other carbon-reduction strategies. If you challenged each department to find the savings to pay for their internal carbon offset, this could uncover other cost-savings measures. (Resource:


Visitors could be offered the opportunity to buy a carbon offset for their trips. (This could be as an opt-in or an opt-out fee.) If 1/10th of our 3 million visitors paid, on average, $10 (perhaps tax-deductible), that would result in $3 million a year that could be spent on local projects (City, schools or workforce housing), creating local jobs.

Demetri Wagner, owner of El Rincon Restaurant, has already built a system and non-profit to do this, which could be adapted to this situation. He was so concerned about climate change, he created the World Survival Foundation and the GenIsis Project where individuals or organizations can calculate their carbon impact and pay for a carbon offset, directing it to the school of their choice. To make his offset program credible, I believe he needs to move away from market pricing to project pricing so that if you purchase a metric ton of GHG offsets, you actually offset that amount. My point is there is already a system in the Verde Valley that could be adapted to do this.


What if Sedona (or your community) became the first carbon-neutral destination, a guilt-free trip? Places like Costa Rica and Montenegro are among those working on it. Why not us? Given the ‘first mover advantage,’ we could get a lot of free publicity if we were first. In the last 20 years, early-adopter businesses like Interface Carpet have all said they couldn’t have paid for all the free publicity they got. Here’s a google search that reveals some of the tourist destinations intending to become climate neutral.

This paper provides a critical review of the concept of “carbon neutrality” for tourism destinations within the framework of the UNWTO's Davos Declaration, ...
"We have an opportunity to become the first carbon-neutral tourist destination," he said. "We want Costa Rica to be a guilt-free location to visit, and that will be ...
Aug 24, 2017 - While a lot of destinations claim to be doing their part to minimize their ... This means their Myanmar trip is fully carbon offset, to the tune of 577 ...
Jan 25, 2012 - Bequia is a delightful link in the chain of islands which make St. Vincent and the Grenadines such an attractive destination for sun worshipping ...
Oct 30, 2009 - Costa Rica threw down a green gauntlet this week, announcing its plan to become the world's first carbon-neutral destination. At a sustainable ...
Apr 7, 2017 - Montenegro is taking a number of steps to become a hot ecotourism destination. › Environment › Greenhouse gas emissions
Mar 26, 2009 - By setting out the steps to enable the Maldives to brand itself as a carbon-neutral destination, we could be accused of actually encouraging ...


If an organization decides that they should offset some or all of their carbon emissions, then you must ask what method is the best carbon-return-on-investment, what actions get you to carbon neutral at the cheapest cost.
  1. Energy efficiency is often the cheapest place to start, often with amazing internal rates of returns (30% is not unusual). This also reduces the amount of carbon-emitting energy you have to offset. Remember to think also about actions that can reduce transportation-related emissions as well.
  2. Green power programs are available from most, if not all, electric utilities. You can also sign up with Arcadia Power, which likely has a cleaner mix than your utility.
  3. Solar panels and co-generation systems can have a big first cost, but leasing programs and energy savings performance contracts can eliminate the initial cost investment and save you money on utilities right off the bat.
  4. REC's and carbon offsets can be used for whatever else you can't eliminate.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bernie and Ronnie would agree on this...

SUSTAINABILITY ALLIANCE: Worker owned business is bipartisan approach to bu...: Most are aware that there is a huge gap between the highest and lowest incomes. This is largely a consequence of traditional capitalism wher...

I've been doing  most of my blogging for the Sustainability Alliance so
if you want to stay in touch, follow me there!
( or @SustainabilityAllianceAZ on

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Patagonia: A glimpse of the Circular Economy

Patagonia, not only makes great clothes. It also teaches people how to make them last longer and they own the largest apparel repair facility in North America. They re-sell garments and even offer customers recycling for their completely worn-out items. Welcome to the beginning of the Circular Economy.

Image link from the Patagonia Worn Wear website.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Almost 69% employees are disengaged at work (2014 study)

According to the latest research, most employees couldn't give a rip about their workplace. What a waste of talent, a waste of lives. The best companies have talented employees working on an important mission who feel valued, and a transparent top management. What has gotten lost in the last few decades is sharing real power with employees. Read Great Work for my insights about how to create an awesome workplace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finding your calling (cont): Taking on your heart-break

Ask, “What does the world need from us now?”

Excerpted from Great Work

That said, how your calling manifests in the world tends to change over time. The world changes and what it needs from you will change as well. At least once a decade, Marsha and I had to reinvent our business. It would usually take a year or more to explore the question, What does the world need from us now? For a decade we tried to make workplaces more humane through empowerment and organizational democracy methods like self-directed work teams, but we could see that trend waning and I got the sustainability ‘bug.’ So we switched to sustainability for the next decade, until we realized they were really two sides of the same coin. Empowerment was social sustainability inside an organization. I had been working on sustainability all along; I just didn’t know it.

If I look at the mass I will never act.
If I look at the one, I will.

—Mother Teresa, Saint and the founder of the

Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor

In 2013, after over 23 years in business, I felt as if sustainability in organizations had reached a tipping point. The Wall Street Journal was talking about it; the largest businesses in the world were pursuing sustainability at least to the extent of publishing sustainability reports. They were now pushing on their suppliers. Research was showing that companies focusing on sustainability had better stock prices. The traditional interests in profits were aligning with the needs of the world. It was time to find another leverage point in the system.

So now I’m focusing on getting sustainability embedded into the school system, a field called Education for Sustainability. Again, I had to struggle with my role. I wasn’t a schoolteacher; I didn’t even have my own children. I wasn’t well positioned to influence the public school system. But after a year of poking around, I have found a way. So now I’m onto Sustainability Calling 3.0 after gathering around me compatriots who fill in my weaknesses.

So this is what it may be for you. Find something you care deeply about and poke around until you find your role in solving that problem. I promise you, it’s there.

We [the Chinese] would be outraged if people were killing our pandas,
we should be just as upset with
what’s happening to rhinos and elephants in Africa.

—Yao Ming, former basketball star,

now WildAid Ambassador fighting poaching[i]

You don’t have to be an adult to do this inner work. Angela Maiers, educator and founder of the burgeoning Choose2Matter movement, has her students map their “heart-break.” She instructs them:

Do not follow your heart to find your passion and purpose. Instead follow your heartbreak . . . Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you.[ii]

This thinking has led to a string of inspiring stories about children that have been highlighted in such media as NBC Nightly News and Parenting Magazine:

  • Christian Golczynski, a teenager still grieving the loss of his father during the Iraq war, started A Soldier’s Child Foundation that gives out holiday and birthday gifts to other children who lost parents during active duty.[iii]
  • Vanessa Segaline, while a Girl Scout, started a food bank for pets.
  • Ten-year-old Abigail Lupi discovered many elderly in nursing homes don’t get visitors so she serenades them with her lovely voice.[iv]
  • And of course, Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, puts her life on the line to support the rights of Pakistani girls, and then of all children around the world, to go to school.

If kids can take on their ‘heart-break’ and make a difference, perhaps more of us grown-ups should too.

[i] Ming, Yao (4 September 2012) Yao Ming Blog: Yao’s Journey to Africa. WildAid. Retrieved from

[ii] Davis, Vicki (November 11, 2014) “Social Entrepreneurship: 7 Ways to Empower Student Changemakers” Edutopia.

[iii] NBC Nightly News () Making a difference.

[iv] Cooper, Andrea (n.d.) “8 Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference. Parenting Magazine.