Category Archives: Sustainability

Caring Chaos

Initially, I hadn’t planned on participating in the Sustainability Project at TEDActive .

When I first saw the email about the project teams, I thought it was too big a time commitment (two hours a day!), especially for my first TEDActive conference. I also didn’t want to sign up to “lead” anything, as I thought there were many others more qualified than I. Oh, how things change!

Shortly after receiving the project team invitation from the TED folks, I made the mistake of posting a note on the TEDActive Facebook group asking if there were other sustainability professionals who wanted to connect during the conference. This prompted Sarah to personally invite me to participate in the Sustainability Project Team. When I told her I didn’t want to lead anything, she explained that all team participants are leaders. I just couldn’t turn down this invitation.

During our first meeting on Monday,  I thought we spent a lot of time going in circles. At least we did so by writing with dry erase markers on the windows of the Living Center; boy was that fun! Over the course of the next couple days we met frequently during breaks and meals. I continued to feel like our team wasn’t getting very far, and felt frustrated by the brainstorming process.  

But last night something magical happened. We all agreed that the TED Talks should include calls to action. We decided that the TEDx Curator platform should be expanded so that TED docents or guides could link TEDTalks to action items and serve as ambassadors to their cause. We also thought that TEDx events should have local calls to action in which their participants can engage.

WOW! Now that’s powerful stuff.

I also learned a lot about myself during this collaborative process. Having run my own business for the past eight years (up until February, 2010), sometimes I forget how to play well with others. Focus and patience are not my strong suits, and my participation in the sustainability project really pushed me to hone both those skills. As my good friend, and our project spokesperson, Ted Ning of LOHAS said, conversations in groups like this often contract and expand numerous times before they get to their end destination. The good news is that I think we’ve finally arrived, a lot more focused and even a bit more patient.

Thank you TED and and my sustainability project cohorts, for this inspirational growth experience!

Howl For A Sustainable Future

What an amazing week we’re having here at TEDActive! The sustainability team grappled with the big question of “How do we grow sustainability?” —  and we came up with inspiring ideas to connect people with actions through the TED website. We’re calling it TEDWalks, as in, let’s walk our talk when we think about making our world and thus our lives more sustainable.

When I got back to my hotel room, I was still so energized by our radical collaboration that  I wanted to capture our wish in a poem. This immediately led to thoughts of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, and I adapted the opening lines of the poem. Having always loved his poem I take inspiration from the monumental shift of human consciousness it represents and borrow it for our own. Right here. Right now.

“We see the best minds of our generation enlightened, yet still starving for new ideas. Ideas we can share with the knowing and naked. All of us rising out of the dark streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix.
We dream of connecting all the angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection. Like our star of wonder dynamo machinery of night and day. A talky walky machine that sustains what matters and informs our brothers and sisters currently hollow-eyed with the supernatural knowing of a frightening future. We learn language to change and make possible new beauty and find ourselves in radical collaboration floating across the tops of cities – our every utterance data jazz. We call upon all of you who bare your brains in solidarity with the El Mohammedan angels illuminating Africa, now knowing with radiant cool eyes Blake-light tragedy. We make our lives a work of art with an ocean of tears. We reach out to others to help them overcome our fears. We howl to become the change we believe in.”

How do you infect creative consciousness?

break out of the old way of thinking of sustainability (credit: iStock)

TEDActiveSus, the Sustainability group, has a tough challenge. Like a TED speaker pointed out, people get bored of things, even when they are really important, and people are bored of sustainability. Social media, education and mobility are just more, well, sexy, than sustainability. So while our key question is “How to grow sustainability?” we decided to trash the actual word and focus on what makes things fun.

We rephrased the question, to ask what it meant for individuals in the group: How do we do business around common goals? How do we motivate people? How do we make sustainability more visible, tangible, sexy, fun and positive? How do we go to where we should be? How do we simplify and reduce, no, eliminate waste and radicalize efficiency? How do we measure success and How do we establish a reward system for business — how do we incentivize sustainability?

From this quest for reward we asked, what makes us happy? Being appreciated, fulfilling a need, being part of a community, and being part of something larger were central ideas to the discussion. The elusive creative consciousness that we can’t teach, or organize, but that we can spread was identified to start the conversation towards action to grow sustainability. These actions, that make us happy and create something HUGE will be sculpted more tomorrow, with the participants at TEDActive to help us, and the TED talks to inspire us. These actions will involve selfless, elevated moments that will utilize all our emotions, and become infectious.

How do we grow sustainability?

Yesterday afternoon project participants convened at the beautiful Living Desert Museum to begin crafting the TEDActive sustainability project action. The group was a good mix of both North and South Americans — but unfortunately, at the moment we have little representation from India, Africa and the Middle East. We’d love to expand our group to incorporate more representation from those regions, and we have a place for you at the firepit tonight if you’re interested in joining!

Our discussion was a microcosm of many current sustainability debates: What is the most impactful place to put our energy? Should traditional environmental organizations work with (or against?) corporate partners? Should we focus on personal or systemic action? How are global financial and investment systems responding to opportunities provided by large-scale shifts in energy production, and the need to scale for development in the global south? Is growth always a good thing? 

It was enjoyable to watch the group coalesce and work as a team … our first successful consensus was to agree that our core question was the title of this post — How do we grow sustainability?

We agreed that there were essential components to any successful action: It must be measurable, and data and transparency are necessary to any accountable plan or system. It must motivate people using positive engagement — not fear or shame. It must incorporate the sense of wonder, play and reward that drives us as people — the reasons we’re here at TEDActive.

We’re still in the process of gathering ideas and thoughts on what our core action will be — our team is discussing sustainability with other conference participants, as well as using Twitter (#TEDActiveSus) and other social media to get input beyond the participants here in Palm Springs … please comment on this post or on Twitter and tell us what you’re doing to make your professional life more sustainable and what you’ve been thinking about doing, but haven’t yet implemented.

I thought that Luis Cilimingras’ presentation at TEDYou about Fiat’s creative interventions to change driving behavior was a great model of the type of action we should look to — creating significant impact on carbon emissions with a fun interactive system to change driving behavior using best practices from gaming, incorporating hard metrics and constant data monitoring. Of course, it probably took Fiat several years to create that program — and we only have until Thursday to create our action.

Given the depth of experience on the team, I’m looking forward to the info gathering we will be talking about tonight — we need an action that is significant and appropriate to the level of influence that the TED community wields. I’d argue that we need to challenge TED community members to lead on sustainability in their corporate sectors and investments — and make sure they’re using their lobbying resources to talk about key policy decisions like carbon pricing with their governments. The time for changing lightbulbs is over — we need to spur leadership and get to scale.

See you at the firepit!