Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.
What do you think of when you hear the word “sustainability”? Do you think of melting ice caps, super storms, or other effects of climate change? How about political fights on Capitol Hill about pipelines, drilling, and carbon taxes? Or maybe you think of hippies drinking vegan smoothies in a straw bale house with a composting toilet? The truth is all of these are just tiny parts of the overall conversation on the broader topic of sustainability.
While there are countless definitions of the meaning of sustainability, the most widely accepted one is from the Brundtland Commission, which defined it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” For our sustainability day, Day Chairs Thomas Williams, Jeffery Maas, and Charlie Popeck were able to develop a highly informative and engaging program that demonstrated exceptional real-life examples of organizations and businesses in Scottsdale that are thriving by embracing sustainability as a core value.
Throughout the day, we heard from representatives of international architectural firms, transportation companies, Scottsdale’s water and waste departments, sustainability consultants, SRP, CAP and solar distributors. Each presenter had excellent examples of how their businesses and the community are seeing tangible economic, social, and environmental impacts by focusing on sustainability.
One statistic on the benefits of sustainability really brought it home for me: Every year, the state of Georgia estimates that it spends $100 million to dispose of $300 million worth of recyclable materials. That means if they could get their residents to participate in recycling their waste, there would be a net windfall of $200 million to the state! This is an excellent example of what is possible by embracing sustainability – there is not only the potential for a huge economic impact, but also an environmental one.
Sustainability is not only focused on conservation of resources and environmental impacts, but it is equally focused on economic and social impacts as well. This is called the Triple-Bottom Line, and for the companies and communities that have been most successful at developing sustainability initiatives, all three of these areas have to be addressed.
While the entire day was captivating, the highlight was the tour to Singh Farms. It was a real treat to be able to walk through the gardens and to talk with Ken Singh for a couple of hours. I was blown away to find out that when he started the farm in 2003, there wasn’t a single tree and the entire plot was caliche. With the help of his sons and his skills at nurturing the land, he was able to turn that desolate plot into some of the most verdant gardens in the valley. Today, his farm serves as a shining example of sustainability in action – by embracing natural processes and avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, he is able to produce extremely high quality, nutritious food without degrading the land.
While the title of this class was sustainability, in truth, everything we’ve experienced so far in our short time in Scottsdale Leadership has been about sustainability. The theme of each class has been about sustaining Scottsdale as an excellent community and place to live. As we continue on this journey in Scottsdale Leadership, we are all searching for ways to become better leaders in life and in the community, with the ultimate goal of making a difference and leaving as much as possible for the next generation, which is truly sustainability in action.