The Long Road to Sustainability

Despite the wealth of news across the United States touting electric vehicles, renewable energy projects, new LEED-certified and zero-energy buildings, and sustainable business practices, the hard truth is that a transformation to a sustainable United States will take a long, long time and a “sustained” effort through multiple generations of leadership. That is the lesson offered by Germany, as described in a well-written article recently appearing on the Energy Bulletin written by Ralph Buehler, Arne Jungjohann, Melissa Keeley and Michael Mehling. As they describe Germany’s success, they note that it has been a 40 year journey where “all levels of government … have retooled policies to promote growth that is more environmentally sustainable.”

There are fundamental differences between Germany and the United

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Will Central Florida’s Sunrail Work?

Commuter rail trainAs a long-time Central Florida resident and lawyer who has worked in downtown Orlando for my entire career, I was personally very excited about the approval of SunRail. I have always enjoyed using public transportation when visiting New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, and have often wondered whether public transportation would work in my hometown. I’ve even experimented with the concept by riding the Lynx bus system for a week, and wrote about it in this blog. But I am a realist when it comes to Orlando and mass transportation. I believe that, although SunRail has the potential for great success over the long term, there are several factors that may keep it from gathering the ridership it needs to be successful in the short term.

First, the factors that have the potential to quickly increase public acceptance and ridership:

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Recycling in Commercial Buildings?

recycle bin

It is widely accepted that a significant part of the waste generated by a typical office – paper, packaging, cardboard, etc. – can be recycled if it is properly segregated from other waste which is not easily recycled, such as food waste.  In the large commercial office building or development with multiple tenants, this means that literally tons of waste from a single project can be diverted each year from landfills and repurposed for use as recycled copy paper and envelopes, cardboard packaging, etc.  Why, then, is there no widespread activity in the commercial lease context to recycle everything that can be recycled?  There are multiple explanations for this lack of effort, including these:

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Philadelphia Gets Sustainability Right

Here’s a simple recipe for success:  Start with a worthy, important goal – an audacious goal, one that can inspire others to get behind it. A goal that is clear, so you know when you have reached it.  A goal that has … a time deadline. Next, involve others in discussion and planning how that audacious goal might be achieved. Have that group create a number of smaller, intermediate goals that create small successes and build momentum. Next, regularly report to stakeholders exactly where you are on the road to achievement, whether good or bad. Along the way, keep the communication lines open so that all stakeholders see action. Inspire. Repeat.

While this might sound like simple common-sense advice from a self-help book on success and goals (and it could be), it is actually my quick overview of a bold plan put in place by Michael A. Nutter, the visionary Mayor of Philadelphia.  His goal: turn Philadelphia into “the greenest city in America by 2015”.  Beginning with his 2008 inaugural address, he created incredible energy around this goal, and based on their self-reporting, the City of Brotherly Love appears to be well on its way toward becoming that city.

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Orlando’s Amway Center Turns Green into Gold

This post is an update to our August 24, 2010 entry titled “Orlando’s New Amway Center Goes Green.”

Today, the City of Orlando and the Orlando Magic will announce that the Amway Center, the city’s entertainment venue and home of the Orlando Magic basketball team, has earned a “LEED Gold” certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. According to an article published today in the Orlando Sentinel, the Amway Center is the first new NBA arena to earn a “LEED Gold” certification.  The Amway Center first opened in the fall of 2010, with the start of the Magic’s basketball season.

This award is a great signal for the state of sustainable development in the City of Orlando.  Alex Martins, Orlando Magic president said, “We promised to create an arena that was civic-oriented, pedestrian-friendly and added to downtown development. We promised a sustainable arena, and are proud to say that with today’s announcement and with great teamwork, we have surpassed our goals for LEED certification.”

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