Caring for the planet, and ourselves

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

We’ve all been carrying a lot. Sustainability leaders in the built environment are no exception. Our roles are demanding – holding hope that our industry can make the monumental shift needed to reduce emissions, center human health and social equity, and halt ecosystem collapse, while also holding the reality that we might already be too late. Our roles are deeply technical across a wide range of topics: energy-efficient equipment and building design, human health and carbon impacts of thousands of building material ingredients, water-reduction and reuse strategies, and resilience strategies in the face of a rapidly changing climate, to name a few. We also have to know how to implement these strategies on projects by connecting the needs of owners with creative financial strategies – often swimming upstream in a capitalistic economy that doesn’t always reward doing the right thing.

I am deeply passionate about my role at SERA as manager of our Sustainability Resources Group. But sometimes it can get heavy.

The book All We Can Save states, “Burnt-out people aren’t equipped to serve a burning planet…[so] the well-being of our hearts and souls must be reestablished to their rightful place as relevant, essential. How can we cope, care, and heal? Can climate work and leadership grow from a more rooted, powerful place?”

Recently, I had the privilege of joining a group of fellow sustainability leaders from across the U.S. at a summit where we not only worked on the gnarly problems we’re all facing in our roles, but connected with one another to feed our souls in community. Building Green created this peer network of Sustainable Design Leaders in 2008, and at the group’s first in-person summit since 2019, I found a supportive, energizing community that is unlike anything I’ve found elsewhere, even in a city as progressive as Portland. We shared knowledge, challenges, strategies, and successes. We workshopped several of the biggest issues our industry is facing right now to advance sustainability. We held space for each other and took the time to reflect on just how demanding this work is, and we found strength in a community with a shared vision.

We employee-owners at SERA pour our hearts into our work every day, because we care about the impacts we have in our communities, and we strive to make people’s daily lives unexpectedly better. I’m thankful that Building Green nurtures this community of Sustainable Design Leaders so I and others in roles like mine can lift our heads from the work in front of us, zoom out for a moment, and be a part of the collective spark moving our industry towards a more resilient future.

Growing things, natural light, and a moment to breathe freely make all the difference.