Llyswen Berna

Takeaways from LEED GA Training

Last week a group of MBA students were given the opportunity to participate in a LEED Green Associate training by Leading Green. Many jumped at the chance to gain new skills and enhance their resume. I wanted to take a minute to share our experiences and explain why LEED is important.

What is LEED and why is it important?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system for green buildings created by the US Green Building Council. It can be used on all types of construction and provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and sustainable buildings. It is globally recognized and highly marketable, increasing the value of the building. LEED standards develop and grow over time and are approved by professionals within the industry.

It is important to note that a building can be LEED certified, but people can be accredited. The training we participated in was for the LEED GA accreditation. This is the foundational level of accreditation, which gives individuals an up to date understanding of green building practices.  Once you have earned your LEED GA, you can earn your LEED AP (advanced professional) and focus on a specific area within the rating system.

Attendee Reflections

I asked my fellow classmates to reflect on why they took this training and what they got out of it. A selection of their answers are below:

What are your professional goals?

Ian LeClair: I want to work in tech sector working on smart tech to improve energy efficiencies for large companies.

Rachael Caravone: I hope to work in an organization where I can help create solutions to make cities more livable. This requires a holistic view of energy, water, transportation, land use, and the built environment. Obtaining my LEED GA would give me another tool, and a better understanding of how systems thinking and sustainability in our buildings can help improve the livability in cities.

Aaron Bush: I’m currently exploring project management and consulting roles in renewable energy and the built environment. Having a strong understanding of LEED and other industry-leading practices or certifications will allow me to communicate more effectively across disciplines as well as take the lead on projects that involve construction and design.

Timothy Cohalan: My professional goal is to leverage the built environment to build community through sustainable real estate development.

Why were you interested in getting your LEED GA?

AB: The LEED Green Associate training and certification acts as a stamp showing my knowledge in a specific category. My experience in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at the University of Oregon has provided a broad background on triple-bottom-line thinking, as well as factors influencing business behavior. However, because student interests are quiet broad, and sustainability every business category, the MBA program typically does not provide in-depth training or course material on individual topics. As a LEED Green Associate, I will have both broad knowledge and specific skills.

TC: The built environment is where most people spend the majority of their time.  It is also one of the largest consumers of energy and emitters of Green House Gases. Our building generally live longer lives then we do. That is why it is so important to get things right the first time.  As someone interested in shaping how we interact with our environment I want to make sure I am doing it the best way possible.  Getting my LEED GA accreditation is a great way to build my understanding of one of the most common pathway for that worldwide.

What piece of the training did you find most valuable?

IL: Being able to see how the training would fit into a future job workflow.

RC: I appreciated how the LEED certification process is tailored to the type of building or use, and the owner/developer can choose the options most relevant to their area or situation to gain points towards LEED certification. I was also pleasantly surprised about the evolution and updates made to the certification process.

AB: My view of LEED has always been that it is a certification centered around making buildings more energy efficient. I now understand that it is both wholistic and focused at the same time. LEED certification considers not only a building’s energy consumption, but also its ability to integrate with the greater environment and promote human wellbeing. For example, developers pursuing LEED are incentivized to build close to public transit and provide alternative modes of transportation. They get points for maintaining or improving nearby wetlands or other natural features. LEED takes into account human health by requiring proper ventilation and air quality. A LEED building is not just better for the environment, it is better for people.

TC: While I was familiar with the concepts of green building in general the training did an excellent job explaining how LEED breaks them down into categories and which categories were most emphasized.

What are your next steps in learning about the built environment?

RC: I would like to learn more about the LEED for Neighborhood Development certification too see how the process works for an entire community.

TC: As I continue in my career in real estate development I will look to industry leaders in green building for best practices. I will also learn more from the architects and contractors that I collaborate with.

Any other takeaways or pieces you would like to add?

AB: Our instructor, Lorne, explained that LEED is voluntary and typically surpasses standards set by local governments or typical industry practices. While LEED buildings often provide increased returns and higher market value compared to conventional buildings, they are still not the default option. I see huge opportunities to continue increasing best-practices and incorporate many of the most valuable lessons from LEED into a broader societal conversation about the built environment.

 

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

Why Sports are Important to Sustainability

Sports and sustainability are two areas that most people do not see going hand in hand. While organizations like the Green Sports Alliance and the Council for Responsible Sport (CRS) are working to fix that viewpoint, the everyday consumer may have more difficulty connecting the two. If you ask the right people, they may see how sustainable practices can have a large positive impact on sporting events in terms of waste reduction or energy efficiency. But would they mention that sports can also have an impact on the sustainability movement?

This summer I was able to work with the City of Eugene on a grant they received from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to help create a framework for responsible events. My specific focus was creating an engagement model for how best to utilize universities in the responsible event space. I was really excited to learn more about the events area, and was unpleasantly surprised when I found out that the majority of events that would be using this framework would be sporting events.

Let me clarify, I am not a sports fan. I say, “Go Ducks!” but I have never been to a game, and I’m definitely not the person you should ask if you want to know the outcome of last weekend’s game. I watch the Super Bowl, but only for the advertisements. So, when I found out that a significant portion of my research would be surrounding sporting events, I was less than enthusiastic. I could see how sustainability could benefit sports. It was clear that helping to implement those practices was important, but I was much more eager to learn about how sustainability had been executed at music festivals than baseball games.

I could not have been more surprised by what I learned from my conversations with multiple people in the green sports area. Many professional leagues are moving towards more sustainability-focused goals. The Final Four has been certified a couple of times by the CRS, and Major League Baseball has made efforts to have a Green Team at the All-Star Game. New ways of connecting sustainability and sports are coming up every year, and learning about how these events have been made more sustainable is exciting. While it was quite simple to see how sustainable goals were improving sports, my biggest takeaway was how important sports are to the sustainability movement.

58% of Americans identify as sports fans[1]. Sports as a platform for communication is invaluable. What sports teams support, and the messages they promote, will be heard by thousands. For the people pushing sustainability forward, the ability to use this platform created by sports allows them to reach people who might not normally be exposed to sustainable ideas. If people, especially children who grow up watching their favorite teams, see these stadiums or leagues “going green” they may be inspired to do the same.

My viewpoint on sports has completely changed since the beginning of the summer. While I still don’t identify as a sports fan, I finally see the value of sports as a platform. Last weekend I was able to incorporate these lessons into helping put on the Green Football Game at Autzen Stadium, where we met our goal of receiving 500+ pledges to be more sustainable. I’m looking forward to utilizing sports in my future sustainability experiences.

                                                     

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/183689/industry-grows-percentage-sports-fans-steady.aspx

 

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

Reflections on a Case Competition

Ok, deep breath, you got this, 15 minutes and it’s all over. This is what was going through my head right before presenting in the final round of the Simon Fraser University Sustainability Challenge. This was my first live case competition and I never thought our team would get this far. We were three Americans, competing in Canada, in a business and cultural setting we knew little about despite the similarities between our countries.

When we first heard about the SFU Sustainability Challenge, my team including Seth Lenaerts, Leah Goodman, and I, were all excited. We saw it as a great opportunity to compete in an international live case competition with a focus on sustainability.  Once we saw the case, however, we knew it was going to test our education, business ethics, and values. The case prompt was to provide feasibility and pre-engagement advice to the FortisBC team with respect to the potential for natural gas conversions in First Nations communities on Vancouver Island. Our initial reaction was, “are we supposed to market natural gas to First Nation communities?” It was difficult to see the link to sustainability and tested our ethics.

Feeling confused and a bit disheartened we sought guidance from a couple of advisors. We were questioning our values and trying to decide what our next step should be. Upon re-reading the case we realized we were not being asked to come up with a marketing plan but to consider if natural gas could be an option for these communities, what these communities’ values were, and how these related to the natural gas company. Once we realized this, we were reenergized and dove back into the case, viewing it as a challenge to bring environmental values to a fossil fuel company.

Incorporating sustainability into our proposal was not the only challenge we faced. We were also dealing with the cultural differences between Canada and the United States. Canada is a big proponent of natural gas as a clean energy source whereas our group still viewed it as an extractive fossil fuel. We were also playing catch up on the cultural context and understanding the history and relationship of First Nation communities in Canada. While these challenges hampered our understanding of the case initially, having an outsider’s perspective may have helped us in the end.

Our team worked wonderfully together, building off each other’s ideas and helping each other understand the nuances of the case. When someone struggled with an idea or concept we would take the time to go over the issue and ensure everyone was on the same page, often leading to a breakthrough in how we structured our case. Our finalized product was something we could all be proud of, a values-driven suggestion on how FortisBC could use renewable natural gas (something they were currently offering at a premium) to these First Nation communities.

When we made it to Canada we weren’t quite sure what to expect. During the opening ceremony, we were chosen as the first to present the following day. We quickly returned to our hotel room and practiced our presentation until we knew it backwards and forwards. We felt good about our presentation but were not confident we would move onto finals.

The next morning, we got ready, practiced once more, and headed off to present. Wow, that was rough. We were torn apart by the questions the judges asked us. We recognized our weaknesses: some points weren’t supported enough, some examples not fleshed out, some questions we simply couldn’t answer. At that point, it was hard to focus on what we did well, especially without getting to see other presentations for comparison. We decided that no matter what, this was a valuable experience and at least we would be able to see the final presentations to learn what a winning presentation would look like.

After a few hours exploring beautiful Vancouver we came back to hear who would move onto the finals. Four finalists were chosen, each picked out of a cup in dramatic fashion to determine what order teams would present in. Once the third name had been called our team was pretty convinced we were not going to be picked; we were happy to simply enjoy the other presentations and learn from our competitors. Then it happened, they called our name “Sustainasaurus.” We were to be the last finalist presentation!

A variety of emotions passed through our group from disbelief and excitement about making it to the finals to disappointment that we would be unable to see any other presentations. After taking in this new information we quickly made our way downstairs where we would spend the next two hours practicing our presentation and working on answering those tough questions we faced during the first round.

And now here I am, taking a deep breath and about to step out in front of the panel of judges and students. Our presentation went well. Again, we were faced with tough questions, many of which we could answer well, some of which we had no answer for. We then took a seat ready to hear the judges overall feedback for the day.

We all got it wrong. Almost every single team managed to read the case incorrectly. We were never asked for a plan on how natural gas could work for First Nation communities. We were asked what information the company needed to gather in order to make their own plan. The entire audience of students sat stunned once we heard that. A case that did not require a plan of action? Being MBA students meant we were trained to associate presenting cases with presenting solutions. The judges went on to give us more feedback on how the teams could have performed better, what information could have been included and what information should not have been.

We reflected on what had just happened and were reeling from some of the feedback we had heard. We felt good about our presentation but had no context on how we compared to others. We didn’t know if the judges only hit us with the tough questions or if everyone had faced those. We didn’t even know what other teams had proposed to see if what we said was even viable.

Walking into the ending ceremony felt amazing. There was a giant sense of relief that presentations were over and that, no matter what, we had made it to the finals. When they began to announce the winners, there was a sudden hush around the room as we all crowded around the podium.

“Third place goes to team Sustainasaurus.”

No one has been more excited to receive third place then us. We quickly found each other in the room and made it up to the podium. For the rest of the night people kept coming up and congratulating us; we could not have been happier! We made positive connections with other competitors and professionals within the industry, several of whom we are looking to work with in the future.

We learned a lot from this experience and are eagerly looking forward to taking that knowledge with us when competing in future case competitions.

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

International Sustainability – How Traveling Around the World Impacts You at Home

This week I traveled the world digitally and dove into the environmental advancements and sustainability initiatives that are occurring in other countries.

EUROPE: Focus on Energy

I started off my tour in Europe and, unsurprisingly, the two countries that kept popping up as having advancements in sustainability were Denmark and Germany. While there are a variety of initiatives that the countries are looking into, there seemed to be a focus on energy. Recently, a new Danish wind turbine broke world records for energy production in a 24 hour period. This will allow for lower costs for wind energy as fewer turbines will need to be constructed. Wind energy is set to be a large part of Denmark’s plan to become fossil fuel free by 2050.

Germany has partnered with Sweden to install “electric roads.” These highways would allow freight trucks to transport goods long distances and still be fueled by electricity instead of gas. This would not only reduce the amount of emissions from these trucks but would also create an entirely sustainable process if the electricity is produced from renewable resources.

It will be interesting to see if these technologies can make it across the Atlantic to the United States. Think about how many homes the large windmill could provide energy. Imagine our interstates becoming electrified so that the transportation of goods becomes significantly more sustainable. The US should monitor the success of these innovative approaches and look for areas where we could one day implement these new technologies.

ASIA: Olympics have an Impact

I next moved onto Asia, and most information I found there in relation to sustainable business practices was about China and Japan. A common thread between the two is the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in both countries. China is focused on making as many sustainable choices as possible while Japan is collecting used electronics in order to make the Olympic medals.

China is reusing previous arenas in order to decrease the impact the Winter Olympics have on its environment. They also commit to building any new structures with sustainability in mind, using energy reducing technology whenever possible. In addition, any energy that is used for electricity, transportation, and operations will be solar or electric.

Japan’s innovative approach to creating the Olympic medals shows how creativity is important to sustainability. Most people would not look at an out of date cell phone and think it would one day become a gold medal, but someone did. This pioneering idea will hopefully remove 8,000 tons of used electronics from the waste stream.

This type of thinking, reusing what you already have, is the key to sustainability. Why build something new when something you already have will make do?

AUSTRALIA:  Renewables for All

There are the same number of solar panels in Australia as there are people in Australia. This is one of the big reasons why 2017 is set to be a huge year for Australia in terms of renewable energy projects. They are set to increase their renewable capacity by 2,250MW by the end of the year. In addition to these projects, 50% of Australian households are currently considering solar energy and storage.

Australia is breaking into the renewables sector and is going strong. While they may not compare to Germany or Denmark’s success, they are showing improvement and are sure to catch up soon. What if 50% of American households were considering solar? How can we get our country to this spot?

AFRICA: New Tech, New Solutions

Africa is extremely diverse in its levels of sustainability, depending on which country you visit. Some are just starting out while others have a pretty solid footing in the sector. One of the countries that seems to be making strides in coming up with new environmental technology is South Africa.

Scientists from a South African university have discovered a low-cost, low-tech way to filter water. Charcoal made from Eucalyptus can successfully filter out a significant number of toxins from water runoff. While this solution does not necessarily make the water potable, it can be used on runoff from farms to decrease the number of chemicals and pollutants that enter the ecosystem. The beauty of this fix is the low cost. Many people think that technology is the future and that to have clean water you are going to have to come up with advanced systems to do so, but this process in South Africa proves that is not the case.

The country is also opening a plant to turn waste into energy. They are going to burn their waste to create electricity and reduce the amount that goes into landfills. While this is not a new idea, it tends to be looked down upon, as it is believed that it would cause more pollution to enter the atmosphere through burning than it would save. This was one of the main concerns when this idea was proposed to a Massachusetts neighborhood and was a main factor in the refusal of the project. Since then, the EPA has actually refuted this idea and says that for each ton of waste burned a ton of GHGs do not enter the atmosphere.

While they may not seem like the fanciest technologies, these two innovations have the chance to have significant impacts. If American farmers started using charcoal to reduce pollution from runoff it would have a great impact on our environment. Burning waste might be a bit harder to sell on a residential level and I do not believe American society is quite ready to accept this technology. If advancements in capturing the emissions from this tech occur we may be able to move it to America.

SOUTH AMERICA: Entering into the Fray

South America was my last stop for the week, making it full circle back to the Western hemisphere. A common theme when exploring sustainability here was that there is a lot of untapped potential in South America.

Brazil has a chance to be a global leader in carbon reduction as it is currently one of the major producers. Its economy is growing, so there is room for new technology and new initiatives to take root and help reduce Brazil’s carbon emissions.

South America is one of the continents most heavily impacted by deforestation and yet there is a $200 billion annual opportunity for deforestation-free investments. If the supply chains for beef, palm oil, soy, and paper can become sustainable, it has the chance to reduce the world’s GHG emissions by 10%. This is a huge area of potential growth for South America.

Americans should support South American countries’ sustainability initiatives and potentially learn from them as well. American companies could have a huge impact if they would trace their supply chains and ensure that materials are being sourced deforestation-free. This would not only decrease the impact on the environment but also improve the economy.

My biggest takeaway for the week was that while we might not all be on the same level, we are all moving forward in our sustainability goals, and that gives me hope for the future.

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.