Daring to Hope Again

For me, the events of recent weeks have been inspiring and brought back this feeling in my chest I used to know so well. No, it’s not just the hints of Fall in the air or that I stopped at Philippe’s for lunch recently. It’s that maybe, just maybe, we are starting to see some of the change we need in this world. If my short time on Earth has taught me anything, it’s that doing anything is hard, takes longer than you think, and never quite works out the way you thought it would. Sure, the climate is changing and that slim chance that we would head off global warming at the pass is slipping through our fingers. The world and the climate will change, and there will be consequences that we can’t even begin to imagine in our tiny human brains, but…something is happening. 

Just look around at the global climate strikes of the last couple weeks, look at the awareness on climate issues and that the mainstream media is actually talking about it on a regular basis. Many places around the world have already moved to a place where climate change is a leading issue in people’s minds right next to the economy and taxes. Could we have imagined that just a few years ago? Look at the leading companies around the world saying that the purpose of a corporation is no longer just maximizing shareholder returns. No, I don’t really believe they’re going to do anything about it yet, but they’re talking about it publicly and we can hold them and their successors more accountable. 

At our Quarterly Thought Leadership Event last week where we launched LA’s Building Decarbonization Working Group, we had an amazing roundtable of fifteen local leaders talking about all the challenges facing us to get to a future of carbon neutral, or dare I say it, carbon positive buildings. Yes, there is a lot of work to do and we are dealing with complex, multi-layered issues around grid harmonization, repurposing of infrastructure, and getting people to actually care about something building related. But all that being said, here in California we have a Renewable Portfolio Standard that should get us to 100% renewable energy by 2045. The new sustainability plans for the City of LA and County of LA call for all new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030 and existing buildings by 2045. Do we know fully how to get there yet, no, but that is the working of doing the work we do. Good people are going to get paid to do all that work and the investments are coming in new, exciting, and finally more traditional ways. Here in our region we have a defined purpose and a collective end zone that we can actually game plan on how to get to now. I hope to spend my career doing that and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be 65 in 2045 and if we could make this happen I promise to have one hell of a retirement party and you’re all invited. 

Even building materials are part of the discussion right now and that’s pretty darn exciting for a middle aged green building nerd like me. We are creating transparency on the manufacturing supply chain and providing modeling tools and environmental product declarations to architects, engineers, and contractors so they can be more informed than ever on what the embodied carbon and environmental impacts are of the materials they are specifying. Those are only going to get better and as we work to create more awareness, manufacturers will hopefully respond by cleaning up that supply chain and we will innovate more local, regenerative materials to continue to build the world around us. AIA has even declared that great design and sustainable design are now the same thing.

So see, something is happening and unfortunately yes, there is more work to do than ever before. But, there are reasons to feel that old familiar feeling again. Somebody is going to support their families doing all that work. There are reasons to dare to hope and this optimism is needed now more than ever, because it’s just when we start to see a glimmer of light around the corner that we need to push that much harder to get there.

About the Author

Ben StapletonExecutive Director for USGBC-LA. A native Angeleno, Ben Stapleton is a recognized sustainability leader, who brings to this position extensive experience and connections across real estate, technology and innovation. He launched and managed the La Kretz Innovation Campus in Downtown Los Angeles, most recently serving as SVP, Operations & Finance for the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI). The Campus has become an epicenter for sustainability in the region featuring events with prominent local, national and international leaders, while being home to a community of cutting-edge businesses and nonprofits. At LACI, Stapleton led major operational growth, program development, and partnerships to triple revenue for the non-profit. Simultaneously, he helped lead efforts that resulted in the La Kretz Innovation Campus becoming an iconic green building for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the City of Los Angeles, with multiple certifications, as well as pilot projects targeting waste, water, and energy efficiency. Stapleton has also held the positions of Managing Director of the LA Better Buildings Challenge and Vice President & Cleantech Practice Group Lead at JLL. He has served on the boards of LA Bioscience Hub and USGBC-LA. Representing competing schools in Los Angeles, Stapleton holds a MBA from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business, and a Bachelors of Arts degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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