Forum events offer
sustainability theme

 

By Laura Somerville

Elon's Center for Environmental Studies hosted a workshop Oct. 8 titled "Roadmap to the Future: Tomorrow by Design." The workshop was open to students, faculty and the public, and featured keynote speakers David Orr, professor and chair of the environmental studies program at Oberlin College, and Stuart Hart, the Samuel C. Johnson Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University.

Hart spoke about sustainability and the tie it has to business agendas, growth and profit for companies. In his introduction, Hart quoted a U.S. CEO who said sustainability is as foreign a concept to managers in a capitalist society as profits were to managers in the former Soviet Union. He explained that sustainability is an ambiguous term.

Hart used a two-by-two matrix to instruct his audience about the ways in which captalism can work to make a more sustainable world. In the lower-left quadrant, internal, short-term issues relevant to a company were categorized under the heading of "pollution prevention." The list of prevention ideas included: greening, waste reduction, environmental management and resource productivity. To explain, Hart used the example of a factory. "We can build in quality instead of inspecting it after we've created defective products," he said, adding that the same idea applies to environmental-waste issues.

In Hart's lower-right quadrant, external, short-term issues were categorized under the heading "product stewardship." The issues associated with stewardship included: take-back, green design, full cost accounting, corporate governance, stakeholder management and life-cycle management. Hart explained the importance of product stewardship by asking, "If you knew you had to take a product back after its lifespan, wouldn't you probably make it differently?"

In Hart's upper-left quadrant explained internal issues pertaining to future events. He said the headings "clean technology," "new competencies" and "disruptive innovation" are key in seeing how to make companies work in an external manner when addressing the future. In this area, important issues include clean technology, eco-effectiveness, biomimicry, leapfrog technology, sustainable technology and closed loops in the descriptive list.

Hart's final quadrant, the upper-right, represented externalized issues relevant to companies' future concerns. These concerns are included under "sustainability," "visions for the future" and "growth plans." Items in this area of environmental concern include, B24B, radical transactiveness, civic entrepreneurship and community capitalism.

Hart said companies need to reach out to the world's poor - at the "base of the pyramid."

"A billion people live on $3.50 a day or less," Hart said. "There is nothing that says capitalism is exclusive. It's not just for rich people." He said these members of the human family should not be bypassed or abused by capitalism, as they often are today, adding that companies have a responsibility to everyone. He also pointed out that poverty-stricken individuals make up a large sector of society, and service to that segment offers huge potential for capitalism and growth.

In his closing statements, Hart reflected again on each quadrant of his matrix, then he summarized the significance of each section, and asked the audience for questions. In side conversations, members of the audience took the question-and-answer session as a time to reflect on their understandings and opinions of Hart's speech. "I stayed with the core-model format of today and tomorrow," said Katrina Taylor, a film editor from Elon. "It was a good presentation, but I felt there was a little too much structure to understand the technical terms."

Local activists take part in forum

Local environmental groups were represented at the Elon forum; many of them had information tables set up in the hallway outside the meeting room. The Coalition for Environmental Responsibility & Education through Synergy (CERES) was there to encourage audience members to join the organization. Posters outlined the purpose and concerns of the Alamance County-based organization. Duane Bryant, a CERES representative, said the group focuses on community and group advocacy, educating citizens and providing information on environmental issues. "Making information common allows individuals to make good decisions," he said.

Some of the many issues CERES members are concerned with include: solid/liquid waste disposal, air quality, urban sprawl, runoff from developed-paved areas, and clear cutting of wooded areas.

Among the groups in the CERES coalition are Citizens for Alamance County Healthy Environment (CACHE), the Sierra Club, the Haw River Assembly (HRA) and the Woodland Community Alliance. Bryant said CERES members hope to recruit more group involvement, maintain an environmental Web site and continue to remain active in county and state government issues.

The North Carolina Conservation Network also had a forum booth, with representatives encouraging people to sign up for educational briefs on upcoming election issues. They also offered environmentalists the opportunity to demonstrate their dedication with earth-friendly bumper stickers.

NC GreenPower, a nonprofit organization focusing on maximizing the use of renewable energy sources, provided pamphlets and newsletters focusing on education and environmental accomplishments achieved by NC GreenPower.

Lunch featured local, organic fare

Following the keynote speakers and environmental booth demonstrations, audience members were directed to Harden Dining Hall for an environmentally friendly lunch. The produce was supplied through Carolina Farm Stewardship Association., and the food was prepared primarily by Aramark catering chief James Getkin.

According to Getkin, creating an environmentally friendly meal was no more difficult than any other catering event. He spent approximately five hours prepping the ingredients. This included washing and slicing vegetables, cutting and seasoning steaks and chicken and washing and stemming lettuce.

Getkin added that the products were "all organic with no fertilizer or insecticides." He explained the difference between natural and chemically cultured vegetables; non all-organic vegetables have a waxy sheen on the surface. Organic vegetables surfaces have more dirt, bruises and rough surfaces because they are propagated and processed by natural methods.

During lunch, musical entertainment was provided by the local band Larry Vellani and Friends. The instrumentals created a relaxing and thoughtful atmosphere for individuals to eat or reflect on environmental issues.

Students visiting from Davidson College and UNC-Wilmington gathered in a corner over baked apples and ice cream to discuss environmental issues. Matt Collogan, a UNC-Wilmington student, said the reason he is interested in environmental issues is because it is "not some passing fad. It applies to every school and helps to save money and make changes." Davidson student Greg Harris agreed with Collogan. He confided that he and many school friends were involved in the NC Conservation at Work organization. Currently, his organization is focusing on getting reusable cups for dining halls. These cups will be bought wholesale through an eco-friendly company. Collogan said he hopes that the change will not only be beneficial to the environment but also financially beneficial to his college community.

Following lunch, the environmental forum continued with a demonstration featuring alternative-energy vehicles. The cars on display used fuels ranging from biodiesel to an electric/gasoline hybrid format. An environmental film festival was also available in the afternoon. Afternoon breakout sessions covered the topics a"Academia by Design," "Food by Design" and "Communities and Business by Design."

(Photo of organic foods luncheon at Harden Dining Hall by Laura Somerville.)

 

 

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Last Modified:  10/08/04
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