Second Nature Team

My Educational Journey Towards Sustainability

June 17, 2011

by Van Du, Intern - Advancing Green Building Initiative
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Three years ago, on the bus ride to Maine, after picking my mother up from Boston Logan Airport as she had come to attend my graduation at Bowdoin College, we started having the usual parent-child conversation of what I was going to do with my life after school. Past conversations about school revolved around what classes I was taking and whether or not I was doing well, but it was never specifically about how my college education would prepare me for my future. During our conversation, I realized I was struggling to explain to her the meaning of the word “sustainability” and how I wanted to have a career in sustainability-related work.

There is no translation for “sustainability” in Vietnamese. But certainly, my mother understands the importance of ideas such as preserving diversity, protecting the environment, being a part of a community, caring and sharing, and of course, world peace. My mother also believes that if one considers herself a member of society, it is her responsibility to ensure that the future generations deserve a piece of all the wonderful things we have enjoyed in the past and present. However, for her, recognizing and carrying out these ideas is simply common sense. And there it was, my first revelation in life: Did I just go to college to learn about what should have been common sense?

So while I tried to explain to my mother about my dream career, she reminded me of the Vietnamese cultural values and traditions I was raised on. It was for me another great lesson of my roots, as well as a reinstatement of my passion to live and work for the concepts of sustainability.

Why I Work – Wind and War

June 17, 2011

by Rima Mulla, Communications Manager, Second Nature

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Early 1991. You could literally taste the petroleum in the air.

Not too far from there—less than 250 miles away—the oil fields of a just-liberated Kuwait were on fire. In a retaliative and vindictive move, Saddam Hussein had ordered his retreating troops to set the country’s biggest export ablaze.

I was 13 at the time and didn’t yet grasp the consequences of this event—on Kuwait’s economy, people’s health in the region, the air, land, and sea around me. All I knew was that when I breathed the air tasted bad, when it rained the rain was dirty, and that couldn’t be good.

Kuwait oil fields, 1991

For the love of Baramaasis…

June 10, 2011

By Ashka Naik, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

One late evening, around dusk, my mother and I were walking into our house, making a beeline through my grandma’s garden. While we were passing by some neatly laid flowerbeds, I saw a pink Baramaasi (a perennial flower, which literally means “perennial” in Hindi, Bara=twelve and Maasi=months) on the side of the brick path leading to the patio. My mother was holding my hand to balance my little figure as I paused and started to bend my knees to pluck that beauty from its stem. My mother, not a very vociferous person, watching me do what I was about to do, very lovingly said, “Ashkee, do you know her mother puts her to bed every night, just the way your maa does? Imagine how she must feel when she doesn’t find her baby in the bed tomorrow morning.”

I often saw my grandma worship random shrubs in her garden. One specific day of the Hindu calendar she would worship one plant, and on a different day she would worship another. I always wondered why one needed to venerate rather unattractive shrubs to understand the mysteries of the universe or to please the Gods above. However, I did understand why we worshiped Ganesha (the Elephant God) and Naagraaj (the Snake God), as I was informed that these creatures were embellished with bizarre powers to wade off evil forces and misfortune. Looking back at the time when I truly believed that a species other than of Homo sapiens could ever have such power over others, I find myself succumbing to the naïve imagination of a child’s mind.

Why I Work

May 31, 2011

by Judy Groleau, Vice President of Development, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

In retrospect, very early on in my life, I can recall two constant themes that arose in almost of all the communication in my home as a child. It did not matter what the topic of discussion was, delivered in a soft spoken manner or as loud as shattering glass, somehow it always centered around money or more succinctly put, not enough money to make ends meet.  I believe that this is why I ended with a career in Development.

I am the youngest of five children and we were always encouraged to share as kids.  For me, it was always important to have things to call my own.  I would never share things unless my father or mother forced me to.  I remember always being eager to make a trade in lieu of sharing and was usually pretty successful at swaying one from “sharing something” to having one commit to “trading” instead.  No matter how many times I got the lecture from my dad, “You know they name streets after you, one way” it never dawned on me that there was any other way but to trade.  I always felt like a success when I was able to clench that “deal.”

The toy I dreamed most of having as a child was a cash register.  I spotted it in the annual edition of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish catalog.  It was an especially good Christmas that year as Santa left me that very toy under the Christmas tree.  It was a hot pink, Tom Thumb, metal cash register with black buttons.    I ran about the house making and placing price tags on everything.  I made my own currency.  I sold siblings objects that belonged to them, back to them all for the love of the “transaction.”

Creating New Spaces for Connecting in New Ways

May 23, 2011

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas,” John Maynard Keynes has observed, “but in escaping from the old ones.”  Nowhere is the truth of this observation clearer than in our continued adherence to an economy based on fossil fuels.  As more than one study has determined, we have the means at our disposal to move into a clean energy world in which the power of the wind, sun, water, tides, and other renewable sources is tapped and runaway climate change is averted.  The latest of these studies comes from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which earlier this month released a report surveying the already existing technologies that, in combination, could make this happen.  The critical missing components are the necessary policies that would drive change in this direction and the political will to implement them.

I get up every day and do the work that I do because I want to help create the public pressure and culture of collaboration that will make these changes occur.  I get up every day and do the work that I do because I believe each one of us has the responsibility to be a subject in history and not just an object of history.  I get up every day and do the work that I do because there is no silver bullet, no magic wand, that can make the immense problems confronting us go away.  The only thing that will work is to escape from the old myths of independence and self-reliance and embrace the truths of interdependence and mutuality.

Finding Why We Need to Ask Why

May 13, 2011

By Vanessa Santos, Intern – Advancing Green Building Initiative, Second Nature

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

As a recent college graduate with just one year of experience in the “real world,” I have a lot of questions I tend to ask myself on a daily basis.

Amid that unknown abyss that faces most fresh college graduates, I find most of my questions start with the word “what:” What can I do with my college degree? What can I afford to buy and eat for dinner tonight? And most importantly for me, what can I do that will make a positive and lasting impact on our society and the world?

The 2010 Advancing Green Building Team in San Antonio, TX

The 2010 Advancing Green Building Team in San Antonio, TX

Admittedly, these aren’t easy questions for anyone to answer. A few months before graduating Boston University in 2010, I made a one-year commitment to an internship at Second Nature, deciding that this would be the first small professional step I would take to being able to answer all these questions.

What makes go-karts go round

May 10, 2011

by Al DeLuca, Web Applications Developer, Second Nature
(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Growing up there were two things that influenced why I work: books and go-karts. This might seem an odd mix, but it’s how things were for me. Go-karts were part of my nurturing, while books spoke to an innate nature in me, expressed as a predisposition towards language. Nature and nurture working in tandem, not as binary opposites, has been my life’s ambition and of late, if not my life’s work, at the very least the work I get paid for. Coming to Second Nature, thus far, has been an opportunity to find synthesis of thought and action and embodiment of ideas shared amongst like-minded individuals.

My family owned an amusement park on Cape Cod, Massachusetts which included as its prime draw the longest go-kart track in the commonwealth -- and the second longest in the country – at just over a third of a mile. While some might think this is every kid’s dream come true, it was considerably less fun than one might imagine. The smells of exhaust fumes and axle grease permeate my earliest memories, and work, at least during the busy summer season, went on late into the night. There were dangers as might be expected where horsepower meets adrenaline. There were aspects to it not fit for print. It was fun, but as it commuting to my brother and I, it slowly sunk in that “this much fun isn’t normal.” But I digress.

On yogurt lids and change

April 29, 2011

By Ulli Klein, Second Nature’s Director of Operations & Communication

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

“Where does this one go?”

That was probably one of the most common question I heard my father ask. It was the mid 80s. Germany had just started a nation-wide recycling program and, like with many things German, the program was strictly enforced including “Trash cops” checking residents compliance by going through their trash.

Here was my 63 year old father, standing in the kitchen with the aluminum lid of a yogurt container in one hand and the container itself in the other hand staring at the three different colored trash cans.

“Where do I put this,” he would ask again and if no one was there to answer, he would quietly place container and lid on the counter and scurry out of the kitchen in hopes my mother would take care of it.

I was convinced there was no way to retrain his old mind.

There are still days where I feel that the United States, my adopted home country,  is a lot like my father was 20+ years ago: Willing and able but confused about living a sustainable life – and I say that with a lot of affection for both, the United States and my father.

Newly Sustainable

April 20, 2011

By Nick Braica, Second Nature Communications Intern

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Why do I work at Second Nature? Because I like the idea of saving the world.

The main idea that was pounded into me while I was reviewing and editing footage for the Second Nature videowas that we only have this one earth to live on. And as our president Anthony Cortese pointed out, all of the living systems on this planet are in long-term decline due to the fact that our resources are not unlimited, yet we still use them as such. Of course, the doomsday prophesies may be a little extreme for this generation, but the point stands: we’ve got nowhere else to go, and if we continue on our current unsustainable path, we’re going to run out of stuff in the future.

Why I Work

April 14, 2011

By Toni Nelson, Second Nature ACUPCC Program Director

(This post is part of a weekly series by the Second Nature team about why we do what we do.)

Almost two years ago I moved back to my hometown of Lexington, KY, after spending most of my adult life in almost constant motion – living in Charlottesville, VA; upstate NY and NYC; Washington, DC; Eugene, OR; Miami; Rio de Janeiro, and Sedona, AZ, and traveling all over the world for both work and play, sometimes for months at a time.  But Kentucky is the land of Wendell Berry, and to me it’s no coincidence that he is a product of this place – which its inhabitants love more fiercely than any other place I’ve lived, and which, for all my traveling, is the only place I could ever imagine actually putting down roots.  I loved growing up here and always intended to return, despite the rather circuitous path I took to do so.

Hiking in Kentucky

Hiking in Kentucky

Sustainability in the Walls

March 8, 2011

By Georges Dyer, Vice President of Programs, Second Nature

(This article appears in the March, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

After the initial excitement and enthusiasm of a commitment to sustainability starts to fade, organizations often find themselves facing a long, steady climb to integrate sustainability into all of their activities, so it is simply second nature.

Doing so requires engaging employees and other stakeholders so everyone is on the same page about what sustainability means, understands how everyday decisions contribute to achieving the end goals, and is empowered to work across departments and traditional boundaries to overcome barriers.

To really embed sustainability in the walls of an organization, leaders at all levels must work tirelessly to create and hold a clear vision; establish tangible goals; communicate objectives and progress; build capacity throughout the organization; establish metrics; and celebrate successes.In 2009, a group of ACUPCC presidents developed a resource calledLeading Profound Change, which explores the president’s role in ensuring the institution maximizes its contribution to creating a sustainable society.  They laid out three tenets to accelerate progress:

2010 ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit Facilitates Dialogue and Engagement

November 4, 2010

By Steve Muzzy, Senior Associate, Second Nature

(This article appears in the November, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The 4th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit met October 12-13 in Denver, CO. The nearly 200 participants got right to work sharing challenges and best practices and outlining the future direction of the commitment. Highlights from the Summit follow.

James WoolseyJames Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton, provided the opening keynote address. Mr. Woolsey’s presentation focused on the impending threats to national security that are being posed by an increasingly unstable climate. His perspective creatively threaded the current and future social and environmental implications of our reigning energy policy as well as provided some promising existing mechanisms to scale renewable energy production. Note: Mr. Woolsey’s presentation and all Summit presentations will be available on the ACUPCC website soon.


October 6, 2010

By Michelle Dyer,  Chief Operating Officer, Second Nature

(This article appears in the October, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

After the ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit in Denver I will be stepping out of my role as Chief Operating Officer of Second Nature, to join Intersection Partners, a private equity investment firm that builds sustainable businesses, as Principal.  I joined Second Nature to support Tony Cortese and the Second Nature team through a time of significant growth and to build the organizational capacity to advance its mission.  With the excellent team now have in place, and the phenomenal success of the ACUPCC and the Advancing Green Building in Higher Education Initiative, the time has come for me to move forward.

This opportunity came quite unexpectedly as I was conducting early research into potential next steps in my career path.  I knew it would be rare to find an investment company with the supportive atmosphere and committed team I have enjoyed during my tenure at Second Nature, not to mention difficult to make a transition given the current state of the economy.  I was blessed to connect with my new partners, who understand sustainability deeply and feel a vocation to create meaningful, positive businesses.

Unity College Joins Bill McKibben in a Road Trip to Put Solar Panels on the White House!

September 21, 2010

By Vanessa Santos, Advancing Green Building Intern, Second Nature

Last Tuesday evening at Old South Church in Boston, MA, you couldn’t turn around without seeing bright white signs that read “Put Solar on the White House!”

This is Bill McKibben’s clear and simple message. Mr. McKibben, with the support of, the students of Unity College, as well as many local and national environmental groups, has successfully brought this message from Maine to Boston, judging by the crowd of people that was present at the church to support the movement on September 7, 2010. The team then continued this ”Solar Road Trip” to disseminate this same message to New York City and eventually to Washington D.C. Hopefully this message will prompt President Obama to take action on 10/10/10, the day when organizations, politicians and people around the world will get to work to mitigate climate change.

Traveling with one of the very solar panels that President Carter put on the White House in 1979 (which Reagan removed during his presidency), Bill McKibben and some Unity College students made their first stop in Boston, as they rallied to get President Barack Obama to return this solar panel, and other donated solar panels, to the roof of the White House.

Third UNCF Building Green Learning Institute—The Journey to a Green Campus Continues

June 29, 2010

By Van Du, Advancing Green Building Intern, Second Nature

Second Nature’s Advancing Green Building in Higher Educationteam participated this month in the third and final UNCF Building Green Learning Institute. Hosted in San Antonio, Texas, from June 10-12, 2010, the institute once again brought together faculty, staff, and students from colleges and universities across the country to continue the discussion on sustainability efforts in higher education.

As with the previous institutes, this was a great forum for colleges and universities to learn from one another about the different sustainability and building green initiatives that each school is implementing.  In addition to showcasing schools and their ‘greening’ efforts, conversations and remarks at the institute underscored the importance of dedicating time and effort to this journey.  Many schools began by making a commitment to change. For example, Elizabeth City State University just recently became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment—the first UNCF Building Green Learning Institute participant school to do so.   However, it was clear that the real challenge for many schools is the transformation from commitment to action.

The New Prosperity Initiative | Community Dialogue Series

June 15, 2010

I recently had the privilege of participating in The New Prosperity Initiative(NPi) Community Dialogue Series. NPi, was founded by Jeanne Dasaro andAlexis Schroeder with the goal to publicize the efforts of individuals and organizations working to build social and economic prosperity. NPi brought together four Boston based non-profits with missions focused on food systems and environmental sustainability.

We heard inspiring stories from:

Matthew Kochka, Farm Manager, “Victory Programs” ReVision Urban Farm, working to increase access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate food for shelter residents and community members through community-supported farming.

Gene Benson, Services Program Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment, building the power of communities of color and lower income communities in New England to eradicate environmental racism and classism and achieve environmental justice.

Kimberly Guerra, Lead Teacher with “e” Inc. providing science education with community action in order to improve environmental health in urban communities.

New England Sustainability Summit 2010

May 4, 2010

by Stephen Muzzy, Program Manager, Second Nature

On April 23, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) hosted their second annual Sustainability Summit: A Climate Change on Campus. I, along with Ashka Naik, Program Manager for Advancing Green Building and Ilana Schonenfeld, Program Associate – Strategic Initiatives traveled to Worcester, MA to hear from campus executives, faculty, and staff on how they are supporting sustainability efforts at their institutions and beyond.

NEBHE put together a chock full program that included keynotes, concurrent and plenary sessions. Our Second Nature contingent divvied up the day – what follows are the highlights of a very exciting event that demonstrates higher educations leadership to provide the knowledge, skills, and critical mass to transform society to a sustainable future.

The Economic Dynamics of Sustainability on Campus

This session offered examples and data on the financial costs in capital improvements and the operational savings incurred with long term planning. Two excellent examples come from the University of Rhode Island and the University of Maine. Robert A. Weygand, Vice President, Administration & Finance shared that the University of Rhode Island in 2050 will have average annual costs of $7.5 million and annual savings of $18.7 million while reducing MTCO2e 50% below 2005 levels. (Full Presentation)

Second Nature at 2010 GreenTown Lake County Conference

April 21, 2010

by Michelle Dyer, Chief Operating Officer, Second Nature

On March 17th, I had the honor of addressing an audience of higher education professionals at the Greentown Lake County conference.

The panel, entitled “Greening of the Campus: How Educational Institutions Combat Climate Issues,” kicked off with a welcome from representatives of our host, College of Lake County (a signatory to theACUPCC): President Jerry Weber and Acting Assistant Vice President for Workforce Development Ali O’Brien. We then transitioned into a lively panel discussion featuring Richard Schultz, Sustainability Center Coordinator at Kankakee Community College; Kana Wibbenmeyer, Associate VP of Facilities at Loyola University Chicago; and David Agazzi, Vice President, Administrative Affairs at College of Lake County and Former Chief Financial Officer of Joliet Junior College.

Panelists addressed the questions:

"Stable Climate: Thriving World?" Second Nature President Anthony Cortese at TEDx Greenville

April 12, 2010

by Rima Mulla, Communications Associate, Second Nature

Last month, Second Nature’s President Anthony Cortese delivered a rousing talk entitled, “Stable Climate: Thriving World?” at TEDx Greenville.

Some of the highlights from Dr. Cortese’s speech:

1:05 Staggering statistics about population growth, energy consumption, declining living systems, and political and economic instability worldwide.

3:57 “How did we get here?”

11:43 Dr. Cortese highlights the measurable impact of several ACUPCCsignatory schools’ Climate Action Plans, including those of Ball State University, Los Angeles Community College District, Clemson University, and Greenville’s own Furman University.

View the speech in its entirety here.

The Digital Cathedral

April 1, 2010

by Georges Dyer, Second Nature

Peter Bardaglio, Second Nature Senior Fellow, author of Boldly Sustainable, and coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, has just published a very interesting article on the evolution of social media and democratic sustainability A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments.

Peter Bardaglio

How can the digital revolution and the new social media it has spawned nurture the development of democratic sustainability? By democratic sustainability I mean a social and political process that engages citizens as active agents of social change in the complex task of balancing economic prosperity, effective environmental stewardship, and social justice. Moving toward democratic sustainability has less to do with technology than a massive change in human consciousness, one that encourages systems thinking and transforms the relations of people to each other and to natural world

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