When Earth Day & Founder’s Day Collide


​While sitting on Surly’s outdoor deck adjacent to their LEED Silver certified Brewery enjoying a rich, malty Surly Three, I started musing on the coincidence that we will be celebrating Founder’s Day (also officially April 22, but celebrated on the closest Friday) on Earth Day this year. Hopefully, what follows is more than the Surly Three speaking!

The philanthropy we will all be part of this Friday is a benchmark of Opus’ sustainable philosophy, and the wonderful legacy of “giving back” left to us by our Founder, Gerry Rauenhorst. I can’t think of a more fitting “Sustainable Building” statement than renovating existing housing stock and building new affordable homes with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together for our communities in memory of this legacy.

Corporate philanthropy is a powerful tool for supporting the sustainability aspirations of communities and societies.

Companies are considered “environmentally friendly” if they make an effort to conserve natural resources, and reduce waste and emissions. This begins with attention to details of all aspects of a business, including the entire product life cycle, from extraction of resources and processing, to transportation, logistics, distribution and end-of-life asset recovery. The terms “green business” and “green products” typically refer to these practices. At Opus we do a better than average job at this.

Sustainability includes these green practices, but goes much further—it describes the fundamental relationship of a company to society. A sustainable enterprise enhances its competitiveness by addressing the broader needs and concerns of its stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, advocacy groups and the communities in which the company operates. In other words, sustainable companies are both environmentally and socially responsible. At Opus we do an exceptional job at this. 

I am always grateful for the opportunities that working for Opus gives me to give back in a meaningful, sustainable way. For it to coincide with Earth Day is exceptional!

I also found it interesting that Earth Day is almost as old as Opus, relatively speaking, and I would wager, older than a majority of our associates. That being said, I thought a little history and some fun learning opportunities may be in line.

According to EarthDay.org, Earth Day was founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wis.), who called for a “national teach-in on the environment” after witnessing the terrible effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. The first Earth Day brought major actions to the streets of many major U.S. cities. For fun, check out this vintage newscast from that first Earth Day.

Earth Day went global in 1990 and, today, is celebrated in an estimated 200 countries. This makes Friday the perfect day to take time to appreciate the land, air, oceans and wildlife that sustain us — and to think about how our lives, both individually and as a group, affect the environment. To that end, here are several TED talks — some reflective, some terrifying, some beautiful, some galvanizing — to watch in the coming days. For those who haven’t heard of TED, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private nonprofit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan "Ideas Worth Spreading." The emphasis is on short (5 to 10 minute) educational talks on many scientific, cultural and academic topics.

Enjoy, and I hope you will find these as inspiring as I have.


Video Resources

Bill Gates: Innovating To Net Zero
Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world's energy future, describing the need for "miracles" to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he's backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Amory Lovins: A 40- year plan for Energy
In this intimate talk filmed at TED's offices, he shows how to get the US off oil and coal by 2050, $5 trillion cheaper, with no Act of Congress, led by business for profit.

Vicki Arroyo: Let’s prepare for our new climate
As our climate changes, many areas of the world — including major cities like New Orleans — are at risk of flooding and drought. In this talk from TEDGlobal 2012, Vivki Arroyo calls on use to prepare now, by sharing examples of cities that are planning ahead and implementing big projects that take these risks as a given.

Karen Bass: Unseen footage, untamed nature
Karen Bass shoots incredible wildlife footage for National Geographic and the BBC. In this talk from TED2012, she shares awe-inducing video — from the tube-lipped nectar bat feeding on a flower to grizzly bears emerging from hibernation.

James Hansen: Why I must speak out about climate change
Scientist James Hansen saw it as his moral imperative to speak out about the rapidly changing planet he saw in his work. In this talk from TED2012, Hansen explains why global warming is happening (“Adding CO2 to the air is like throwing another blanket on the bed”) and calls on us to start reversing it

Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic
We recycle a “diddly-point-squat” percentage of the plastics we use. The result — they end up in the oceans.  In this talk from TED2009, Captain Charles Moore shows us the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating wasteland of plastic. His call to all of us: to stop our throwaway mentality and stop the plastic on land.

Alex Steffen: The route to a sustainable future
If people across the globe had the ecological footprint of those in the United States, we’d need 5 to 7 planets to sustain it all, says Alex Steffen at TEDGlobal 2005. But of course, we only get one. Here, he asks us to actively reduce our footprint, especially as the consumer lifestyle spreads across the globe

James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss
Thanks to photographer James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey, we can actually see glaciers recede before our eyes — the process of several years condensed into a few seconds.  In this talk from TEDGlobal 2009, Balog shares how he brings together art and science to deepen all our understanding of how quickly ice is disappearing. (See also: Camille Seaman’s haunting photos of polar ice.)