In My Wildest Dreams… Our New Build Nightmare Begins

29 01 2019

Once we pulled the trigger and decided to design and build our dream home, things moved pretty fast. I whipped out my trusty roll of onion paper and began furiously sketching and writing long lists of features that our dream home should include. Over many nights of wine, we dreamed together, separating out Must-Haves from Wish Lists, and (thankfully) we were on the same page on just about everything.

sketchesDespite all the commercial buildings I had played a hand in designing and seeing to fruition, and all the sustainable residential renovations I had personally accomplished, the one thing I have never ever done, is design and build a new house.

MSUFCU_HQ_1004It was daunting to think about all the details I would need to learn about residential construction in order to successfully design a set of plans that could make our dreams come true. Instead of metal studs, we’d use wood. Instead of detailed notes, I drew simpler pictures. Instead of prompt responses from contractors, I got slow, Hoosier avoidance. And this was just the start to our adventure.

What we’ve discovered over the years, is that it’s not us, it’s them. Many contractors don’t even bother to call us back once they see a voicemail from a phone number with a 734 area code. If they do, they might say “I’ll get you a bid in a week,” but really mean “never.” Eventually, you find a match! It’s such a relief to finally be done dating contractors, and to feel comfortable that you’ve found THE ONE.

As with most relationships, things start out great. They call you back immediately, seem eager to get together, and you think things are hunky dory.  In our case, we found our match around August 2017. We had used him for a couple odd jobs, and decided to try him out with something more major.

We needed to 26166464_1880841435331805_6578451754201973668_nremove all the existing siding on a rental house, add new insulation, and install 100% new, durable, cementitious fiberboard paneling and trim. It started off great, and we hit a few delays due to weather. Then we hit more delays. Then it stalled out, with no explanation. Meanwhile, the people renting the place were growing less and less patient with weeks upon weeks of disruption, debris, and smoking outside their windows. All in all, it eventually was completed, and while there were definitely some ‘hiccups,’ we could see that he was far superior when it came to quality of workmanship. The one major issue we had? Communication.

After that job wrapped up, I sat down with him to talk about being the GC for our new build. I trusted him, I explained, but in order for this to be fun on both sides, I needed to clear the air about that last project.

We know that sometimes things get delayed or other projects need juggling,” I explained, “but it’s not okay to have your crew leader telling us something is going to be done tomorrow, and then we see absolutely nothing happening for weeks on end.” He nodded and agreed that there was a communication breakdown.

“It’s not that we are inflexible or can’t understand, “ I continued, “but you just need to tell us. Simply be honest with us, and let us know as soon as something changes, so we can set appropriate expectations. I need to know that our communication will be much better if we are building with you, or else it’s going to be unnecessarily stressful.” He agreed, “I will tell my crew leaders that only I should be the one discussing schedule with clients,” he affirmed.

Months went by, as I finalized the design, meeting every few weeks to get our builder’s input on cost differences in some choices. There were a few things that I designed using my commercial Architect toolbox, which he had to delicately inform me would be far too cost prohibitive.

That crisp, clean storefront glazing system that I envisioned to encase my ‘Jewel Box’ stair tower? It was totally achievable… if we were willing to pay $60k for the facade (not including the actual stairs)! Yeah… that’s not going to work.

With our GC’s timely insights and cost estimates, I adjusted my expectations, and my drawings. It was painful to be “Value-Engineering” my own design, but necessary.

early 1stI could see that this extremely  energy-efficient design project would be a new challenge for our builder, as I threw terms at him that he was unfamiliar with. “Blower Door Test” and “ICF” and “Continuous Exterior Insulation” all posed new quandries that he had to figure out. He must have spent hours researching things after every meeting, determined to be the best possible facilitator for my sustainable design- a situation that was likely both exciting and exhausting.

early 2ndWe were working in concert, him getting pricing on options, while I adjusted my design to reflect our budget, working towards a goal of a final design and a final budget. With each meeting, he grimly informed me of new bad news, on some element that was egregiously expensive. I took each one in stride, while my wife gasped through her terrible poker face. “I’ll find some other cuts we can make,” I’d assure them both.

Finally, we were approaching the end of the design process. Now we needed to get a final budget in order to get a pre-approval, but without a bank approval, we didn’t know how much we could actually afford. It was a bizarre chicken-and-egg scenario, where we were blindly guessing about our targeted build price. With each meeting with our builder, he seemed to grow more nervous about our budget, as we stressed our desire to keep it as low as possible.

early sketch elevWith baited breath, we waited. We called and left messages. We emailed. When will we know the final budget??? What we got in return was radio silence. Each day that passed was grating on my nerves. Where do we stand??? Nothing.

We were completely befuddled. What had happened to our builder? Why was he completely ignoring us? Was the budget amount so high that he assumed we would cancel the project? After weeks, we finally came to the conclusion that our builder, ever the Hoosier, was afraid to call us back, because he didn’t want to give us bad news.

Take Two.

So, in February, disappointed and worried about the impact this would  have on our timeline, we started the process all over again. Let the contractor dating begin!

Bethany scrambled to start calling any of the builders we saw doing quality work in our neighborhood, setting up multiple meetings for us to go over our design and see if we could find a better match. Thankfully, another sustainability Architect (a friend of ours) had just designed and built their own super efficient dream home, with many of the unusual features that I required. I got the name of their builder, left him a voicemail, and crossed my fingers.

After just 4 more first ‘dates,’ we found the one. Things immediately seemed to go much smoother with the new builder. Not only did I not scare him off with weird requests, but actually his own home was already a Passive House design, so he was intimately familiar with the things I desired.

Slowly, over months more, we began to build up a new budget. It was a collaborative process, using his own personal set of experiences to help provide helpful, new suggestions. Suddenly, it felt like we were hitting our stride! The process was not fast, but I am so relieved that we found a GC who gets our vision.

The next hurdle is the bank… (TBC)

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Kitchen is the New Hearth

10 01 2019

78dc69303db785b5d956d6b4c4d75520Ask anybody who hosts in their home, and you’ll surely know that everyone always ends up in the kitchen. This is both endearing, as guests love to chat and offer to lend a hand, but also annoying, because inevitably there is just never enough room and people keep getting in the way!

While Frank Lloyd Wright declared the hearth to be the heart of the home, times have changed, and I challenge this old standard. In Frank’s days, the men would sit around the fireplace smoking cigars and stoking the fire with wood that they chopped themselves- such classic masculine chores! The women would retreat to the kitchen, helping the hostess with her behemoth task list. In the 21st century, now that the lady of the house is no longer cordoned to the kitchen during a party, we are finally seeing a transformation from the kitchen being a hidden room, to the gloriously modern “open concept” that breaks down gender barriers.

4540377321_10c3f59ea1_bOnce those walls came down, contemporary kitchen design exploded with new and innovative ways to make the kitchen both functional and inviting. It is truly a glorious time to be a designer, and to be designing a kitchen without any restrictions! The concept of a kitchen island that allows guests to be seated IN the kitchen, is an utter breakthrough!

Despite my career as an Architect, I’d never really designed a residential kitchen before. Commercial kitchen design is, of course, completely different. Thankfully, my wife and I have lived and cooked together in 4 different houses, so we had a pretty strong sense of what we like and don’t like. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that my sister-in-law, Ashley Knight, is a kitchen designer, and offered to review my design and make suggestions for improvements. Because we both love to cook together, and love to host friends and family for just about any occasion, it was imperative that the design start with the kitchen.

Currently, our tiny kitchen is the absolute worst kitchen layout I have ever had the displeasure of working in. It seems spacious enough at first glance, yet is laid out with the fridge just eight inches from the stove, with a 90 degree corner between them. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve said, “Excuse me, could you step away from the stove for a second so I can open the fridge?” TOO MANY. The other half is a hall passage from one door to another, with windows far too low to mount any additional counter space. So we got creative and found an open shelving solution to fit between the windows, and have a camping table resting there for a smidge of extra work surface, but the utter lack of functional counter space is endlessly aggravating.

No, our dream kitchen needs to be massive, with a long stretch of counter space for arriving guests to set down steaming hot dishes and plug in crockpots without impeding the flow of traffic. We need our cooktop to be situated in an island facing out to a row of eager faces for cooking demonstrations. We will have bar seating for 6 or 7, and no lack of room to lay out a full coursed meal. Most importantly, it needs to be open, so that any last minute pot stirring or casual post-dinner dish-washing can be achieved without a break in conversation.

The volume of storage space will only slightly exceed what we have now, but with smarter solutions. And zero corner cabinets. I’ve lost far too many tupperware lids to the abyss of a lazy susan cabinet to even think about such a plan!

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For an element of delight, I’ve incorporated a wall of salvaged, mismatched upper cabinets, to be intentionally celebrated in their nonconformity, while painted gray to match the new cabinets. As one strolls in from the entrance, the farthest cabinet will reveal itself to contain a hidden window, allowing a splash more of daylight, and bringing a smile to surprised visitors.

22814270_1814242461991703_1083893649915180396_nTo provide a more comfortable experience, I then turned to the arrival sequence. By preserving the large brick front porch, guests will be protected from snow or rain while awaiting our response at the door. As they enter, an eight foot long bench awaits them, with storage below for their damp shoes, and hooks and shelves above for coats, hats, and bags. During blustery winter days and blistering summer afternoons, I’ve devised a series of sliding panels to enclose the vestibule and protect those sipping drinks inside from an uncomfortable blast of air. This common commercial device also saves on energy, since you aren’t losing all your conditioned air out the front door with every new guest arrival.

In warmer months, the flow allows one to glide straight back through the kitchen area to a large south-facing doorwall, where they will find us chatting on the back patio, or cozied up to the built-in concrete fire pit in the backyard. The “Public Spaces” are carefully strung together, to allow a sense of complete openness, yet while preserving our actual privacy.

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Remember how I said that my client and I agreed on MOST things when it came to my proposed design? The one thing we are still on completely opposite sides of is… whether the kitchen sink should be one large basin, or have a divider, so dishes can be soaking on one side with another side clear for rinsing. Ironically, it’s the person who does the dishes the most who is vying for one large sink…

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Mantrums & the Stress on Women

6 10 2018

The past 2 years have been the most stressful of my entire life. (And I’ve been through some shit.) When I talk to my friends, especially women, they all are feeling the same thing: emotional exhaustion. When it comes to stress (and I also teach a half day training on this), the severity of stress is dependent on two things: how intense it is, and how long it lasts. Any stressful event can be survived, as long as it is not sustained for too long of a duration. When it does, we start to notice serious physical and mental health impacts from excessive stress levels.

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In today’s political climate, even people who want nothing to do with politics find themselves being sucked into intense, heated debates that relate back our current administration, proposed policy changes, and tweets sent from bed. At the moment, we are embroiled in a discussion about gender and power.

 

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I’m not going to delve into the very serious and well-covered issue of sexual harassment right now, but I am going to talk around it. We just witnessed an unbelievable national situation, where an incredibly well-spoken, calm, brilliant woman put herself on the chopping block to speak up about something that she felt wasn’t right. Dr. Ford sacrificed her own privacy, safety, and reputation to be a patriot. And she was mocked and belittled by the president of the United States.

What I want to point out here, however, is how we genderize words and actions. Dr. Ford’s testimony was so remarkable partly because she gave it without showing anger, or fear, without rolling her eyes or crying. She gave it factually, and without becoming… wait for it… emotional. 

 

1_G1EjqY0WGCaDBs4BACXdYAOur society has a long history of taking words and using them as weapons. We tuck gender into the meaning of words to give clues about how we are supposed to react to them, and what we should think of the person those words are describing.

 

In American culture, when a man stubbornly demands a promotion at work that he hasn’t yet earned, he’s seen as a “good negotiator,” whereas a woman is seen as “pushy” or “aggressive.” When a man gets angry and tweets hateful things directed at someone, he’s seen as “passionate” or “driven,” whereas a woman is “hysterical” or “emotional.” When a man follows up with someone to ask for the status of a task not yet completed, he’s seen as “management material,” whereas a woman is “nagging” or “bossy.”  And when men want to belittle another man, they toss the female gender at one another as an insult.

 

I’m sick of the entire female gender being a punchline.

 

It’s time to start using your words to say what you mean, without demeaning an entire half of the population. So instead of saying, “don’t get yer panties in a bunch,” try, “be patient.” Instead of “don’t be a pussy,” try “don’t be afraid.” Instead of a sarcastic, “thanks, Mom,” try, “I’m managing it myself.”

 

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It works in reverse too! Instead of, “he’s got some balls,” which Betty White reminds you are soft & fragile, try, “he’s brave.” Instead of, “Man up!” try, “find your courage!”

 

Until such time that we no longer hear this type of gender-biased language, there a few counteracts that you can start using.

If words are weapons, and some people want a war, then we can arm ourselves with a few new words to put in our lexicons.

 

Mantrum: (Noun)

When an adult man loses his shit and gets angry, aggressive, and sometimes verbally or physically abusive because he didn’t get his way. Example: I politely declined the drink that some guy bought me at the bar, and when he came over to ask why, and I simply told him I wasn’t interested, he threw a mantrum, yelled at me for being a “bitch,” and had to be escorted from the bar.

 

Testerical: (Adj.)

A state of being overly emotional, conveying one’s own feelings when hurt or upset. Typically considered to be an overreaction to a situation, fueled by too much testosterone and lack of control. Related to being Sensitive. Example: His sports team lost the final qualifying game and he got all testerical, blubbering about what a tragedy, and how terrible it was. 

 

Meninist: (Noun)*

People, mostly men, who perceive that men are victimized by modern-day feminism, and are trying to ‘take back’ men’s rights. Associated with a group in power claiming victimhood when they lose some tiny percentage of their power over another group. Example: A raging meninist declared that, “It’s a sad, sad time for young men,” because men are suddenly being held accountable for their own acts of sexual harassment an assault. 

(*Note that an earlier meaning of “meninist” referred to male feminists. This meaning has evolved over time, as anti-feminists took over this word to promote a pro-male agenda [aka our entire historical existence] and most male feminists now simply refer to themselves as “feminists.”)

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Remember, sometimes people in power are role models for how NOT to behave. Words have power, and can be painful. Choose your words wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

Testeria





How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! (Part 5: The Workplace)

5 10 2018

(Note: This is satire. This is a partial selection from my upcoming book, How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! A snarky guide to living the most unsustainable lifestyle possible. You can read other excerpts from the book here.)

 

What you do to make a living is important. After all, it’s how you will spend at least 50 hours a week every week for most of your adult life, so it’s important to make that time count!

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For those of us who were unfortunate enough to be born into this world without a trust fund and an inheritance, we’ve got plenty of reason to want payback on this planet. After all, it’s harder than ever before to make a living and earn enough money to have a decent life for your family. In an era when women no longer go to college just to earn their MRS degree, there’s even more competition for jobs, which makes it even harder for men to make enough dough to keep the lil misses at home baking pies. Plus, the #metoo movement has made it damn near impossible to get away with anything at work, which takes all the fun out of having mixed gender in the workplace!

 

Don’t let all these things get you down. It’s true that men make less money today, (but still 20% more than women), have to compete with women for promotions, can no longer blatantly sexually harass women at work, work more hours every week than European counterparts, receive less vacation, sick time, paternity leave, no longer get pensions for retirement, and pay exorbitant costs for health insurance. On the bright side, there are some wonderful opportunities to make your job part of your climate change plan!

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Use your power to influence others. As long as you still have control, there are lots of great policies you can implement to ensure continued destruction of the planet.

Need to share a report with your team? Don’t just email a PDF, make sure to print it out for every individual that may or may not attend the meeting, plus a few extras, just in case. Don’t skimp out, either! That puppy ought to be single sided, full color, and with any references or appendices also printed out. If you’re really an overachiever, you can print out a copy of your slideshow too, with one slide per page so they can take copious notes about your sheer brilliance as you dazzle them with your wastefulness.

depositphotos_79874734-stock-photo-close-up-stack-of-papersPro Tip: When printing, be sure to avoid using ‘Print Preview’ because you could accidentally catch a mistake before you hit print, and save paper. Also, when you do print, make sure to print all copies at once. If you just print a test copy, you may also catch mistakes before printing the full amount, which could minimize the number of misprinted pages that you can trash.

 

no-recycling-e1395606642495Abolish recycling! It used to be so easy to say, “We don’t recycle here.” Nowadays it’s far too easy to recycle, and even rural businesses now have options to do so. The heat is on, and suddenly even our kids are coming home from school brainwashed and asking about recycling. Resist!! Even if it’s too late to get rid of recycling at work, there are still some things you can do to make it far less successful.

NEVER place a recycling bin next to every single trash can. This makes the choice too obvious, and people are likely to choose to recycle when it’s that easy. You can also make sure that the recycling containers are much, much smaller, and emptied far less frequently than the trash. That way, they fill up, and once they start overflowing, people will be forced to toss perfectly good, recyclable materials into the landfill-bound bin instead!

recycling binRemember, information is power. If some GenZer decides to label your recycling bins with pictures of what is and is not recyclable, you should come in an extra hour earlier and rip off all the labels. We don’t want people making better choices that eliminate contaminated recycling bins. After all, when we contaminate the recycling with actual trash, it makes it harder to process, and therefore more expensive. If you do a really good job of contaminating it, the recycling center will even be forced to landfill the whole lot!!!

 

styrofoam trash

Refuse to change. It’s inevitable that someone will try to “improve” on the way you’ve always done things. Like, insisting on having ‘real plates’ in the break room, so they can be washed and reused a million times, instead of filling the trash with smelly, unrecyclable, styrofoam plates. You didn’t come to work just to do dishes, did you?!? No, you didn’t. And unless they are providing a work wife to take care of your dirty lunch dishes, you should refuse to give up your single use disposables. 

Styrofoam plates are one of the most evil genius inventions to help kill the planet, after all! They’re simply perfect! Styrofoam is manufactured using nasty chemicals, which can’t be healthy to breathe in; shipped in even more plastic bags, which we already know nobody recycles; they’re far too fragile to even think about rinsing and reusing, especially once your fork stabs through the foam into your thigh; and even in the rare location where a recycling center has invested in equipment to recycle it, it’s still so lightweight that it will never make sense to pay freight charges to haul it very far, so, off to the landfill it goes!

salmonSince we all know that plastic (which styrofoam is a type of) never ever disappears, you can rest easy knowing that the 20 minutes you spent eating off that plate will mean an eternal life for that plate in the landfill. Or, if you’re really lucky, it’ll get blown off that truck and make its way to a stream, where it will flow down to the ocean and get eaten by fish. It all comes full circle once you take a bite of that styrofoam filled salmon, off your next styrofoam plate at the company picnic!





“Heat Wave”

3 07 2018

a cool breeze lifts the heat from my stomach

one droplet of sweat at a time.

My torso lies still against this orange patterned towel,

A damp, half inch layer between my skin and the grass.

My toes hang off, blades of grass tickling

The overheated surface of my skin.

The sun shoots across my pupils, quickly,

As I shift my weight to rest my tired arms.

The book in my hands, servings as an umbrella,

Gives a little shade to my warm, lazy smile.

Turning onto my naked side, I peer out

To see my beautiful beach mate resting too.

Her curves glisten in the unrelenting heat,

Sweat dancing across colorful tattoos.

She senses my gaze and opens her eyes with a smile.

Despite the heavy heat, a chill runs down my spine

As I relish in her refreshing love.

It’s the most amazing way I could ever imagine

To suffer from a record heat wave at a Michigan lake.

 

~KRW

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Turkey: The Architecture of Terror

17 04 2018

I’m getting ready to fly back through Istanbul for the second time in just over a year. This time, however, I have no plans to step foot outside the airport.

 

I wasn’t looking to visit Turkey again, but after chasing a ‘cheap airfare rabbit’ down a dead-end hole with Norwegian Air, I decided to look elsewhere for a cheap flight to Sweden. To my surprise, Turkish Airline was comparably cheap- around $500 round-trip! Bonus points because I actually accrued miles with them last year, and was able to buy my flight for free using other credit card points. So… Turkey is is then!

 

Last year, we flew through Istanbul en route to Sri Lanka, with a hefty 8 hour layover in both directions. Better yet, Turkish Airline offered a free tour bus for anyone with a layover of more than 6 hours! We could safely explore a few highlights in a group, with a tour guide and even two meals provided. I was excited about the opportunity to explore Turkey for the first time. As a young Architect student, I had studied Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and was thrilled to finally experience these ancient architectural marvels in real life!

On the day of our departure from Chicago, a massive snowstorm was rolling in. While we were incredibly lucky not to be cancelled, it did leave us stranded on the tarmac for 3 hours until we could be deiced. We couldn’t watch any of the in-air entertainment yet, so I decided to catch up on email and social media. When I powered my phone back up, Facebook started exploding with concerned messages. “Are you two okay??” friends asked. Geez, it’s just a snowstorm, I thought. As I read on, however, I learned that this was not their concern. Apparently there had been a bombing in Istanbul at the stadium. It was chaos as the news was breaking, and friends and family knew only that we were supposed to be there, but were unsure of the exact timing. I spent the next hour assuring everyone that we were safely delayed. We were not counted among the 44 dead and 155 injured.

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This near miss certainly did not go unappreciated. Timing is everything, and clearly we were grateful for our 6 inches of snow and counting. Our flight delay did, however, carve into our layover, making the planned excursion impossible. I had mixed feelings, as a renewed sense of security concern washed over our plans to experience this famous city. After all, it was just 6 months earlier that the airport itself had suffered a terrorist attack. Is it wise to still consider exploring the city, after all that has happened there? We knew we at least had one more chance on the way home, and we would call it then.

 

After enjoying a successful conference and a couple weeks of vacation in Sri Lanka, we were renewed in our excitement to see Istanbul. Our flight arrived early, around 6am, so we headed to the VIP lounge (thank you, credit card perks!) to get breakfast and relax until the tour departure. We knew that we would have to get a visa, which supposedly was a quick and easy process. They lied. It was a nightmare! We spent 3 hours running all over, getting conflicting information, and watching the same visa guy treat everyone like wanted criminals. We missed our tour bus. Eventually, after spending way more money than we expected, we escaped the airport and took the metro into the city. This was my only chance, and I refused to let it slip through my fingers!

 

It was just above freezing, dreary, and drizzling. Bethany had lost her winter coat on the trip, so I gave her mine. We wrapped our heads in silk scarves to draw less attention to ourselves, and tried to blend in, knowing that being American was one thing, but being two American women- and lesbians, no less- was a whole separate level of risk.

 

Hagia Sophia WAS amazing, though not as mind-blowing without sunshine streaming in the windows to make the dome appear to float. There is no heat (it was built in 537 AD), and I was frozen to my bones after an hour. The rain had turned to sleet, and the inches-deep puddles were starting to ice over in shallower spots. We couldn’t bear the thought of taking off our rain-soaked shoes to step inside the cold, stone floors of the Blue Mosque, so that was the end of it.

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Just days after our return back home, Istanbul suffered yet another horrific attack, book-ending our trip in the most terrible manner. This pretty much settled it. No matter how much I desired to immerse myself in this ancient city, to go back and enjoy summer evenings strolling through sidewalk cafes, spending days-on-end losing myself in its architecture… Istanbul has lost all appeal to me… for now. So, next time I’m there, I won’t wonder what I’m missing, or expend energy calculating the mental stress of taking a risk being a tourist in dangerous times, or feel like a boring traveler for not getting outside of the airport. Instead, I will enjoy my free drinks in the airport lounge, and spend my layover hours practicing pronunciation with my new Swedish language app.

 

 





4 Reasons Why Our Planet Desperately Needs Women Leaders

8 03 2018

It’s International Women’s Day, and a perfect time to declare women as the solution to our planet’s woes!

When I wake up in the morning, I am driven by one thing, and one thing only. I want a better future. Not just for myself, but for my community, my country, and our planet. I am passionate about Sustainability, which is the delicate balance of improving People, Planet, and Profit: The Triple Bottom Line.

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As a sustainability specialist, I am all too familiar with the historical state of imbalance of these three critical aspects of the equation. We focus far too heavily on Profit, at the expense of People and Planet. The scales are starting to tip, but there is still much work to do in order to achieve a truly sustainable future.

The Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, and Profit 

Assuming that our economy has a pretty good handle on how to make a profit, I choose to focus my efforts on the remaining two-thirds: Planet and People. Together, finding a balanced way to improve and promote these aspects, will also naturally yield greater profits. I’ve seen this time and time again in my consulting work, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of companies, and it can work for you too.

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Here’s the thing. We have so many different uniquely narrow passions, with extremely taxing battles to fight, that we tend to become myopic in our approach. A Social Worker is mired in emotionally draining efforts to literally save lives on a daily basis. An Architect is neck deep in detailed technological advances and complex interactions that can make or break a good building design. A Trans Equality Advocate is swimming against the tide of public opinion to simply dispel myths that plague and endanger hundreds of thousands of Americans. An Atmospheric Scientist is struggling to share decades of verified changes to our planet to fuel positive policy and personal behavioral changes.

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Each fight is absolutely critical to our community’s future success, yet they lack a sense of interconnectedness that is inherent to their separate paths. Each one of these individuals is fighting for the same thing. Sustainability. They are failing to unite in this common goal.

The term sustainability is broad, intentionally so. It is often defined “as the ability to meet our society’s current needs, while still allowing future generations to meet their own needs.”

Basically, let’s provide a positive future for our grandchildren by being aware of the long term ramifications of our choices today.

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We have already seen cycles of unsustainable living, and their devastating impacts on People, Planet and Profit:

  • _90804563_d3e69c4d-f914-4ce4-9aac-1242b91af58d
    Excessive water use
    leads to decreased water tables, which leads to droughts, which leads to wildfires, which pollutes clean air, destroys homes and habitats, which negatively impacts humans and animals. Leaving people homeless, with expensive and lengthy cleanup.
  • Unchecked development with impermeable surfaces means there is less open land for rainwater to soak into, which increases stormwater runoff, which rapidly transfers oils and contaminants into the gutters, which overwhelms and floods systems, streets, and our basements. New infrastructure investments cost us millions.
  • Rapid consumerism leads to a throw-away society, where people purchase cheap items, use them once, then discard them, which means they go to a large garbage pile and get buried for the foreseeable future. Then they purchase the same item again, which consumes an enormous amount of raw materials and creates greenhouse gases in the production and transportation of that item every single time you buy it. Air pollution leads to atmospheric warming and increased  instability.

What if I told you that the solution to solving our sustainability dilemma lies in one particular focus?

The answer is women.

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It is no secret that women are still working in inequitable positions compared to their male equals. They get paid less. They are expected to be the one to leave the workforce when a couple chooses to start a family. They are increasingly starting small businesses, but fail to grow enough to hire employees. They are far less likely to be in leadership positions. Women make up just 4.5% of CEOs in Fortune 500. Women are TWICE as likely to live in poverty by age 75, because they aren’t able to put as much money into retirement. Women are at far greater risk of becoming homeless. So… what?

Why should we all care about empowering and advancing women in careers? If you care about our sustainable future, then you are deeply invested in women- or you should be, starting now.

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Companies make more money. By having at least 30% of leadership positions held by women, or the “C-suite,” companies add an average of 6% to net profit margin. Getting more women on boards also means that you end up with more women in leadership, known as the “pipeline effect.” 

So where does that magical 6% profit boost come from? Much as in nature, where mono-cultured crops develop major problems with devastating infestations of pests, diversity in the workforce also yields better resiliency and better products. Men and women have different values, and women tend to be more holistic, think more broadly, be more attuned to environmental and social concerns. They aren’t as likely to be focused on short term gains at the expense of long term failures. Where men take bigger risks and fail faster, women are more thoughtful and strategic about risks. The two balance each other out in a way that benefits the company overall. 

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1. Women care more.
 

According to one study’s author, Lehigh University professor Corinne Post, “(Women) think about themselves usually in relation to others. Whereas men – either born or developed – see themselves more independently, as standing apart from others. For individuals who see themselves as more connected to others, it becomes natural to think about the implications for others.” Women have more empathy and concern for the well being of others.

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2. Women dig deeper.

Women are also less likely to have a sense of stubborn arrogance that can sometimes plague successful men. With their greater sense of accurate self-awareness and humility, women also tend to ask more questions and come more prepared to make an informed decision, which, in turn, tends to increase male preparedness over time as well. So, a board room filled with women and men benefits from overall better researched decisions. 

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3. Women listen internally.

At an individual level, women are far more likely to be in tune with their bodies and minds. The best cure for stress is to pause and be intentional. Those who listen internally develop a better appreciation and love for the healing power of nature. You’ve experienced the physical relieve of escaping a long week with a quiet walk in the woods, or working with plants outdoors. Those who choose to be still long enough to reconnect with nature, are far more invested in protecting and restoring our natural environment.

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4. Women give more.

Did you know that supporting small, women-owned businesses has a much greater positive affect on those around them? Women are far more likely to spread their profits among their employees, which can improve the overall stability of employment in that area. Instead of just one family doing better, every family connected to a woman-owned business tends to see an improvement in quality of life and financial stability over time. But many small women-owned companies struggle with funding to grow, and have difficulty overcoming this hurdle to grow their business and its positive impacts.

Women can improve the future for People, Planet, and Profit. Women often have a natural desire to nurture and protect other people, and our environment. If more women in business are given the support they need to succeed, it will not only improve the lives of people in their community, but it will likely improve the stability of neighborhoods and cities, create new passion for cleaning up our environment, and add jobs and income to our economy. Women truly are the key to the next jump in our Triple Bottom Line.

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Where do we start? First, we need more women on boards. Second, we need more women CEOs. Third, we need more equal opportunities for women in the workplace, and to enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination. Fourth, girls need to be educated and empowered. According to Worldbank, “Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.”

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On a personal note: This is why I felt driven to co-found WomIN’s Fest. Our mission is to support, empower, and inspire women and girls for a better future. Through the next generation of women, we can achieve a more sustainable future for everyone. 








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