Category Archives: Sustainability

Big Change Begins with Little Actions

Jarami Bond

In June, Interface announced the bold next phase of our sustainability journey. It’s a commitment to reversing global warming; we call it “Climate Take Back.” As we engage the world in this mission, we recognize that to make progress, everything, no matter how big or small, counts. Micaiah Jones, our 2016 Interface Scholar, emerging change agent and Foresight Prep participant understands this and is an embodiment of what our mission is about.

Foresight Prep @ Oberlin College is an enriching program that provides high school students with an opportunity to explore their interests in social and environmental sustainability while cultivating the tools needed to excel scholastically and professionally. I had the opportunity to chat with Micaiah about her growing passions and experience at Foresight.

Micaiah Jones

As an aspiring entrepreneur and developing change agent, Micaiah was attracted to the Foresight Prep program due to her desire to better understand the integration of sustainability into business. But her journey didn’t begin there.

In 8th grade Micaiah enrolled in Earth Science, a course that exposed her to the array of environmental issues that our world faces. She remembers the day her instructor showed her pictures of garbage patches in the ocean and communities ravaged by pollution. These images “struck a chord” with Micaiah, completely altering her worldview and inspiring her search for solutions. Initially, Micaiah was overwhelmed by the weight of the issues. She often asked herself, “What could a young high school student do to address these dire issues?”

Instead of growing passive, Micaiah embarked on a quest to change the world. She immediately began performing independent research on the remedying of issues caused by increasing ocean acidity, the destruction and rebuilding of the ozone layer and innovations in renewable energy. To continue investing in her personal education and to begin putting her passion into motion, Micaiah joined her high school’s Environmental Club. Through this experience Micaiah spread awareness about the importance of recycling by creating and posting informative signs and emphasizing the locations of designated recycling bins around her school. Micaiah also came in 2nd place in her school’s science fair. Her project was centered on developing social strategies to increase bike ridership, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are derived from automobiles. Active in her community, Micaiah also participates in several annual food and clothing drives that support Syrian refugees and Washington D.C.’s homeless.

Micaiah Jones biking

Getting a global perspective: Micaiah Jones studied the Zhangjiajie mountains in China.

When I asked Micaiah what her first step is in changing the world, she answered, “Big change begins with little actions. Most people can’t define sustainability. The first step is to bridge the gap and help society understand what sustainability is and then show them the small behaviors they can adopt in order to get involved in the movement.”

Micaiah valued her experience at Foresight Prep because it went beyond the classroom and afforded her and her fellow students, valuable, hands-on experiences that helped her understand “the different shapes sustainability can take.” Additionally, she was able to work toward developing skills such as project management and team leadership. Micaiah also appreciated the instructors’ passion and commitment to her success. Hearing Micaiah enthusiastically elaborate about how much she enjoyed her time at Foresight Prep, I asked her to share what she thought current professionals need to know about the sustainability leaders of tomorrow.

She answered that today’s professionals need to know that the sustainability leaders of the future are invested and have a long-term commitment to ensuring that future generations experience a better world than present and past generations. She also encouraged today’s sustainability professionals to create and connect with programs like Foresight Prep and offer internship opportunities, all contributing to the education, growth, and development of students who seek to, as Ray Anderson once said, “brighten their corner of the world.”

As Interface embarks on its new journey from negative to positive via Climate Take Back, we believe that everyone can contribute. The problems we face were not created overnight or by just one person. Their solutions will likewise require time and a team effort. From the designer who asks, “How can I transform this space for the better?” to tomorrow’s change-agents like Micaiah Jones, every one of us can be a part of the movement.

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Insights from Foresight

Jarami Bond

The youth of today are tomorrow’s sustainability champions. One very cool part of my job at Interface involves sharing the Interface sustainability journey with this next generation of leaders. I recently had the opportunity to share Interface’s mission as well as my personal journey to sustainability and collegiate success with a group of students at Foresight Prep @ Oberlin College.

Led by Peter Nicholson of Foresight Design, Foresight Prep @ Oberlin College is a program that offers a diverse set of high school students concerned about social and environmental issues the opportunity to better understand and realize their personal and professional potential and capacity for positive impact. Over the course of a summer, students engage in experiential learning, networking opportunities with sustainability leaders and community activists, and transformative projects.

Foresight Prep class

Sustainability coordinator Jarami Bond (on screen) speaks with students in the Foresight Prep program.

After my visit with the Foresight Prep students, I had the honor of awarding one of Foresight Prep’s shining student leaders and the 2016 Interface Scholar, Micaiah Jones, with a scholarship that will go toward funding her program participation.

As a passionate advocate for inclusive youth leadership development, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with Foresight Prep’s students. Throughout the entire experience, they were all very engaged and inquisitive. It was easy to sense their authentic passion and endless potential. Equipping our youth with the tools needed to impact the environment and society positively is one of the major keys to unlocking a sustainable future. Investing time and resources in diversity-focused programs like Foresight catalyzes tomorrow’s sustainability champions, transforming curiosity into action.

More about Foresight Prep:
Highlights from the 2016 program.

Sustainability Insight
91% of students agreed the program increased their understanding of the systemic nature of sustainability issues with 97% agreeing it increased their knowledge of effective strategies for creating change.

Leadership
94% of students agreed the program helped them identify and articulate their leadership potential.

Diversity
62% of students were people of color, a 20% increase from 2015. 80% of all students received some form of financial assistance to enable their participation. 100% of students agreed the program helped them better understand the impact of sustainability issues on diverse communities.

College & Career
98% of students agreed the program increased their desire to integrate sustainability into their future education and career paths.

Network
100% of students treasured the relationships they’d formed with peers, faculty, and sustainability leaders.

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Bringing Positive Thinking To Business

Erin Meezan

The business world is undergoing a powerful shift. It’s a shift beyond “responsible business” to optimism. A shift to expecting more of businesses than profitability and stakeholder engagement. It’s a way of thinking of business as a mechanism to deliver positive impacts, and a way to solve bigger problems. At Interface, we’re excited about this shift to positive business.

Positive business as an approach is still evolving. An exact definition doesn’t exist yet, but some important principles are emerging. The Net Positive Project is a collaboration of corporations, the World Wildlife Fund and Forum for the Future who are mapping out an approach to positive and its key principles.

In higher education the conversation is evolving through initiatives like the Positive Business project at the University of Michigan. Through scholarship and conferences intended to foster adoption, this approach is sharing early thinking, principles, and best practices.

Ideas from both these initiatives align with Interface’s early thinking on how to shift to a positive business. One powerful principle is the idea of partnerships and how important it is that companies form relationships with other organizations to create bigger positive impacts. We’ve not only seen the power of partnerships to amplify our impact in our explorations of positive business, but we find it to be essential.

Net-Works

Net-Works is a collaboration between Interface, ZSL and Aquafil.

Our Net-Works® project is a great example of making a positive impact. At its heart, Net-Works is a partnership with an NGO (the Zoological Society of London), a global yarn manufacturer (Aquafil), Interface and local communities in the Philippines. These partners came together to create an innovative supply chain program that harvests used fishing nets from the Danajon Bank as a source for recycled yarn for Aquafil, and ultimately Interface. Without the expertise, reach and resources of these organizations, Interface would not have been able to create a program that aspires to impact one million people by 2020.

It’s the last member of the partnership (the local communities) that also illustrates another really important principle of being a positive business – creating an inclusive approach. More specifically, this means ensuring that affected communities are involved in creating the positive effects. By working to make Net-Works a program that involves local community members in the design and governance of the program and pays them for the net collection, Net-Works is creating a powerful new model of inclusive business.

Forest

What would happen if factories operated the same way as forests? Image by © Radius Images/Corbis

Another pilot project we’re exploring at Interface illustrates a final principle important for positive businesses, which is a restorative approach. This means making sure the environmental implications of our business are not just about being less bad, but striving to have restorative environmental impacts. This thinking is showing up in a project we’ve created with Biomimicry 3.8 and named “Factory as a Forest.” The project explores how we might run our global factory locations in a way that enriches the local communities like a forest does. It sounds metaphorical, but we’re creating standards modeled on services of local ecosystems that will give us measurable goals and targets.

It’s an exciting time to be exploring what a positive business means and we invite you to join the conversation.

Author’s note: Last week at Clerkenwell Design Week in London, Interface launched its next step in sustainability: a turn to positive. After a few years of experimenting and a few pilot projects later, Interface is now mapping out our positive future. That means understanding how to be a positive business, how we define it, and how we will measure it. In the next few weeks we will have an even BIGGER announcement to share about our sustainability journey. Watch our Twitter channel for the latest updates and announcements.

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Bureo – Netting a Better Skateboard

Interface

The whimsy of a Bureo Minnow skateboard, with the raised scales that pattern its deck and its fishtail back-end, belies the serious mission it serves. At the core of each Minnow is 30 square feet of recycled fishing net that otherwise may have found its way into the tons of plastic that litter our oceans.

Bureo founders Kevin Ahearn, Ben Kneppers and David Stover didn’t set out to build a skateboard company that also happened to be sustainable. In a twist on reverse engineering, their primary impetus was to build a sustainable business. The decision to make skateboards its product came later.

“To make a sustainable business model,” said Stover, “we knew we had to make a product from collected materials, and we knew there was an abundance of potential materials in the ocean.”

Bureo skateboard

The Bureo Minnow skateboard features raised scales that pattern its deck and a fishtail back-end. (Photo courtesy of Bureo)

Specifically, there are 269,000 tons of plastics in our oceans, and five to 13 million metric tons more make their way there each year. Ten percent of that is estimated to be derelict fishing gear. Kneppers had prior experience in Chile and knew the country not only had an excess of discarded nets but lacked a recycling solution for them. After establishing the means to convert nets into suitable raw materials for skateboards in the U.S., the end-to-end manufacturing process—from recycling and repurposing through skateboard production—became based in Chile.

Results were immediate: in 2013, Bureo collected two to three tons of fishing net. In 2014, they reached seven tons—and the company expects 2015’s total to be a multiple of that number.

“That part of what we’re doing isn’t innovative —recycling has been around for decades,” said Ben. “But we can go further and create a net positive impact in our communities.”

ocean waste

Discarded fishing nets littering ocean fronts. (Photo courtesy of Bureo)

In Bureo’s case, this translated to a partner – ship with Chilean fisherman and fishing communities. Artisanal fishermen are paid an hourly wage for time spent harvesting nets and a price by weight for nets turned in for recycling. Larger commercial fishing operations direct the money Bureo pays for their nets to foundations that serve local fishing communities.

In speaking to future entrepreneurs and other companies, Kneppers says the Bureo message is simple: “We know we can’t solve these problems on our own. You are at your best when you work to improve something you feel passionate about—for us, it was our personal connection to the ocean. By working together, through these passions, we can truly address these global issues. Our goal is to catalyze this change.”

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Atlanta BeltLine Transforms the Future of Urban Planning

Lauren White

The future of urban planning is taking shape in Atlanta, thanks to Ryan Gravel and his BeltLine project.

Described as “the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta and among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States,” the Atlanta BeltLine is a sustainable redevelopment project along a 22-mile railroad corridor that was conceived by Gravel as a master’s thesis at Georgia Tech in 1999. The project will connect surrounding neighborhoods through railway, nature trails and parks and greenspaces and provide new housing, events and commerce for the city.

BeltLine Map_575x350

Map of the 22-mile BeltLine surrounding Atlanta.

There’s a great article about this Atlanta “transit makeover” from USA Today here.

Though it has a ways to go to completion, the BeltLine project has already transformed parts of the city from an economic wasteland to an economic hot spot and cultural center.

Fourth Ward Park

Historic Fourth Ward Park south of Ponce City Market and west of the BeltLine trail. (Photo credit: Atlanta BeltLine)

Look at the Ponce City Market as an example. It’s a mixed use development in the renovated Sears, Roebuck & Company building in a neighborhood that used to be full of rock venues and adult entertainment clubs. Now it is a destination for local Atlantans, full of retail shops, restaurants and offices as well as host to many art, music and market events.

Gravel set up his office here in a space that’s inspired by nature. We found some great installations of Interface modular carpet tile throughout!

Gravel office_Atlanta_575x350

Human Nature by Interface, installed in Ryan Gravel’s office.

Gravel office 2_Atlanta_575x350

Another installation of Interface modular carpet, inspired by nature.

The building is pursuing a LEED Core & Shell Silver certification through water-efficient fixtures and landscaping, reclaiming rain water and other building-generated water, and using the latest in LED lighting and efficient HVAC systems.

Ponce City Market outside_Atlanta_575x350

Ponce City Market inside_Atlanta_575x350

Projects like the Atlanta BeltLine and Ponce City Market inspire and encourage Interface to continue Ray’s mantra of “doing well by doing good.”

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