Our 21st year
Turning 21 years old marks an important right of passage, at least here in the U.S. You’re now officially old enough to do a few things you were probably already doing anyway. Hopefully, now that you can do them legally, you’ve also figured out how to do them more responsibly. That’s the idea, anyway.
Likely, you’re only just now beginning to figure out who you really are, and what you want to do with your life. There’s an expectation among your family that now you’ll begin to put all your “book learning” to good use. That you’ll step up, buckle down, and get on with the art of making all those dreams you’ve had finally come true.
USGBC turned 21 last week, and while I’ve never been more convinced that we know what we want to do with our lives, I’m also keenly aware that what is expected of us has changed. Our USGBC family wants us to use all the lessons we’ve learned these past 21 years, and – now that we’ve “got our act together” like any good 21-year-old should – their expectations of us have never been higher.
Of course, we have matured. The wide-eyed, totally naïve idea we had back then, that we could maybe build a better building, has turned into a movement that is – in fact – a force of nature unto itself. We’ve tackled every building type in every phase of its lifecycle. We’ve expanded our work and our reach from the bleeding edge of the sustainable Northwest to entire communities and cities that span the globe.
We’ve taken one of the most effective catalysts in the world – LEED – and shifted it from a design standard into a demonstrable performance tool and last week, on our birthday, we crossed the 3 billion-square-foot mark for certified LEED commercial space. We’ve amassed a global army of nearly 200,000 LEED Professionals, and thousands more advocates who are beginning to see what we see – that we deserve a built environment that helps us thrive – as humans, as businesses, as a planet – not one that thwarts that ideal at every turn.
But even as I paused for a quiet moment of personal celebration, I knew it was time to pivot from looking back over our groundswell of success, to looking over the unknowable edge. Because on the occasion of our 21st birthday, we are entering the next period of our organizational life, one that will be defined by a “new normal.”
What will that look like? Just like it looks for most 21-year-olds. Most of the things we took for granted in our halcyon youth are now things we’re expected to earn. We’re expected to stand up for ourselves, to begin to contribute in larger ways.
As we have matured, groups who didn’t know we even existed, all of a sudden are finding our presence in the “adult” world quite threatening. We see the status quo as something to be upended and redone, and that frightens them. But now, in our maturity, we know not to back down from this challenge, but to ramp up, and to see it through. We know not to “act out” but to “move on” and make sure the sustainable world we envision comes true.
And so we will. Over the coming months, you’ll begin to see some of the new ways we’ll be applying what we’ve learned (learning that came during a time of expanded access to new technology and knowledge) and using it to make even more progress on changing the world.
Let’s all raise a glass in celebration of this rite of passage. But more importantly, let’s not linger at this threshold of adulthood and squander the ripeness of this moment in time. Let’s get on with it.