Mahesh Ramanujam
3 minute read

USGBC's President and CEO shares how Living Standard can help us better communicate about sustainability.

The green building community has made tremendous strides in building a better world. But if we leverage the combined power of people and data, if we build a better narrative and if we open up to each other—then we can open up a whole new era of possibilities.

The mission of our Living Standard campaign at the U.S. Green Building Council is to raise the quality of life for people everywhere around the world—and in order to do so, we need to share, listen to and understand each other’s stories. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone is each other’s partner. That’s why I’ve been going out into communities across the country to hear directly from folks about how green building and sustainable practices impact their lives—and how we can all work together to build a healthier, safer and more equitable future.

Early in July, I met with young leaders in Miami during the Zero Hour Youth Summit, which gathered teen activists for a weekend of training on how to be effective climate justice advocates. During the summit, I spoke with some of these young leaders to talk about Living Standard and start a dialogue. We began by asking those in attendance the following five questions:

  1. What are your top three biggest concerns today?
  2. What are your top three biggest concerns for the future?
  3. How urgent is it to take action to improve the environment?
  4. Agree or disagree: I would spend more on food and other products in exchange for a healthier environment?
  5. What are the top three behaviors to live a sustainable and healthy life?

A lively conversation followed that focused on how we could make revolutionary progress instead of just incremental steps, how big impact starts with small conversations, how we have an imperative to start the conversation now and share stories to elevate our voices, as well as the voices in our community that have often gone unheard. It was refreshing to hear these young leaders’ perspectives and encouraging to see how much this generation cares about sustainability and equity. It is clear our future is in good hands.

At the summit, I also connected with Jamie Margolin, the 17-year old climate justice advocate and founder and co-director of This is Zero Hour. If you haven’t heard of Jamie yet, mark my words: you will soon. She is such an inspiration, and I’m so looking forward to her keynote address at this year’s Greenbuild in Atlanta.

Later in July, I met up with some of our San Francisco Bay Area community members, along with David Bluestone, the researcher behind our Living Standard public opinion reports. David presented on some of the research behind the Living Standard campaign, as well as new California-specific research. For example, he found that people living in California tend to think more about the planet when it comes to sustainability than the rest of the country, whereas the rest of the U.S. focuses more on family and personal health. It was truly insightful to get feedback and ideas from attendees at the frontlines of the green building community.

The next day at Greenerbuilder, I also had a chance to meet with emerging professionals attending the conference to get their thoughts on Living Standard, listen to their stories on how green building is impacting their communities and hear their views on how we can make green building more mainstream.

The truth is that for too long, most of us in the green building community have simply been talking to ourselves. We are not reaching the broader population effectively enough to change their behavior or decisions on the scale necessary to combat climate-related risks.

But we can. If we listen and learn. And if we ask the right questions.

So please keep sharing your stories at livingstandard.org, and use the Living Standard Action Toolkit to continue the conversation. And if you’d like to attend a future Listening Tour event or a presentation on Living Standard, let us know by email, and we’ll make sure to keep you in the loop.