Change Agent for Sustainable Technologies: Earth Rangers

22.05.12 | Blog


Earth Rangers is an award-winning, charitable organization committed to educating and inspiring kids to protect animals and the wild spaces they need to survive. With a message like this, you can see why the organization is committed to practicing what it preaches, and sharing that message with all of our stakeholders, kids, parents, sponsors, and the corporate world.

Our headquarters is the key to this company-wide ethic.  Last year, 7,500 building professionals, many of whom were skeptical of the value of clean (or green) tech, walked through the  Centre to see the benefits and costs of building a  high performance facility, while also ensuring it continues to operate in an environmentally responsible manner.  On each and every tour, we share the lessons we have learned when making upgrades, retrofits, and changes that we have tried.  Sometimes, projects were monumental successes, and other times, results were marginal at best.  The impressive thing about our building is that we have data to support our projects, and we make those results public (for better or worse), so that others can learn from our mistakes. No greenwashing here.

The devil is in the details. People who visit the building can see the everyday choices we make that incrementally add up to make quite a difference. Examples range from mundane things like coffee purchasing and our green cleaning program, to much more capital intensive choices related to HVAC, automation design and selection of green building envelope materials.

As a very early adopter of many environmentally conscious strategies, the Earth Rangers Centre acts as a test-bed for the many technologies that can be implemented in a sustainable building.  After all, if a specific material or technology can financially AND environmentally benefit a not-for-profit organization, imagine what it could do when adopted by larger organizations and corporations.

In response to Mr.Watanabe’s previous blog post, Earth Rangers acts as a catalyst, and an inspiration, to encourage discussions about what is possible with consumption choices. If a tour attendee is inspired by a specific system or procedure, takes that back to their home or company, and tells other people about what they saw, we have been successful.  They can see the cost associated with specific choices and the benefits actually realized and proven by the data. Truth and trust can result from the unbiased results seen in case studies and anecdotal stories, and a form of tribalism occurs when inspired people discuss what they have seen with others.

Few organizations would go to the extremes that we have with respect to every detail of the building design, construction and operation. As a not-for-profit organization, our business model is a little bit more flexible, allowing us to be at the leading edge of sustainable choices.  A much used theory taught in business schools, theorized by Everett Rogers and called the Diffusion of Innovations[i], models the spread of new ideas.  This spread is modeled as a bell curve, with slower adoption rates starting the process, and associated with innovators, followed by early adopters and growing acceptance, then an early majority, late majority, and laggards.

This theory for innovation would classify us as Early Adopters. Our organization’s role, as it relates to the theory, is to show a growing number of people and companies the choices that make sense for them, and move the market for sustainable choices into the Early Majority phase, with exponentially more acceptance of the innovations.

The AtKisson ISIS framework, based on the innovation diffusion theory of Everett Rogers, further suggests five aspects that will
enhance the likelihood of an idea spreading:

  • Relative advantage–is it a better idea than what exists?
  • Complexity–a complex idea is harder to spread
  • Observability –will others see it?
  • Trialability–can others test it first?
  • Compatibility-will it fit into the daily flow?[ii] 

Many of the technologies and practices that we have implemented and showcase answer all five of these questions. At the Earth Rangers Centre you can see first-hand the technologies we have tested and learn how these might be adapted by other organizations. We are a change agent, acting to positively influence others. To fit into Mr. Watanabe’s post, this is our role in tribalism.

This is how substantial change will happen now, and Earth Rangers is doing its best to inspire the current and next generation of
environmentally conscious members of society to adopt the technologies “proven” in our “lab” and help them to implement these technologies in their buildings.

You can take a virtual tour of the Earth Rangers Centre to see these choices in action, including our selection of recycled rubber products at www.ercshowcase.com.

Andy Schonberger
Director
Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology


[i] Rogers, Everett M. (1962). Diffusion of Innovations. Glencoe: Free Press. ISBN 0-612-62843-4.

[ii] AtKisson, Alan (2008). The ISIS Agreement: How Sustainability Can Improve Organizational Performance and Transform the World. Routledge ISBN-10: 1844074153

 

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