In the spirit of Marcel Proust’s famous questionnaire, we at Scope 5, put together a few questions to ask people who are moving the needle on sustainability. In this post we spoke with Emma Johnson and Paul Andersson from the City of Bellevue.

Emma’s answers in red

Paul’s answers in blue

1. What is the craziest question you’ve gotten about your sustainability program?

“Haven’t we already finished our sustainability efforts?”

“We’re not actually intending to do this green business stuff that we’re promoting, are we?”

2. If you had to pick the top two material impacts for your organization, what would you pick?

(With a caveat to my answer that I’m primarily focused on energy and climate), the top impacts are building electricity (#1) and fleet fuel usage (#2).  However vehicle miles traveled in the community dwarf these two municipal GHG emission sources—highlighting that our city must create, facilitate, and incentivize non-fossil fuel dependent transportation.

Fossil fuels and fossil fuels

3. What are you driving these days? Be honest.

Hyundai Elantra wagon— my imperfect attempt to compromise between a reliable vehicle for mountain and river adventures and fuel consumption.

‘88 BMW K100RS motorcycle – proof that HOV lanes can inspire more vehicles on the road and that with free parking, cheap gas, and quick commutes, I am what economists think I am: a self-optimizing individual.

4. How has the use of data changed the way you work?

I can answer the question “how much” consistently and know why we got the number we did.  Data makes my program credible to decision makers.

By virtue of having data on an issue, it assumes a level of greater importance than without.  Sustainability data enables triple bottom line accounting and credible storytelling, clarifying issues that can otherwise be divisive or confusing.  We try to roll out the data like a red carpet for our programs or policies to waltz down.

Click here to see the City of Bellevue’s data in action.

5. What part of your organization’s sustainability story makes your heart beat faster? Follow up question: is it the same thing that makes your accountants’ hearts beat faster?

Initially, I had to prove that I saved enough in utility bills each year to pay for my salary.  My job literally depended on how successful I was in reducing utility costs—quite the motivator!  Four years into the program the savings are clearly there.

My accountants’ hearts beat faster when I come to them with a new way of doing business or ask for authority to borrow money to fund projects that will pay back over time.  Usually the reaction is something like, “what is she up to now?”

The fact that electric vehicles went from fantasy to fact in just 3 years.  Also that many of our top decision makers think it’s good form to deny climate science and common sense implications of burning as much fossil fuel as we do.  Also the story that has yet to be told – how things will be different when tomorrow’s leaders replace today’s.

I wish gas bills made our accountants’ hearts beat faster.

6. Any dietary restrictions?

No beef, swine, or “Monterey Bay Aquarium Avoid List” seafood.

No industrial agricultural complex meat products, or chicken in general.  Very hesitant and disappointed about nuclear fish nowadays – can anybody tell me what’s in my seafood?

7. Someone walks up to you in a bar and tells you they’re doing some sustainability work in their organization, but struggling to get funding/support. What advice do you give them?

You have to think like an entrepreneur—in other words, find a way.  Uncover the barriers, create solutions.  Prioritize where you put your energy on the things that matter most. Sustainability is too important to give up on.

Stop talking about sustainability and start talking about money.  Make small, specific requests – don’t be vague or ‘head in the clouds.’  Figure out the finances and pitch the ideas that save money first.  Lucky for us there’s a business case to be made.

8. If someone waved a magic wand and the world became instantly environmentally sustainable and socially just, how would you spend your time?

River running, skiing mountains, silk screen crafting, and growing food.

Dance with joy, then slowly revert back to being an ignoramus on global issues and the broader impacts of my decisions.  Go back to thoroughly enjoying hedonistic, fossil fuel reliant activities with as much obliviousness as I once did.

Emma JohnsonEmma Johnson has been the Resource Conservation Manager at the City of Bellevue since 2009. Her program focuses on reducing energy and water consumption at 900,000 square feet of diverse municipal facilities and operations, from City Hall to pump stations. She has a Master’s of Public Administration (2009) from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and an undergraduate degree from Huxley College of the Environment. Prior to her position with Bellevue, Emma worked as the Regional Projects and Sustainability Specialist at the Washington State Department of Ecology and as a waste prevention graduate intern at Seattle Public Utilities.

Paul AnderssonAs a Program Administrator for the City of Bellevue’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative, Paul Andersson’s main responsibility is implementing actions that result in cost savings and environmental protections for city residents, businesses, and government. Paul is fascinated by the modern renaissance of global understanding that he sees taking place around him, inspired by the potential for improvements ahead, and committed to ushering in a far more regenerative era of the industrial revolution. Key initiatives that Paul has led within City of Bellevue include the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, management of the Eastside Sustainable Business Alliance, and integration of ‘one stop shop’ reporting on environmental metrics across city operations using Scope 5 software. Paul holds a MBA and Certificate in Sustainable Business from Bainbridge Graduate Institute and a BA in English Literature from Iowa State University. He is a native of suburban Chicago, Illinois.