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Friday, October 30, 2015

AASHE and an early turkey dinner

And the family all came home for this important meal.

By Dave Newport, LEED AP

I still have vivid memories of my tenth birthday. Double digits! New feelings. New focus. New fumbles. Dealing with the loss of a close family member. But coming soon: teenager! Freedom!

Missing from my tenth birthday memory is any sense of emerging maturity. I was pretty squirrely then. Still working on that.

But a 10th birthday can also mean finding your game.

Leaving Minneapolis after AASHE's 10th anniversary conference, it was apparent that this critical body’s voice is beginning to deepen even at an early age. After some troubled years, AASHE is maturing and muscling up.

It wasn’t an easy childhood. AASHE had some bad parenting (Duh, I was one of them…), lost some close family members, and left some opportunity on the table. AASHE’s stumbles were felt and decried by many of us.

But that was then. Now AASHE has clearly recovered and is beginning to fill out its body and mind. 

Not a moment too soon.

As we grow up we learn that the notable moments in life are mixed among the many mundane ones. So it’s important, as Billy Jean King once said, to “play the big points well.”

The author and Judy Walton at Multnomah Falls, 2014.
The Minneapolis conference served up a big early-life moment. AASHE volleyed with the return of founding director and patron saint Judy Walton to her full and rightful place in the family. When AASHE’s executive director Megan Fay-Zahniser rolled out the 10th Anniversary video on the opening plenary big screen, Judy was first up. Her predictably visionary and loving words brought the crowd of 2,300 sustainabilistas together like a piping hot Thanksgiving dinner.

At the risk of being a little sappy, along with many of you I got a little emotional: Our family is back together. We gave thanks.

Hugs were deeply felt all week.

Now with great staff and board leadership, AASHE is moving toward its teen years to embrace governance evolutions, new/awesome people are stepping up to help, the full inclusion of social justice as integral/critical to the campus sustainability paradigm is underway, and STARS is rapidly evolving into the game changing platform envisioned at its birth.

Sure, there are many challenges ahead. And they will get tougher and more critical. But with a now youthful, visionary and focused AASHE, campus sustainability has a shot at playing the big points well.

And as I sit at a Minneapolis airport restaurant writing this, they just served me what looks to be a Thanksgiving dinner replete with all the trimmings. I swear, I thought I was just getting a hot turkey sandwich.

AASHE too served up an early Thanksgiving dinner in Minneapolis. And the family all came home for this important meal.

AASHE is back.

Pass the gravy please.


 - Coda: It’s always risky to write pieces like this. Many folks who contributed to AASHE are necessarily left out; the list it too long. Likewise, others may feel dissed by the critiques or be pissed that I reminded of past faux pas. But to appreciate the current moment, we must reflect on past pitfalls. And I speak only for me—I have recounted how my follies were part of AASHE’s foibles before. I hold all others harmless. Mostly, I deeply appreciate all who have supported AASHE and all that every sustainabilista does every day. See, I warned you this could get sappy.