How to Plan for Sustainable Development

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Like most subjects, sustainable development has key advocates from both the academic and practitioner camps. The consensus is that sustainable development is a good thing and that business, industry and community should take steps to build sustainability into every day living. The question is how to make this happen. One of the biggest challenges in planning for sustainable development is identifying your partners. Another challenge is finding a framework for you or your company to follow.

Hire an outside consultant or develop your own process flow chart. Create a flow chart of the five most critical purchasing processes. If this is for a personal goal, think food, rent (mortgage), car payment, gas, and water and other utilities. If work-related, think suppliers and vending relationships. Office supplies and paper are two areas that can greatly improve sustainability efforts.

Identify the best opportunities for less energy use at each stage in the process. You can walk more, set the thermostat to a lower/higher level, use less water during hot hours, switch to recycled paper and/or use less energy during peak hours.

Conduct a feasibility analysis. Develop a plan for less energy use and document the expected percent change. Determine the economic impact of the change. The energy savings alone may be enough to justify the plan. You don't need to sacrifice productivity or quality for energy and resource cost savings.

Make changes to the plan based on gaps or disconnects discovered in the feasibility results. Develop a dynamic roll-out and communication plan. Monitor all activity and develop a system to track energy and consumption usage.

Contact Harvard University's Office for Sustainability (see Resources). Read through the implementation tools on the website. These tools are especially useful for facilities seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Review LEED tools on the LEED website (see Resources for a link). Achieving LEED is a quality management system for sustainable facilities and environments. It helps you identify strategies, measure progress and achieve goals. For organizations, LEED is the benchmark standard of excellence. While not always desirable, it is a fee-based option for those who can afford and are interested in following a plan for institutional sustainability.

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