ESII Tool Unveiled!

Yesterday, at the GreenBiz Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, the ESII (Ecosystem Services Identification & Services) Tool was introduced to the world.

The ESII (pronounced “Easy”) Tool is the result of a collaboration between Dow Chemical and The Nature Conservancy. They’ve been working on it since 2011. Our involvement has been in the past year. It’s a project we are very excited and proud to be a part of.

The ESII Tool has the ability to transform the way businesses view the environment. That sounds like a lot of hyperbole, but for the first time ever, there is a comprehensive tool that allows businesses to identify and measure the benefits of nature on the land that they own. Not only does it give businesses the opportunity to see what is currently there, but it gives them a planning tool to play around with alternative scenarios. 

To find out more and to download the free iPad app, go to

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard on the ESII Tool!

We are Golden!

Sustainability at Work GoldGold Certified for Sustainability

We are very excited to announce that The Gartrell Group has been Gold Certified through Portland’s Sustainability at Work program! This means that we have gone through their certification process and met all of the criteria to warrant a Gold Certificate. We actually enjoyed the certification process – the Sustainability staff were great to work with and the endeavor provided some valued opportunity to reflect on our work practices and their environmental impact. Check out their program if you haven’t already. A few notes on practices and results that figured into our certification follow.

A Green Team!

Our office space incorporates natural light in such a way that it is rare for us to turn on lights, and when we do, they are of the compact florescent variety. Our staff saves money and energy by brewing our own pots of delicious Portland roasted coffee and pouring the life giving nectar into their favorite, reusable mugs. We drink the best water in the world, straight from the Bull Run Reservoir in our favorite pint glasses - that happen to be sitting on our desks when the day ends and the laptops and other electronics are tucked in for the night.

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Our (work) world exists almost entirely in the digital realm, however, on the occasions when we do need to produce hard copy, we attempt to use 100% post-consumer recycled paper to the greatest extent possible. We compost food waste and use exclusively green-certified cleaning products assuring not only a clean work space but one free of environmental toxins. We have also implemented and formalized procedures to track and measure our recycling and “tip volume” of garbage/waste.

Through the certification process which included an on-site audit and interview, some of these metrics have been given a finer point and have become more prominent in our thinking.

Bikes and Gettin’ Around the Green Way!

No less that 25% of our staff commute by bike daily. Of course they do, we live in Portland! Our building has covered, secure bike parking as well as shower and locker facilities. In addition, we have an office bike available for use. Any meetings held in Portland are generally ridden or walked to. Riding across the bridges together as a team is far more fun than piling into a car and looking for a parking spot!  When work demands commuting between offices, we have incentives to help employees opt for greener transportation modes – we’ve standardized the bus, bike, train routine for getting to and fro to Seattle clients and our ImpactHub shop which shares many similarly enviro-conscious amenities and attributes with our Portland office. We’ve also been known to challenge each other to participate in various “green” commuting competitions and programs, the more playful or absurd the better.

Recycling Electronics!

Our developer Ben and his three monitors.

Like any modern office, we use a lot of electronic equipment (most of our staff rely upon multiple monitors, and we develop applications for use on mobile devices). While we try our best to extend the lifespan of these goods, there’s only so much we can do. Once the time comes to retire electronics, we find proper homes. Electronics have been donated as well as recycled (and maybe a few have been dismantled by our children, in an attempt to understand what makes them work).

A way of life

Meeting the City of Portland’s Sustainability at Work program at the Gold level was not an onerous challenge, as the recommended sustainability best-practices were, for the most part, pretty well embedded in the daily habits and routines of our staff. Growing consciousness and increases in recycling, composting, riding bikes, favoring hybrid cars and alternative means of transport, and generally monitoring energy use are observable trends in our company culture and extend to people’s private lives as well. Iron Eyes Cody clearly had a deep impact on how we live our lives.

We expect that other businesses might have a similar experience, but would also find the process rewarding, as we did, for the light it sheds on things that could be done better or small changes that could be made that could have a large cumulative impact. We encourage our peers to give it a go and hope for us all that more and more businesses will take pride in sporting the cool “Sustainability at Work” seal.





The NINE Commandments of being an Innovative AND Sustainable Organization

ten-commandments“Innovation” and “Sustainability” figure prominently in the tag cloud of business speak. Many of our customers across a variety of industries are contending with questions that center around the idea of inculcating a culture of innovation and selecting technologies that are consistent with the principles of sustainability. In places where both of these topics are trending, the question sometimes arises about whether being innovative and sustainable are mutually incompatible.
Is it possible to establish, maintain, and advance a sustainable technology platform AND to support and promote innovation?

Unequivocally yes. The well-balanced blend of technological innovation and sustainability is fully realized in certain organizations, it’s an emerging condition in some, and it’s an objective that is being defined and targeted in others.

When people start to ask questions like this, interesting things are about to happen. The prospect of change is at the door. Based on a collaborator’s first-hand view of how these dynamics can intertwine, and without further adieu, we offer you the NINE (because ten would be over-assuming our place in the universe) commandments of being an Innovative AND Sustainable organization with regards to your use and adoption of technology.

1. Thou shalt leap from a solid platform
Method is important. Knowing your basic toolkit is important. The efficiencies brought by new tools will tend to be markedly greater when they are being added to an existing toolkit that is used with a certain degree of mastery. If your tech platform is in chaos, you’re leaping from a water bed. Solidify the fundamentals, then to innovation.

2. Thou shalt be a scribe and reporter of thy work
Strive to be a self-documenting organization.

Documentation? For reals?

Yes. Documentation that will be done after something is done… never gets done. Documentation is not a separate task. It is a parallel practice to every significant activity and endeavor. It is a means of socializing and actively communicating in real time. Journaling is a feature of leading innovators, both because it solidifies standard operating procedures and because it highlights and promotes innovative ideas, changes, and approaches to doing better. This is a vital practice for weaving sparkly new tinsel into your nest – strengthening the old with the new.

3. Thou shalt promote a spirit of inquiry
Make inquiry and personal exploration a part of your organization’s culture. It’s a job requirement to share what you’re looking into, why, what you’re finding. Allocate time for researching and communicating about it. Companies such as Google, Hewlett-Packard and 3M have used this practice with success. GMail, ink-jet printers, Scotch-tape and Post-It notes are the result of such policies.

4. Thou shalt share
Keep the lines of communication open. Use whatever method works best for the culture of your organization; whether it’s stand up meetings or a team wiki – or both. As often as not, different departments at a single organization are totally unaware of the fact that they share identical problems or are concurrently working on solutions to the same problem. Find a way to regularly communicate and collaborate with colleagues in other departments. Keep crossing boundaries until they are scuffed and fading. You’re all on the same team.

5. Thou shalt integrate
Back up your data. Good? Now promote it. Tell others what you’ve got, what’s in it, where it comes from. Ask what they’ve got. Tell them what you wish you could get. Give it away, give it away… Make your data as interoperable and accessible as possible. There is hidden treasure on your file server, on the H drive in environmental, in the Denver office, in your CRM, in the next cubicle over. Easing the exchange of data is low hanging fruit that many people walk past blindly every day. Some of the most powerful change may come from a second look at what you already have.

6. Thou shalt know when to hold’em and when to fold’em
Standardize your decision-making process so that you can quickly and efficiently assess the value of personal exploration and research. Be decisive about whether to continue, elevate or abandon. If you decide to continue with an initiative, provide the proper support. Develop some structure for how to further assess and then begin to integrate technology and ideas that continue to show promise as they pass through the gates of scrutiny. At a certain point, questions about the fit with or extension to your existing technology platform and workflows should be applied to a return on investment analysis of proposed changes.

7. Thou shalt always keep the organization’s mission in mind
Innovation is a wonderful thing, better yet when it actually serves the needs of the organization. Sometimes people can lose focus of the organization’s goals as they are working on something new and exciting. At a certain point, people should be gently challenged and then increasingly challenged to connect a new approach or tool set to the core mission. What strategic objective does this support? How does this fit into our existing methods of work and tech toolkit?

8. Thou shalt embrace change
Change happens, constantly. The point of innovation should be to make change easier, to direct it, speed it, and make it more productive.

9. Thou shalt know that this list is not for all
Seriously. Not all organizations need or want to be innovative. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a phrase that’s stuck around for a while for good reason.

Fear of lightning hastens the conclusion of this blog post. There are surely other key points that could have been added. But this is a good start for two cups of coffee. We hope you find some value and are maybe inspired to share some ideas that you think are successful. We welcome comments!

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help your organization, please feel free to contact us.