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Last week I was fortunate to attend the Green Business Network’s Solution Lab 2010  – an “unconference” that brought dozens of people together to address today’s  business sustainability challenges. The unique format allowed for serious networking and problem solving: we sat in small working groups to brainstorm solutions to key issues such as: “Sustainability as an Advantage,” “Responsible Sourcing of Raw Materials,” “Engaging Employees in Sustainability,” “Sustainability and Corporate Culture,” and many others.

Guest speakers from Microsoft, REI, and Starbucks shared insights about how these companies are infusing sustainability into their practices. (Shocking stat – According to Ben Packard only 2% of Starbucks customers bring in a reusable cup…c’mon people, we can do better than that!)

For the “solution” section of the day we spend almost 2 hours developing a plan to help address one of these challenges. Given my interest in urban farming, my love of Jamie Oliver’s recent TED acceptance speech and our new chicken coop, I gravitated toward the sustainable farming discussion.  My group consisted of folks from Weyerhaeuser, Optyva, Bon Appitet, The Puget Sound Food Network and storyteller, Alex Steele from Eco-Maven.

Within the complex issues of sourcing sustainable food, we pinpointed the challenge that farmers have in distributing their food. We definitely needed insights from actual farmers like the famous Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, but we were enamored with the idea of the wholesale farmers market, the current CSA models and organic grocery delivery services like Spud!  

Many great ideas were presented and now it’s up to all of us who attended to keep advocating for these solutions in our own organizations and to continue making sustainability part of everyday business – not just an add on.

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