Opening Up a Whole New Frontier: Storytelling for Sustainability

By Paul Wessel

The air quality in Delhi is among the poorest in the world; it’s so bad that many people are quite literally allergic to the air. Doctors told Kamal Meattle, CEO of the Paharpur Business Center, that his lung capacity had diminished by 30 percent, that he should leave his city and seek safer air elsewhere.

But Kamal didn’t want to leave his home. Instead, he discovered that certain indoor plants could actually generate clean air. He began growing them inside his building. Since then, respiratory illness has dropped 34 percent among the building’s workers and air pollution-associated medical symptoms have decreased.

Kamal’s LEED-certified Platinum building is now the healthiest office building in Delhi. And his story is a model for how telling stories both changes lives and saves them.

We know stories are powerful. They convey the underlying values and impact of what we do. They help us reach larger audiences. This is true in IPMI’s outreach campaign, it’s true in the sustainable buildings movement, and we’re making it true throughout the U.S. Green Building Council. As our CEO Mahesh Ramanujam wrote on SustainableBrands.com recently:

In the coming days, as part of an overarching campaign called Living Standard, we will release the first in a series of reports that examine how storytelling can help us make strides in sustainability. Rooted in personal conversation and interaction, this new type of data will help us better understand how people from all walks of life feel about the issues at the core of the green building community’s mission–sustainability, green buildings and the environment.

The Living Standard campaign builds upon USGBC’s existing, world-class certification programs and works to ensure that every person on the planet, regardless of background or circumstance, has access to a better, more sustainable quality of life and a higher standard of living.

Parksmart’s leaders have great stories to tell. For example, check out Pam Messenger on Garage at Post Office Square, Mark Cho on WePark’s work in China, and Salem State’s Transportation Center’s Ed Adelman on YouTube.

Keep doing the great work you do. And make sure to tell your stories about the good you do in the world. Because, as they say, Parking Matters.

Paul Wessel is director, market development at the U.S. Green Building Council. This is the first of a week-long series of posts celebrating Earth Day.