Sustainability oriented conferences can typically be counted on to deliver compacted learning, immersion into the forefront of thought innovation, and strategic networking. Hopefully, and especially true with this year’s West Coast Green, it will impart a palpable renewal of inspiration for and dedication to doing the good work that is so needed in the world. Yet, they can also leave one feeling left a bit short on impact; a worthy investment into capabilities and possibilities yes, but a concrete impact no. Until now. The ‚ÄòCommunity and Development Design Charrette’ chartered new territory in harnessing the power of thought leaders across diverse skill sets and geographic location, under one roof, to participate in a group process to produce a positive contribution to a local and real need.
The subject matter was West Oakland, CA, the epitome of a challenging case study in economic, social, and environmental justice. One in five children have asthma. Schools look more like prisons than places of learning and development. There are many liquor stores and fast food restaurants, yet there is one bank and no grocery store. This is in an area of 20,000 people, 45% of which have no high school education. West Oakland abuts one of the globe’s busiest ports and absorbs its constant activity of noise, exhaust, and toxins.
William Procter made candles, James Gamble made soaps and in The Panic of 1837 they competed intensely for the same resources. The two men happened to be married to sisters and their shared father-in-law sat them down and in pursuit of peace in the family, convinced them that collaboration was better than competition, and thus Procter & Gamble was born.
Today P&G is the world’s biggest consumer products corporation, with close to 300 brands that “three billion times a day touch the lives of people around the world, making life a little better every day.” Somehow I seem to avoid these odds, understandable considering that I don’t eat non-hydrogenated oils, so the Pringles are out, I opt for laundry detergent that is biodegradable and non-toxic, sorry Tide, I leave the Duracels on the shelf as I cycle rechargeable batteries through my solar powered charger, and I’m not fully clean until I am Dr. Brommers Magic Soap fully clean. However, P&G did make my life a little better one day at the end of October when it announced that it has a new goal and perhaps the seeding of a new culture of sustainable business.