Creating a Network

A hallmark of sustainable design is working and buying resources locally, in order to sustain the community where you live. Create a network of sustainability-minded people working in all aspects of community life to help you work toward sustainability in your own organization.

With Madison Children's Museum's early work in sustainability, it was the early childhood community, a local architect, a doctor of environmental medicine, and several artists who understood our goals, helped cement our vision and moved our project forward. It's important to know the key players in your own community, to ask for their guidance and support, while you build your case. Collaborate to bring in public speakers that educate you, your partners, and your community on sustainability issues.

If you are living in a small community, you might have to stretch your reach to find a support network. Another good way to begin is by joining your local chapter of the US Green Building Council.

Educating Board & Staff

Education and changed behavior are tightly linked. Learn as much as you can, and figure out creative ways to get your entire staff on board.

Enlist the help of a local sustainability colleague who can provide staff and board with an overview of ideas or read Fostering Sustainable Behavior or other books on marketing social change. Looking at several sustainable design frameworks will help you get organized, particularly The Natural Step Framework (TNS). The website is full of great information on getting started, but attending a conference on their methodology is even better. TNS has institutionalized strategies for moving organizations large and small toward sustainable practices and routinely holds national and international workshops.

Sustainability must be viewed as an institutional agenda, not one department's agenda. Develop a cross departmental "Green Team" that can decide priority areas for getting started. Give the Green Team authority to implement some changes immediately, and have them communicate back with the rest of the staff on a regular basis. Have them list other actions that need further research, as well as ideas that need additional resources and investigation.

In order to keep interest high, sustainability needs to be a priority that comes from the CEO with regular reinforcement for all staff. This could mean making sure every staff meeting has at least a few minutes devoted to sustainability progress in each department, or other ways to keep the agenda on people's radar.


When working with outside contractors, it is essential to provide as much direction as possible for permissible materials and expectations. For many, these materials and processes will be new, and possibly daunting. Developing a standard set of guidelines for contractors is helpful in making your expectations clear. See the Madison Children's Museum's guidelines. Providing resources for finding materials, supplies and applications is another important thing to consider.