Studying for the LEED exam

When I was in my 20s, my friend Mark and I had went back to the land, settling on a 20-acre plot in north Idaho. To make ends meet, when summer ended we left our little utopia to find jobs. One year we went to Missouri to work as field hands in my parent’s apple orchard. Our job was to prop up the fruit-laden branches to keep them from breaking under the weight of the ripening apples and, as we walked from tree to tree, we saw vast black flocks of birds migrating south across the river, heard the song of the autumn cicadas in the unmown grass, and smelled the fragrance of the sweet apples as they ripened to juicy perfection. Overly poetic perhaps, but the experience made me an environmentalist.

Now I’m a designer and I’m still passionate about how we treat our environment. Sometimes it feels as if I’m too small to do anything that might help, but I do what I can, and right now I’m studying for the LEED exam. Some of the others studying with me confess to being overwhelmed and baffled by the material, but it comes fairly naturally to me. Although I know there is disagreement about whether LEED is the most effective way to encourage sustainable building, the rating system has good intent and I applaud it. Perhaps it’s not perfect, but it’s a start and I want to learn the system and teach my clients.

I’d like to think that if enough of us designers learn all we can about the need for sustainable design, we can eventually turn our clients’ heads and, perhaps over time, the message will spread and become part of the way business is done. We need it. The cicadas still emerge, but I’ve noticed that the endless skies of birds are gone and the apples are largely tasteless. I don’t know if we can get them back, but we have to try.

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