Q: What is Sustainable Catalyst Partners?
A: SCP is a comprehensive sustainability planning and consulting firm. We work with municipalities, neighborhood groups, and a variety of different organizations and agencies to help them understand what sustainability means for their individual organization or community, and help them put together a plan based on their long-term and short-term goals. In the case of a municipality, we would look at their day to day operations and find ways that they can be more sustainable in a way that will save them money, lower their risk, and provide opportunities for seeking funding sources.
Q: So you help companies receive money from outside of the organization itself?
A: It can be structured in a lot of different ways. We can help them identify opportunities for cost savings within their organization, so that would be a situation where a project would be funded from the cost savings. We also look at grant opportunities that are available. A lot of times, having a sustainability plan will make a municipality or organization more competitive in different types of grant opportunities available. We also look at different ways they can be part of strategic teams that help. It may also be a regional approach. The goal is for it to be a plan that pays for itself.
Q: What kind of clients do you typically work with?
A: Municipalities, neighborhood groups or citizen groups within a community. We also work with different not-for-profit organizations to administer grant funding they may have received. For example, we’re working on a grant administration program right now, where I’m helping a group of non profits who won funds through a lawsuit settlement to help them administer those funds through a grant program for solar power. We also help them put together a team of individuals or companies that can make the most of that solar panel, as opposed to just paying to put the solar panel up. There are ways that we can leverage private funding or funding from the federal government.
There could be an educational benefit to having those solar panels installed there. We’re trying to take something that at first blush looks simple and making it more comprehensive in terms of what good we can do with it. We try to have a mix of the types of organizations involved.
Q: How did you get involved with sustainability?
A: I found sustainability in grad school when I was at the University of Michigan studying landscape architecture. That program was focused on ecology and habitat restoration, and that really intrigued me. I was interested in the connection between urban habitats/development and the natural world. I took a couple of real estate development classes where I was the sort of ecological designer on a team, and that opened my eyes to the value of interjecting sustainability principles into the development process.
From there, I worked in landscape architecture, commercial real estate development, energy management, and did some marketing and business relations. I wanted to focus my career on sustainability, so from there I got the opportunity to work in the city’s Office of Sustainability when it first got started. I was there for two and half years and worked with developers and the Department of Public Works, infusing a sense of sustainability into their everyday operations.
When I was in the office of sustainability, I met some attorneys that were also very interested in sustainability and green building practices in particular. We formed a partnership, and over the course of the next couple years while I was in law school, developed a concept for a sustainability firm that would take the concept of the office of sustainability and make those approaches and strategies available to more than just the city of Indianapolis.
We help other communities , neighborhood organizations, and connect them to those resources that are already existing, but bring together the partners that are already focused on sustainability. So we’ve been working with landscape architects, engineers, utility companies, higher education institutions, and private foundations and public companies, large and small. The focus is to have a holistic partnership approach in the full spectrum of sustainability.
Q: What was the most interesting, exciting or unique project that you’ve ever worked on in your organization?
A: With Sustainable Catalyst Partners, we’re on the verge of getting this contract to do the grant administration for the solar panels in northeastern Indiana, so that one is still in formation, but we’re really excited about it because we have enough flexibility from the organizations that we’re helping administer these funds through, to do some really creative funding structures. We’re looking at maybe a revolving loan, the possibility of trying to leverage private investment. It’s challenging, but exciting and fun. I really look forward to conveying the creative approach in messaging to assemble the right teams, and get enough excitement.
In terms of the most exciting project that I’ve ever worked on, I made a documentary while in the Office of Sustainability that focused on the new Nature Conservancy building. We mentioned Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s LEED-certified building several times in that video. We found out about this building while the Nature Conversancy that was in the planning stages, and they approached the Office of Sustainability for assistance in helping them through the process. They knew they were going to be using some techniques and technology that were atypical. The inspections staff from the Department of Code Enforcement had not seen before, so they wanted the Office of Sustainability to be the intermediary.
We wanted it to be an educational opportunity for everyone involved. I thought to myself, why not take along a few more people in the educational process, besides just the people doing the project. We came up the idea to work with Channel 16 WCTY in filming and interviews during the construction of the project. This allowed people to see what it looks like to bore geothermal wells, install raised flooring ventilation systems, or what a native landscape looks like.
At the end, it turned out to be a powerful tool for explaining to the Indianapolis citizen what a green building is and why should we do it, and what impact does it really have on our community and planet. It will be hard to top that project in the future.
Q: How to do you see your company growing, changing and staying relevant as people become more able to be sustainable on their own?
A: One of the things I get most excited about in my work is connecting people to other people that have gone through a similar process and conquered a challenge that they are facing. I think that my geographic scale could expand in terms of connecting people to other municipalities or organizations within the Midwest or even outside of the Midwest to where those problems have been solved. I think that as the state looks to increase its recycling and focus on waste that we generate and how we handle that waste, I think there are fantastic opportunities outside the state of Indiana for us to look at. I think that there will be an obligation to keep myself educated as much as possible on what’s going on outside the state, and I look forward to opportunities in the future to bring those success stories into Indiana.