| By Trina Ryan
Not long ago, sustainability was a term reserved for eco-friendly trendsetters and environmental activists. Now, with global warming on the horizon and at the forefront of many public health discussions, the concept is mainstream, inseparable from our daily activities.
But sustainability extends far beyond us—and the environment. It involves every aspect of our lives, including technology, business, and social equality. To truly become a sustainable global society, then, we must find a way to make all these elements work together.
In our premiere podcast, IDEAS For Us spoke with Alexa Stone, founder and president of ecoPreserve, about how sustainability has changed and what it might look like in the future : a network of intercommunication between people, technology and buildings. Here are some highlights.
Stone talks about several exciting projects ecoPreserve is working on: a zero-waste project with UCF; a project with City of Orlando, called Grand Ave, which involves taking an older school in a distressed part of town and converting it into a community center; and a project with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport that would design its sustainability and waste management programs.
“I think inherently people want to do the right thing, that they inherently despise waste, and think about all the waste going to landfills that shouldn’t be,” Stone says. She discusses how she plans to get college campuses on board with proper waste management and recycling. A big part of sustainability, she explains, is teaching people how to make informed decisions.
It doesn’t work in a vacuum. Gender equality, upward mobility, environmental justice—all are social factors that play a key role in advancing sustainability and improving the way people interact with their environments. Stone says that a focus of ecoPreserve, a female-owned and -founded company, has always been to find and cultivate more sustainable employment opportunities for young professionals — especially women.
Merging technology with infrastructure, smart cities improve quality of life and reduce costs for those living in developing urban centers. “We are really excited about smart cities, because smart cities, in my mind, are the new and shiny way of saying sustainability, but with technology,” Stone says.
As technology continues to improve and sustainability awareness grows, the door is opened to a wide range of innovative public service systems, ones that connect people with cities in a way never seen before. Picture Orlando 20 years from now. Is it a smart city? Can we set a precedent for sustainability in the Southeast? Across the U.S.? According to Stone, “we’re in the midst of writing the blueprint.”