We're thrilled to introduce you to Sam Wright, My Green Lab's Chief Operations Officer! Dialing in from Seattle, Washington, Sam recently joined the team, but he's no stranger to sustainability. In addition to an education in geography, philosophy, and business administration, Sam holds a variety of accreditations related to sustainable design, and is passionate about the work he's done, and continues to do, to create a more sustainable future.
"Working in sustainability is inherently optimistic, motivated by the belief that we can do better and be better...There is really no choice: we must learn to mitigate our impact and to adapt to radically and rapidly changing circumstances. Luckily, where there is challenge there is opportunity, and there remains a lot of low-hanging fruit. Luckier still, there are bright, motivated, and mission-aligned people embedded in nearly every organization who are ready to do the rewarding work of reducing their impact."
Read on to learn more about Sam and his sustainability journey. And please join us in welcoming him to the My Green Lab team!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I was born in London, England, and moved to the United States at an early age. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, which I still call home.
I have been lucky to pursue a variety of professional interests. If I had to choose, I would say that the unifying themes of my career so far have been sustainability and construction. I love working with my hands, and many of my early jobs were in residential homebuilding, primarily in the Seattle region and San Juan Islands in Washington’s Puget Sound. I found working with tools so empowering that shortly after graduating from the University of British Columbia I was motivated to help launch the Vancouver Tool Library with a small group of friends in order to create a community resource centered around sharing tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Since then, I have found myself returning again and again to the nonprofit space. Nonprofits occupy such a useful part of the economy, serving to address pressing needs that perhaps challenge a conventional for-profit business model, often while creating substantial value for corporate partners. I had a front-row seat to this when I worked at the International Living Future Institute as the Technical Manager of the Living Building Challenge. Our program participants and sponsors received enormous reputational benefit for pursuing or supporting the highest standard of sustainability in the built environment, while along the way creating buildings that challenged the prevailing wisdom of just how green construction can be. The result is a virtuous feedback loop of organizations ‘doing good while doing well’, a model that is inherently replicable.
My education is in geography, philosophy, and business administration, and I hold a variety of accreditations related to sustainable design. Most recently, I served as a Senior Sustainability Consultant for Säzän Environmental Services, where I had the privilege of working with regional and national leaders in green building, such as the King County GreenTools team.
What is your role at My Green Lab?
I am the Chief Operations Officer. My role is essentially to identify and remove obstacles that are impeding my colleagues and our program participants from doing the important work of greening labs and the supporting ecosystem of products and services. It is an administrative role with an emphasis on organizational management, strategy, technology, HR, finance, and fundraising. I am grateful for the opportunity to support such an exceptional team and community.
What inspires you to do the kind of work you do?
Working in sustainability is inherently optimistic, motivated by the belief that we can do better and be better. Climate change is a clear and present existential threat that is causing immeasurable harm right now. The most vulnerable people in our communities disproportionately bear the brunt of that impact, despite contributing only minimally to the cause. There is really no choice: we must learn to mitigate our impact and to adapt to radically and rapidly changing circumstances. Luckily, where there is challenge there is opportunity, and there remains a lot of low-hanging fruit. Luckier still, there are bright, motivated, and mission-aligned people embedded in nearly every organization who are ready to do the rewarding work of reducing their impact. They often need only a little guidance, which is why organizations like My Green Lab can be so remarkably impactful.
What are your personal sustainability goals?
As a certified sustainable building advisor, I can tell you that in nearly every situation that people use fossil fuels, electricity will do the same job, but often more efficiently and without the ruinous effects on air quality. Critics will say that the grid is powered by fossil fuels, and so using electricity only shifts our impacts downstream. However, the International Energy Agency recently announced that solar is now officially the cheapest source of energy ever in history, with wind close behind, and prices are falling as technology improves. We are living through the biggest and most rapid transformation of our energy economy since the Industrial Revolution. With that in mind, how long will it be until your gas or oil furnace is obsolete? What about your car?
I eliminated fossil fuel use from my house, and while I still rely on gasoline when I need to go distances that are impractical for human-powered transport, I have aspirationally installed an electric car charger. I also strive to reduce single-use plastics, though I can’t seem to eliminate them from my life. Additional sustainability goals and practices include supporting local businesses whenever possible, growing an ever-increasing proportion of my own food, avoiding buying new when used will do, and repairing broken items instead of throwing them away.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
We are blessed to be surrounded by mountains in nearly every direction here in Seattle, and many of my hobbies involve exploring them in some capacity or another. In the summer I like to climb them, and in the winter I like to ski down them. I like to take photos while I do it, though any success I have in this pursuit I attribute much more to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest than to my own ability. When I’m at home, I enjoy playing the guitar and building things, mostly out of wood.
What are your favorite books / movies?
At the moment, I cannot recommend more highly Ted Chiang’s Exhalation. It is a collection of sci-fi stories that are emotionally resonant, thoughtful, compassionate, mind-bending, and at times breathtakingly beautiful. I recently picked up All We Can Save, which is a collection of “provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward." While I have read only a few of the essays so far, I am already comfortable recommending it to anyone that needs a more hopeful perspective on our climate crisis.
Where do you call home?
Seattle is home, and it’s beautiful. It also doesn’t rain nearly as much as people like to think. Did you know that New York gets 20 inches more precipitation per year than Seattle, on average? Sure, our winters are gray and dreary, but our summers can’t be beat. Don’t tell your friends.