I'm so excited to share this with the community: commonground has a new logo!
In case you missed my post a few weeks ago, commonground is about to get a makeover. As part of this process, we decided commonground need a new logo. Mike Kulka recently posted a great blog on logos. If you've considered updating your company's branding, definitely give it a read.
1. We never actually used a graphic designer to create the one we have now.
2. We got the feeling that our membership and core values as a community clashed a bit with our current theme, especially the weoples.
3. We wanted a logo that communicated our community's story.
So, without further adieu....
Here are the top three reasons I love it.
1. It's social.
2. It clearly conveys what commonground is all about.
3. Instead of the doom & gloom our industry is often associated with, it is bright and almost cheerful.
We put a lot of thought into the process, including advice from our commonground executive commity.
You can expect to start seeing the new logo in use on the site along with new, cleaner background art over the next few weeks.
What do you think?
Over the last several years the industry has grappled with how to deal with vapor contamination on and around properties. Vapor intrusion—and then vapor encroachment—have increasingly played a role in Phase I ESAs as ASTM developed standards to guide screening for vapor conditions.
Regulations and standards that deal with what happens from screening, through analysis and finally the cleanup and closure of sites impacted by vapor contamination are currently under review. Here is a quick review on what's been happening at ASTM, EPA and one state.
Our member poll this week asks you how you think vapor encroachment should be dealt with during a Phase I ESA. Early results show that two-thirds of respondents think vapors should be considered as part of the Phase I. What do you think?
What’s happening in your state? Are you seeing changes to your guidance? What impacts will these changes have on the industry?
It's award season: the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, the Super Bowl this weekend and the Oscars a few weeks after that. Whether you are more the type to tune into media day in Indianopolis or E!'s coverage of the best and worst dressed, there is a common theme: a lot of thought goes into the impression being made by the stars of these shows.
Here in New England, people are buzzing about Rob Gronkowski's press conference yesterday, mostly because it seems like coach Bill definitely had a hand in his preperation. (Not that this is a huge surprise.) But, when it comes to big competitions like these, appearances are critical to psyching out the competition (in the case of the superbowl) or furthering the personal brand of prestige (in the case of the Oscars).
Well, commonground has something in common with the Great Gronk and Viola Davis this year. We learned a few weeks ago that we are being awarded the Environmental Business Journal's Industry Leadership Award! And, we are up for the SIIA CODiE Award in the coming weeks. Last year, we were finalists for the CODiE and lost to Salesforce.com. It was a tough blow--the CODiE is probably the most prestigious award for business software and digital content. But as they say "it is an honor just to be nominated" and "it was a heck of a season!"
In preparation for our big honors, commonground is going to get a bit of a make over, too. Over the past few weeks, we have been working with graphic designers and online community experts to rework the look and flow on commonground. I realized how important this process is to our community when I got an email from one of our loyal members, MattFox, who told me he never saw the notes about our Holiday Hilarity contest. That's a problem! I thought it was everywhere, but Matt has put together his own little shortcuts for navigating around the site because the default homepage hasn't been cutting it for him and he never saw the links to the contest.
This is all going to change. Here is what you can expect:
Over the years, commonground has outgrown the current theme and layout. We have so much more content, many more members and increased functionality on the site and the new commonground will make sure all of this is within better reach. There will also be much more focus on you, the community.
What improvements do you want to see? What is most important to you as we go through this process?
I think the new navigation and theme on the site are sure to elevate the commonground brand and bring it to a place the better-reflects the quality of content and membership we have on the site. Hopefully this will serve us as we head into the CODiE Award process!
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Oh, and go Pats!
Last week we resurrected the weekly poll to start gauging the community on business, political, regulatory and some just-for-fun topics. Our first questions was about the current revisions to the ASTM E1527-05 standard. Below are the results.
While most of the community was aware that the standard was currently being revised, it looks like there are a lot of questions about what could be changing.
Some of you may be asking: why is this standard being revised when EPA has already required it in a Federal rule? According to ASTM policy, standards must be updated or reapproved as-is by the members of the committee every 8 years or they sunset and become unusable. Since the task group had to go through the voting process anyway, they decided to make some clarifications that wouldn't impact EPA's requirement that the standard is "at least as stringent" as the AAI Rule.
I sit on the ASTM E50 committee and have tried to take part in as many of the task group meetings and calls that have been happening over the past few years as the E1527 task group debates what-if anything- should change.
Here is a list of the topics that have received the most attention and will likely change a big in 2012.
Did I miss any? Now this list is just what is being brought to the table, and I don't expect all of the components are going to change in the version of the standard that will go to ballot in the coming weeks. After the E50 committee sends out the ballot (I think we are shooting for sometime in late Feb or early Mar), the task group will have to deal with all of the negative comments to build consensus around the new standard. So, we will likely have a new version of E1527 in late spring or early summer.
If you want more details on the revisions, read Tina Huff's blog. She's also a task group member and has written some good stuff on the debates we've been having.
Oh, and don't forget to weigh in on this week's poll on the homepage. It's a bound to start some debate!
Green is everywhere! Though it seems to be here to stay, many of us are not ready to abandon ship on the status quo of our white collar jobs for new, green collar jobs. However, economists everywhere are quoting that healthcare and the environment are about the only sectors that are currently growing jobs. While you may not be willing to make major career shifts in order to “go green”, there are many ways to incorporate sustainability and conservation into your current job, and doing so will have competitive advantages.
I guess I’m lucky: I’m already in the environmental industry. (For those of you reading this blog in syndication, I work for Environmental Data Resources, Inc, the nation’s largest provider of property-based environmental risk data.) While my company is not directly entrenched in the buzzword environmental issues that we hear today, like carbon footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and global warming, we have been keeping an eye on how our clients (environmental consultants & engineers, lenders, corporations, home inspectors, Realtors, and home owners) may be impacted by new legislation being written in Washington and the property risks (and opportunities) that are evolving as the green movement progresses.
We are also thinking about how the things we do as a company may impact the environment. Frankly, we’ve been thinking about this for years and we still have a lot more work to do. But, especially given the recession, it has been a great time to rethink how to make everything from marketing campaigns, events, client gifts, and everyday business activities leaner and greener. One thing is certain, we do a lot less traveling in airplanes and a lot more webinars than we did even a year ago!
My husband is a structural engineer who works mostly on bridge repair and refurbishment processes. Here again, green usually means cost savings. For example in all of the jobs he works on, he tries as hard as possible to reuse the materials that are already onsite, keeping costs down and creating less waste, not to mention reducing the environmental costs of having new steel beams manufactured and shipped to the jobsite. However one thing he is always talking about is how wasteful we have become in letting our infrastructure deteriorate, creating the need for new bridges before they should really be warranted. This is an area we all really need to improve: properly maintaining what we have now so we don’t have to buy (and build) anew in the future.
My sister is an event planner. Talk about an industry of excess! But, one of the biggest trends in corporate events, weddings, and other social functions is to go carbon neutral-- or at least to cut back on the carbon footprint of a function-- by using local ingredients, providing transportation so guests can arrive in a single vehicle, using recyclable paper products and utilizing services like evite.com rather than wasting trees for reply cards.
As for my clients, the vast majority are environmental engineers, many who become LEED accredited over the past few years and many more who are working towards this. I’m so proud of them for getting on-board! (Read Dianne’s blog on how PM Engineering turned a polluted site in Detroit to their LEED-rated paradise.) Many are also helping property purchasers consider how the energy efficiency of a building may impact its value over time, what we call in the biz “energy efficiency due diligence”. While the upfront investment on a more efficient building maybe higher than the old clunkers out there, they will likely result in cost savings in the future. Additionally, the information available about building efficiency is only increasing, as are energy costs, meaning those clunkers are going to be much harder to unload in the future.
My lender clients are also looking into adding green-mortgage programs to their product lines, which give lower rates on environmentally-friendly buildings and businesses. Meanwhile corporations are taking a hard look at their waste disposal practices and are bracing themselves for tougher emissions standards in legislation that is currently be written and debated on Capitol Hill.
The way things are going, it seems like we won’t have to work as sustainability consultants, environmental engineers, or energy experts to be involved in the green movement. In order for us to make the planet a cooler, less polluted, and greener place, almost every job function will need to “go green” in some way or another. By learning how to green your job now, you make yourself a more valuable employee to your current employer and to future employers. How will you make your job green?
Open up any business journal or management blog and you’ll find a theme that has been gaining a lot of attention: the obstacles that can arise when professionals from different generations work together.
Despite the fact that most of us pride ourselves in being open-minded and easy to work with, let’s face it, the differences in our life experiences that shape each of our unique personalities sometimes make working with others, who have very different life experiences, difficult. From my perspective, it seems that my own generation, Generation Y, takes more than its fair share of criticism for bucking the system and leaving Gen X and Baby Boomers scratching their heads. So who is Gen Y anyway? I’ll attempt to explain briefly, and forgive me if I stereotype or generalize, but classifications and discussions of the generations tend to be overly broad and assuming.
Generation Y is most commonly defined as the generation that followed “Gen X” (obviously) and was born between 1980 and the early 1990s. (Yes, we know you could be our parents, stop reminding us!) We are also referred to as the “Echo Boomers” and the “Millennial Generation”. Like all generation, we are defined by the societal trends that surrounded us in our youth, most notably: the beginning of the digital age, the relative financial stability of our parents compared to previous generations, greater racial and gender equality than any prior generation, and ….drum roll please…. the emergence of MTV. We were raised by parents who told us we were the best at everything we did and that if we wanted to grow up to be the first female president, professional baseball players or ballerinas, we could, regardless of whether or not they saw any real talent in us.
These circumstances (and many others I’m leaving out) have given us qualities that are unique to our generation. I like to think of us as the “great expectations” generation. (Who knew Dickens’ foresight was so great?) Most of us grew up thinking we would be at least as well-off as our parents and that we’d be able to achieve or obtain anything we could dream up. While this can work for us, it is often a criticism that many others have of Gen Y. We know what we want, and we want it now, which sometimes seems like entitlement. (Maybe it is sometimes.) Growing up with Game Boys, cell phones, Instant Messenger, and Disc Men has made us all into master multi-taskers. My parents still do not understand that even though I’m catching up on emails on my iPhone, I am paying attention to their conversation. At work, we might be accused for being too social or unfocused; however we know that multi-tasking makes work feel less like work, improving our productivity. We feel comfortable challenging authority. Most of us didn’t grow up in households where the iron fist ruled and we challenged our parents for explanations of household rules and consequences, which is why many observers call us “Generation Why?”. This can become an especially big issue in the workplace as we often question the traditional ways of doing things. However, I see this as our greatest asset. We are innovators and we know that status-quo is just that. We also have the firm belief that age is only a number. We know that most of our experienced colleagues did not learn many of the things in high school and college that we did. And in a way, we feel that this puts us ahead --even if we don’t have the years-experience that others do. On the other hand, many of us have remained dependant on our parents for emotional support into adulthood. In our professional lives, we really thrive on being mentored by those who know our industry and are willing to give us advice on both personal and professional fronts.
In my blog, I hope to bring Gen Y’s perspective to the commonground community. I will cover the workplace challenges and trends from a 30-and-under (for now anyway, we age too!) viewpoint and will share my observations from in and out of the office. Fresh in the Field will also cover personal and professional development and emerging opportunities in the environmental and risk management industries.
In conclusion of my inaugural blog post, I want to declare on behalf of all Gen Yers in the industry that we are here and we are emerging as the next generation of business leaders! We might do things a little bit differently than you are used to, but I think we can all learn from each other and do great things together! Besides, there are 60-70 million of us in the United States alone, so you really have nowhere to hide!
Last week I blogged about changing my habit of multitasking in order to stop sacrificing effectiveness for efficiency. I'm happy to report that I've seen some early success in my anti-multitasking endeavors! I'll briefly summarize a few of the tactics I have been trying.
The 18-minute plan for managing your day- I found this method on Peter Bregman's blog for Harvard Business Publishing. It is pretty strict: You take 5 minutes in the start of your day to plan, and schedule (in Outlook, or similar) what you will do for each hour of the day. At the end of each hour, you schedule a 1-minute break to check on your progress before moving on to the next hour's tasks (8 minutes total). The last 5 minutes come in at the end of the day you recap on your entire day's work and figure out what can you do better tomorrow to make yourself more productive.
In principle, I really like this. However, it is very hard to stick to because it doesn't account for the distraction that we all face every day like a coworker needing your input, an unexpected call from a client, or the undeniable need for a coffee in the afternoon. But, by setting the bar so high, it really does work to make each hour of the day very productive. It also helps to break up tedious tasks by scheduling them at different times so your brain doesn't melt by wedging them all into the first 3 hours of the day.
To Do Lists- Ok, I never claimed I'd be breaking new ground here, but you know how they say people who write down everything they eat, eat less? Well, I'd venture to say that people who write down everything they DO, do more! Since scheduling my tasks in Outlook (as recommended in the above plan) seems really onerous to me (dealing with reminders, having scheduling conflicts with yourself, etc.) I decided I'd schedule my hours on my To Do List instead, and when something unexpected comes up, I also write that down to make sure I give myself credit where it is due. At the end of the day, I look at what I did and copy things that are still incomplete onto the next day's list. I've also started putting sticky notes up for ongoing projects that I could potentially forget about. There is nothing better than taking down a note and crumpling it up once the task is done.
Setting aside time for email (and Twitter) - I started to let email, twitter, commonground, and other social networking tools that I use for my job take over my workday. Let's face it, if you want to, you could sit with your inbox and twitter account open all day and just react for 8 hours and be busy. However, you probably wouldn't accomplish much. Now when I arrive at the office in the morning, if there are no pressing tasks to accomplish, I schedule 30 minutes to go through my inbox (I sift through dozens of news sources everyday), update the commonground news feed, and see what is new on commonground and twitter. Then I try not to touch those things again till 11. I do glance at my inbox and read emails from my boss to make sure I'm not missing anything important, but I try not to let things take me away from my scheduled tasks. On recommendation from my (awesome) coworker Adam (@SEOptomizer), I have started checking twitter for 5-minutes at a time 4 times throughout the day.
Keeping my desktops empty- Cluttered desktops (my physical desk and my computer desktop) make me feel frazzled and make important things harder to find. Since I moved recently from EDR's headquarters in CT to our satellite office in MA, I had a chance to review and purge physical clutter that was getting in my way. I made a similar effort on my computer's desktop last weekend. Only things that I am CURRENTLY working on are on each desktop now. This definitely helps me to not multitask.
Ok, finished with this blog in record time! Thanks for reading!
Green workplaces have been getting a lot of press lately. Innovative startups are going green at the office to create an image that attracts the right talent, while established companies are retrofitting their offices or moving to new buildings that offer natural sunlight, fresh air, energy efficiency, and maybe even certification under LEED or EngeryStar. While “doing the right thing” is admirable, the main drivers for green initiatives at the work place are saving on energy costs and increasing property values. A wise attorney once made the analogy that building/retrofitting office space today that is not green would be like building a 10 story building and not putting in an elevator. Simply put: energy efficiency will be huge for property owners when it comes time to lease or sell their buildings.
All these things considered though, I’ve read a number of articles & studies that show workers in green offices are more productive than those in traditional spaces, increasing company profitability. The explanation: fresh air, natural light, and pleasant surrounds makes people happier about being at work and thus more likely to commit their energy to the task at hand and even stay at work longer. In addition, a green work environment may translate to healthier employees who take fewer sick days. There is also evidence that employees feel better about working for companies who care about the environment and employee wellbeing. Finally, evidence points out that companies that involve their staff in green initiatives like recycling and volunteering for environmental causes have a more engaged workforce.
A lot of this is common sense and in many respects, the environmental component isn’t crucial: it all comes down to workplace culture. Happy, healthy employees=productive employees. A green workplace is simply becoming a more common means to that end.
What do you think? Do you work in a green building? How does it impact moral? Have you worked in a very unhealthy office environment? How did it impact your work?
One of the most important roles of managers is to foster the growth of their junior staff, helping them to gain footing within their company and, more broadly, within their industry. I see mentoring not only as smart business practice for a company, but also as an employment benefit to budding professionals. With budgets (for time and money) strapped, growing your firm's future leadership may seem like something that can be put off till next quarter or next year, but it is this could be a big mistake. Employees with strong mentor-mentee relationships are more loyal and more effective than those who fly solo. One way managers and executives can help their employees reach for more is by encouraging them (and allowing them the resources) to participate in industry associations and events. Taking part in industry events boosts self-esteem, offers new perspectives, opens the door to networking opportunities and gives employees a sense of pride in their company while they are out representing their firm.
I am an active member of ASTM's E50 Committee and Membership Secretary to the E50.02 Subcommittee. ASTM is one of the world's largest standard writing bodies. It is a consensus organization powered by volunteers who are both users and producers of the products and services that are governed by ASTM standards. In the environmental due diligence industry, these standards have major impacts on industry practices and also act as drivers for the services provided by environmental consultants. While ASTM is extremely important to the industry, the E50 Committee has had a difficult time getting members to attend meetings and participate in standard writing activities. In addition, there is a real lack of young blood in committee activities.
A group of my fellow committee members and I are currently taking on an initiative to gain more participation from young professionals in the industry, but to do that, we need the support and encouragement of their managers. Despite the fact that billable hours will need to be sacrificed and travel expenses may need to be covered, attendance to these meetings (which are free for members) offers young professionals with a great learning experience, and also the chance to:
o Impact industry practice;
o Gain an insider's perspective;
o Think critically about the way things are done now and how they should be done in the future;
o Learn from some of the most experienced professionals in the industry; and
o Network with colleagues, potential clients, and regulators.
Having representatives from your company attend events like ASTM also shows that your company is forward thinking and honing their future leadership for success in the years to come.
The next meeting of ASTM's E50 committee will take place at the Hyatt Regency from October 19-22. Major topics are being covered, including revisions to the E 1527 Phase I ESA standard, the creation of a new standard on building energy performance disclosure, the progress of the standard on climate change, and ballot results on the continuing obligations standard.
I hope all of those reading this will consider attending the meeting and bringing along a promising young professional from your firm. I think you’ll be surprised how much knowledge they might have to share with the even the most seasoned industry veterans. And learning how they can affect change in their industry will likely spark loyalty and inspire young professionals to think more critically about the work they do.
For the past year or two, many of our work lives have been defined by layoffs, cuts to resources, refocusing efforts to profitable markets while sacrificing others, searching for new revenue streams, taking on additional tasks and doing more with less. Considering the professional turmoil that many of us have gone through lately, it is understandable that defining our purposes, prioritizing our efforts, and feeling like we are working toward something achievable can be extremely challenging. Sometimes, don't you just feel like you are spinning your wheels and not moving forward? All too often we get lost in the specific tasks we have to do each day and forget what ends we are hoping to reach.
In the work I do for the commonground community, we are going through a similar situation. We've made great strides in the past year, which our team is thrilled about : we've increased membership, participation, and our web presence. Now, we are looking to take it to the next level. While we want to continue with the things we've been doing for our core members, we also want to expand our reach and make the community a place where members see real return on investment for their participation. There are a lot of opportunities ahead of us and a lot of directions we could go in. It is extremely difficult to decide which initiatives to go after, especially when the day-to-day activities take up much of our time. We are faced with the questions: Who are we and who do we want to be in the future? To solve this problem we've put together a group of people on the community's advisory panel to create a mission statement for the community. This got me thinking, it might be useful to come up with my own mission statement.
By going through the exercise of creating a personal mission statement, either for your current job or your career, you can better determine which tasks and goals are most important to you, which do not contribute to your objective, and which things you should be doing that you are not currently.
For people who are unemployed, considering a change of employment, thinking about going back to school, or starting their own companies, this is probably even more important.
Here are some questions that you can use to help create your own mission statement:
I'm going to work on this over the weekend. I encourage you to do the same!