On Monday October 16, CannonDesign will kick off Environmental Awareness Week (EAW), an annual celebration of smart ideas, innovative technologies and iconoclastic thinkers that help guide our progress toward becoming a regenerative practice.

From its initial inception in our Chicago office in 2001, EAW has grown into a firm-wide event that provides the impetus for our staff, clients and other industry partners to pause and consider the environmental impact of our work and our individual lives.

In 2017, this act of reflection is more important than ever. Each year, we select a theme for the week and this year is simple: Act Now.

The unfortunate reality – in the U.S. in particular – is that much of the collective progress we have made on environmental issues is in jeopardy.  It now appears that hard-fought protections for environmental and human health will at best be slowed and at worst be rolled back by our own federal government. So what can we do?

Many of us who care about this progress have come to realize that we have placed too much faith in broad solutions from above – the “someone should do something” syndrome. We need to re-awaken in ourselves and each other the notion that each one of us is “someone” and furthermore, “we are the ones that we have been waiting for.”

The EAW activities occurring around the firm this year aim to reinforce that message.  This year, we will be hosting three excellent keynote speakers each with a story of action at many levels from individual design professionals to collective efforts by cities and states.

Henrietta Davis, former mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts will present the effort that continues to propel her city’s Net Zero plan toward realization by 2040.

Alex Steffen, a prolific writer and public thinker, will lay out a vision for a sustainable future using examples large and small as supporting evidence.

Bob Berkebile, principal emeritus at BNIM will share his observations on the evolution of high performance integrated design and his recent work in regenerative urban design and development.

We believe these three speakers represent the path forward for the next few years: using people power to bulwark sustainability efforts at the local, municipal, and state levels.

The backdrop for these discussions will be three activities occurring across multiple offices.

The first is an ongoing intra-office competition that is engaging nearly half of the firm as 8-person teams, challenging our staff to take personal actions toward environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Teams earn points when their members take actions from a list of choices including public transit or biking to work, taking shorter showers, turning off electronics, buying local or not buying at all.

A second competition is directly related to our work in designing built environments and challenges integrated teams of architects and engineers to envision a net zero water, waste and energy campus of the future.

Finally, most of our offices will be hosting one or more mini-trade shows and local events where we will collaborate with product representatives and industry partners to showcase the latest in environmentally-friendly building design and construction materials and methods.

Our hope is that this year’s EAW will provide inspiration for ourselves and our industry to push forward harder than ever toward a just and healthy future for all and to Act Now.