Archive for Julie Gabrielli

Julie Gabrielli is an architect with a passion for connecting people and ideas. Her company, Gabrielli Design Studio, focuses on sustainable design, as well as strategic sustainability for businesses and institutions. She teaches at the University of Maryland School of Architecture and was recently an adviser to their interdisciplinary design team for LEAFHouse, 2nd place winner of the 2007 Solar Decathlon.

How change really happens

drawings by Alyssa Dennis
We are pleased to make readers aware of a new book, just released, called, “Change Of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change.” This book, by author Nick Cooney,  looks at 80 years of scientific research conducted on human psychology and related fields, and distills that research down into practical tips that environmental organizations and other non-profits can use to more effectively persuade the public and create social change.

Cooney is the founder and director of The Humane League, an animal advocacy organization based in Philadelphia, PA that focuses on farm animal protection issues.

“Change Of Heart” provides science-based answers to many questions that are hotly debated among environmentalists. For example, is it better to encourage the public to adopt small, simple changes (like using CFL light bulbs) or to ask for more major life-altering changes (like getting rid of one’s car)? What messages and techniques have been proven to succeed in reducing home energy use and increase recycling? And what role does “green consumerism” play in helping – or harming – the environmental movement?

We already have the information, the expertise, and the technology to make the shift to a clean-energy, environmentally-restorative economy. There are plenty of smart people working on this front. Behavior change, and even making the case for this as a preferable course of action, have a bit of catching up to do. That’s why we are so excited about books like this one and the Heath brothers’ “Switch.” Here is an excerpt:

Narrow Their Options

When a farmer is trying to herd animals from a larger area into a smaller one, they’ll often create a chute that starts wide and gets narrower and narrower. Similarly, when we are trying to get someone to take an action it is helpful to narrow their options. Offering people too many choices will make them more likely to choose nothing at all. A study of eight hundred thousand workers found that the number of retirement funds offered by an employer was inversely related to the number of workers that signed up for any retirement fund (Iyengar, Huberman and Jiang). The more retirement fund options they were given, the less likely workers were to choose any fund—which probably had negative consequences for workers and their families.

In another study, student participants were presented with two hypothetical choices for what they could do that evening:  study in the library or attend a lecture by an author they admired who was in town for one night only. Only twenty-one percent chose to study, with seventy-nine percent choosing to the more enjoyable activity. In the second round of this study, participants were given three options:  the library option, the author option and also the option to watch a foreign film they had wanted to see. In this second study, forty percent of participants decided to study, with sixty percent choosing one of the more enjoyable activities. Giving students two good alternatives to studying made them less likely to choose either alternative (Redelmeier and Shafir 1995).

In trying to get people to do something positive, we’re often tempted to give them an array of choices based on the idea that the more choices they have, the more likely they’ll find one of them acceptable. Environmental campaigners might provide a list of twenty-five different things a person can do to help protect the planet. Gay rights groups might create a similar list of actions people can take to promote equality. Health organizations might create a long list of foods rich in vitamins and minerals that should be part of a healthy diet. The research suggests that these groups would be more successful if they focused instead on promoting a few key actions.

Activists should also be aware that there is a big difference between education meant to stimulate thought and education meant to stimulate action. There are many shades of grey to every issue, and the more we think about an issue the more complexities we will see. If we are a college professor and our goal is to hone our students’ critical thinking abilities, then ongoing discussion that examines every aspect of an issue is a good thing. But if we as activists are trying to educate people in order to motivate them to do something, then our communications need to simplify the issue and call for clear, specific action. We need to eliminate distractions and narrow options.

We will feature more excerpts soon. In the meantime, you can read more on the book’s website.

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #25

Thomas Jefferson's

Week 24

I am a warrior, that my son may be a merchant — and his son, a poet. ~ Thomas Jefferson

The Founding Fathers (and Mothers) risked it all – their property, their status, and their very lives – for the sake of honor, duty, and radical ideas about human dignity and freedom. Jefferson reminds us of his abiding concern for future generations, a sentiment shared by many environmentalists and social justice activists in our time. The term, “seventh generation,” has been adopted by some environmentalists from the Iroquois Confederacy, who came to decisions through careful consideration in context of both ancestors and descendents. Interestingly, we are now the seventh generation after Mr. Jefferson. This week, how can your actions demonstrate concern for future generations?

More: Read John Mohawk’s moving essay about the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) approach to peacemaking.

Bonus #1: Read about seventh generation sustainability and the Great Law.

Bonus #2: Thom Hartmann has written many evocative books, including one called “What Would Jefferson Do?”

Read the Weekly Green from Week 24 here.

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We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you? Leave a comment.

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #24

photo by: Julie

Week 24

Barn’s burnt down. Now I can see the moon.  ~ Masahide

When something unexpected or devastating happens, my first reaction is often to reject it, push it away, or otherwise obsess over it. I might question, fix, analyze, or otherwise seek to minimize the blow. Thinking it’s my fault or something I could have prevented mistakenly puts me at the center in an unrealistically black-and-white world. This week, can you open to a wider view and see a setback as a gift that is simply not yet fully understood?

More: Poets and artists have the gift of vision that allows them to see beauty in the midst of challenge. View the “350 Sky” video by Daniel Dancer. On Dancer’s website is this tagline: “Art Changes People – People Change the World.”

Read the Weekly Green from Week 23 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #23

photo by: Julie

Week 23

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. ~ E.B. White

Much as I love his humor, maybe White has set this up as a false dichotomy. What if the best way to save the world is to savor it? The play between spirit and matter is so fascinating and mysterious. Our senses are exquisitely designed to tune in to the world around us, to bring us information and temptation, moment by moment. How can savoring the world help you in your quest to save it?

More: Save or savor? We have much to give thanks for, here in North America. This brief video puts it all in hauntingly beautiful perspective.

Read the Weekly Green from Week 22 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?

A film about solutions: Harmony

Prince Charles has a fantastic platform from which to deliver this message: I don’t want my future generations to ask, if you knew what was going on, why the hell didn’t you do something about it? If mankind had the cleverness and power to bring the earth’s ecosystems to the brink of failure, we certainly have the ability to bring them back.

This film, Harmony will air on NBC Friday, Nov. 19 at 10:00 p.m. / 9:00 Central. This preview seems to promise a film about solutions, rather than just more hand-wringing about the state of things. Would love to hear your thoughts if you watch it. Meet you back here after Friday night.

Are you asking powerful questions?

Photo by: Julie
Recently, I’ve spoken with several organizations that want to green their operations. There are many good reasons for pursuing this. Of course, efficiency in energy and material use is financially beneficial. A green perspective also unleashes hidden cultural potential. Shared meaning, care for the earth and future generations, and re-connecting with nature are just a few of the sometimes-overlooked benefits. Not to mention increased media exposure, since walking your talk gives you a standout position in your market.

While all this possibility swirls around, it can be a daunting to bring it to a landing and find what truly fits your organization and culture. I have helped several organizations make this transition from a wide, sometimes vague, field of possibility to a clear vision and specific plan of action. Along the way, we engaged interested parties, transforming them from onlookers – even naysayers – to active participants.

Powerful questions are an important tool in this work. There’s a wonderful story on the Towards2060 website that reveals this truth:

An answer is always the part of the road that is behind you. Only questions point to the future.

What do I mean by “powerful questions?” Consider three types of questions that correspond to three purposes of inquiry:

  • To focus attention
  • To connect ideas and find deeper insight
  • To create forward movement

When the purpose is more accurately identified, the questions can be crafted intentionally. This is both more efficient and much more likely to engage people in a lively and productive conversation. Open questions and well-structured brainstorming allows the group to:

  • Create a climate of discovery
  • Suspend premature judgment and premature action
  • Check underlying assumptions and explore beliefs
  • Listen for connections between ideas
  • Encourage diverse perspectives

Here are some examples of powerful questions, related to a project that involves not only extensive building renovations, but also a look at mission and operations.

• What’s important to us about green building; why do we care?

• What opportunities can we see in doing a green renovation?

• What do we know so far and what do we still need to learn about it?

• What assumptions do we need to test or challenge here in thinking about a green renovation?

• If success was completely guaranteed, what bold steps might we choose?

• What challenges might come our way and how might we meet them?

[Note: resource for powerful questions]

It gives us great joy to craft questions like this and to lead discussions that help organizations move forward powerfully on a green mission. Let us know how we can help you.

The Weekly Green: Juice for the Journey #22

photo of LEAFHouse team, 2007, by: Julie

Week 22

We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

How refreshing! The future is not something we passively live into, based on past patterns or trends. The future is something we create. If we aren’t happy with the current state of things, we can choose to examine our underlying assumptions and beliefs. Every single human system on earth is created out of nothing but the stories we tell ourselves about the meaning of life, our relationships with each other and the planet, and our capacities for good or evil. This week: can you identify a limiting belief that keeps you from designing a future that you are fully excited about?

Related quote: “The best way to predict the future is to create it” ~ Peter F. Drucker

More:The Awakening the Dreamer symposium provides excellent background and lays the foundation for this work.

Read the Weekly Green from Week 21 here.

We always love to hear from you! How juicy is this quote for you?