Incorporating LEED Into Your Community

Last Updated:
Fri, 2018-04-20 11:51

Do you have a passion for sustainability? Have you heard of LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards apply to high-performance “green” buildings and make up the basis for LEED Certification. LEED Certification offers verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at reducing energy and water usage, promoting better indoor air quality, and improving quality of life.

Professionals working in the green construction industry often pursue LEED Accreditation – that is, demonstrating an understanding of the LEED standards by passing an exam and then publicizing their proficiency with a LEED credential, such as LEED Green Associate.

If you’re brand new to LEED and have an interest in sustainability…

  • there is a way for you to get involved TODAY with little upfront cost

If you have earned your LEED Accreditation…

  • there is a way for you to actively promote sustainability in your community

Although LEED is an internationally recognized certification program, part of its success can be attributed to the regional, multi-level activism demonstrated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Chapters program.

In plain terms, the USGBC encourages individuals to share their passion for sustainability and green building in ways other than just passing the LEED exams. It would be short-sighted and naïve to believe that the growth of the green building industry could be attributed solely to professionals passing an exam and a margin of those professionals working on LEED projects. While this certainly helps support the LEED program and encourage the growth of green building, the USGBC supplements these activities with a more far-reaching strategy: Regional USGBC Chapters.

USGBC Member logoThe USGBC is headquartered in Washington, DC. The team spreads its message about LEED via a network of regional chapters. USGBC chapters are open to all individuals, regardless of whether they have passed a LEED exam or have worked on a LEED project. The USGBC chapter’s purpose is to educate communities on the benefits of sustainable building and provide an opportunity for all individuals to take part in the industry.

What is a USGBC Chapter?

The USGBC keeps an actively engaged network via regional USGBC chapter organizations. Joining a local USGBC chapter offers many opportunities to promote USGBC’s mission at a grassroots level and work toward transforming the built environment through tangible efforts. Chapter membership offers opportunities for local involvement, networking, and events. Local chapter membership is available to individuals, and I make this distinction because there can also be membership at a national level. The benefits of national and chapter membership are distinct, and they are an excellent complement to one another.

Difference Between Chapter Membership and National Membership

Individuals are members of Chapters.

Chapter membership allows any individual to participate in the chapter and take advantage of local chapter benefits. It also allows individuals to get involved in their community and support local green building efforts. Chapter membership entitles you to discounts on Chapter-led workshops and events but does not entitle members to discounts on USGBC publications.

USGBC’s Emerging Professionals program provides opportunities for young professionals (under 30) to lead, take action, and meet new people within their chapter. Qualified individuals can benefit from reduced rates on chapter membership.

USGBC Emerging Professionals image

Organizations are members of USGBC National.

USGBC National Membership is for corporations or organizations, and all full-time employees of national member companies may utilize their company’s national member benefits and are encouraged to join their local USGBC chapters at a discounted price.

Employees of USGBC National Member companies get discounts on USGBC publications and the LEED exams.

Benefits of Joining a USGBC Chapter

As a Chapter member, you can:

  • Connect with green building peers within your community
  • Strengthen your leadership and management skills
  • Access USGBC resources
  • Make an immediate and measurable difference in your community, while contributing to the larger green building movement

Because the USGBC is a non-profit organization, it relies heavily on its membership to keep the vision alive. There are many volunteer opportunities for USGBC chapter members. These activities can take the shape of volunteering one’s time to assist at an event, to organize chapter events, to recruit new members or organizational sponsors, etc.

USGBC Chapter networking image

Three specific opportunities stand out in my mind when I reflect on my membership with USGBC North Carolina.

  • Emerging Professionals Creek Cleanup – One afternoon after work, a group of USGBC-NC Emerging Professionals took to Little Sugar Creek in Charlotte, NC to collect litter and remove trash. I’m not particularly an outdoorsy person, but I really enjoyed this event. Not only was it a fun bonding experience with like-minded peers, but it felt very satisfying to see our contribution at work. We paused after two hours and took a picture with all of the trash collected. There were 5+ trash bags filled up, and it’s an amazing feeling to know that you were one of the people who helped remove that trash from the natural environment. Read more about the event here.
  • USGBC-NC Marketing Committee – After a positive experience with the Emerging Professionals group, I wanted to take my involvement to the next level, so I joined the USGBC-NC Marketing Committee. This committee is charged with producing brochures and flyers about the benefits of sustainability and LEED. Given that I already spend much of my time discussing LEED at Everblue, I felt that this committee would offer a natural extension to my current responsibilities. One of our recent projects was to redesign and revise some of the literature that gets distributed at USGBC-NC events. We delegated tasks impressively well – one person responsible for text, one for editing, and one for design. Although this effort did not offer hands-on green building work (like the Creek Cleanup), we were contributing to the industry on another level with our marketing skills. Every little bit helps!
  • USGBC-NC Green Gala – The Green Gala is a sustainable business awards and fundraising event that boasts power networking, fine dining, and dancing. When I went, I got to meet Emily Scofield, the USGBC-NC Executive Director. She’s very friendly and such a champion for green building. She recently wrote a children’s book about sustainability to help educate and excite kids early in life. It was at the Green Gala that Everblue won the Fearless Leader award, which was also very satisfying. It was a pretty humbling experience to be in the presence of so many sustainability professionals in our region. Such great networking to be had.

USGBC NC Green Gala pic

As you can see, there are opportunities close by to demonstrate your passion for sustainability. Joining a USGBC chapter can be a solid introduction to the sustainability industry and the important players.

LEED at Every Level

I noted earlier in this post that the USGBC has been successful with encouraging sustainability activism at several levels. We’ve discussed that…

  • Organizations can become USGBC National Members
  • Individuals can become members of their regional USGBC Chapter
  • Individuals can become Emerging Professionals within their USGBC Chapter
  • Individuals can join committees, or volunteer, within their USGBC Chapter

There’s even a level for college students who want to get a jumpstart on their careers and stand out from other graduates in their field.

The USGBC Students program is a way for young leaders to come together and participate in hands-on green building experiences on their own college campuses.

USGBC Students receive:

  • Discounts on chapter membership and admission to events, including Greenbuild
  • Complimentary or discounted access to many LEED education materials
  • Access to a network of local professionals and opportunities to engage in national programs and events, such as Campus Conservation Nationals
  • Discounts on the LEED exams

In conclusion, if you’re reading this post, you’ve got enough interest in sustainability and green building that you should consider joining your local USGBC chapter. You can find a chapter on USGBC’s website.

USGBC Emerging Professionals pic

Everblue is happy to support USGBC chapters with training partnerships. With these partnerships, we offer special dates and/or pricing for USGBC chapter members. We’re currently partnered with the following chapters: Delaware Valley, Florida, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Missouri, and North Carolina. If you belong to any of these chapters and want LEED training discounts, please contact your local USGBC Executive Director and ask for the members-only coupon code.