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Article | December 4, 2019

The Art of Storytelling

As a leader in sustainable building, we focus on reducing the environmental impacts of design and construction. And just as important is how we communicate…

USGBC launched the Living Standard campaign in Spring 2019 in an effort to change the way we approach sustainability conversations – beyond materials, construction, and efficiency – and connect to people. The Living Standard encourages the use of storytelling to emphasize the personal impact of environmental threats and climate risks and how they relate to the building industry. When we frame sustainability through stories and connect to more intimate areas of our lives – such as our loved ones or personal health – the impact can quickly multiply through the connection it creates.

The Living Standard offers a Toolkit that outlines six methods to reshape our conversations and increase the effectiveness of the communication:
1. frame the issue,
2. be concise,
3. use key messages,
4. offer a call to action,
5. be strategic with your words,
6. and use images.

Many stories are linked to environmental threats such as natural disasters – a number of which are right in our backyard and affect our health, family, and friends. In Northern California, we have experienced devastating wildfires over the past three years, which have decimated communities and created unhealthy air events across the state. By connecting local experiences to the global issue of climate change and climate risk, we can present the issue in a more relatable manner. While recognizing that real challenges are facing our environment and our world today, we can shift our way of addressing the challenges and connect through local storytelling.

“Stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone.” 

Halie Colbourne, Sustainability Associate, BCCI Construction

BCCI Sustainability Associate and Co-Chair of the USGBC’s Northern California Rising Leaders committee Halie Colbourne recently hosted a sold-out Rising Leaders event about the power of storytelling – how you can make complex topics more relatable, and more importantly, impactful.

Many manufacturers focus on storytelling to market their products. An example of this is Humanscale’s Smart Ocean task chair, which is a sustainable edition of their well-known Diffrient Smart Chair and is comprised of recycled nylon pellets, which were once recycled fishing nets. The company partnered with Bureo, a firm that works with fishermen along the Chilean coast to collect and recycle end-of-life fishing nets. The nets are then converted into new, responsible products such as the Smart Ocean chair. Humanscale’s customers have the opportunity to purchase a reputable, quality task chair while simultaneously taking a stance on ocean plastic pollution prevention. Many customers are driven to support products with inspirational stories and a net-positive impact, such as Humanscale’s, because they can make a meaningful environmental impact while still fulfilling their product needs.

USGBC’s LEED certification also supports the importance of storytelling through the LEED Innovation: Green Building Education credit. This credit encourages projects to highlight their sustainability narrative through a signage program, a case study, or a guided tour. Since most LEED credits are highly technical, our team helps craft client’s stories through an educational lens, making their sustainability journey approachable while showcasing the value of their hard work.

Through our expansive library of project case studies, we utilize storytelling to inspire clients, projects, and teams so that they may choose to prioritize sustainability and build more sustainably. Many of Bay Area companies are energized to pursue and pioneer innovative green building practices. And often, they are excited to share their journey with employees and industry peers, establishing an important story of sustainability through benchmarking, innovation, and market trends.

If you want to learn more about USGBC’s Living Standard campaign, check out our blog summary from this year’s annual regional GreenerBuilder conference.

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