The Sustainable Living Collaborative: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

The following letter is a draft, an exploration of a possible new organization, the Sustainable Living Collaborative, that does not yet exist. I’m following my own advice, and inventing something (a) that I’d love to do, (b) that I would, in partnership with the right other people, do very well, and (c) that is, IMO at least, urgently needed. Let me know what you think, and shh! please don’t tell Dr. Suzuki yet.


SLClogoDear Dr. Suzuki:

The newly-formed Sustainable Living Collaborative would like to make you aware of our four ‘Sustainability within a Generation’ programs, and invite you and the David Suzuki Foundation to partner with us. Our programs are designed to add grassroots momentum to your Foundation’s Sustainability within a Generation initiative, and to dovetail with the eleven public policy programs outlined in David Boyd’s Sustainability within a Generation report:

  • Generate genuine wealth: Expand the narrow goal of economic growth to the triple-net objective of genuine wealth and well-being (ecology, economy, and equity).
  • Improve production eco-effectiveness: Increase the effectiveness of energy and resource use by a factor of four to 10 times.
  • Shift to clean energy: Replace fossil fuels with clean, low-impact renewable sources of energy.
  • Reduce waste and pollution: Move from a linear ìthrow-awayî economy to a cyclical ìcradle-to-cradleî economy.
  • Protect and conserve water: Recognize and respect the value of water in our laws, policies, and actions.
  • Produce healthy food: Ensure food is healthy, and produced in ways that do not compromise our land, water, or biodiversity.
  • Conserve, protect and restore nature: Take effective steps to stop the decline of biodiversity and revive the health of ecosystems.
  • Build sustainable cities: End urban sprawl in order to protect agricultural land and wild places, and improve our quality of life.
  • Promote global sustainability: Increase affluent nations’ contribution to sustainable development in poor countries.
  • Introduce fiscal reforms: Shift taxes to promote sustainable and to discourage unsustainable production and consumption, and eliminate perverse subsidies that enable unsustainable business practices to be hugely profitable and which discourage innovation and inhibit competition from small enterprises.
  • Respect all life on Earth: Institute and change laws and regulations to respect all life on our planet as sacred, not treat it as mere human ‘property’.

As your Foundation drives sustainability for Canada at a macro-economic, top-down level through these eleven programs, the Sustainable Living Collaborative will be driving sustainability at a micro-economic, bottom-up level, identifying personal actions that reinforce and support these eleven programs, and providing many more answers to the questions What can we, as individual Canadians, do to promote Sustainability within a Generation?

Our four programs are:

  • The sustainability information exchange: A social network which will allow all citizens to learn about, actively engage in discussion, and create personal and collective action plans to help achieve sustainability within a generation. It will enable citizens to virally communicate information about and support responsible, sustainable, local suppliers, organize against and boycott irresponsible, unsustainable companies, identify unmet needs to inspire new sustainable enterprises, and monitor how governments and public sector organizations are performing in enabling and encouraging sustainability.
  • The sustainable enterprise training and certification program: Self-study, community-based programs that will show citizens, through visits to sustainable enterprises and communities, how sustainability can work, and how to find business partners and establish and operate sustainable ‘natural enterprises‘. It will also develop a method of assessing and certifying businesses as sustainable.
  • Personal sustainable living programs: Programs, and supporting networks and tools, that will encourage and enable individual citizens to live a life of radical simplicity: how to use less stuff, reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse (to buy what’s not needed and not well and responsibly made), appreciate the virtues of a single-child family, relearn how to imagine and to trust our instincts, learn to become less dependent and more self-sufficient, become a vegetarian or vegan, find (or become) a role model of sustainability, and live a healthier, less stressful, more joyful life. Your Foundation’s Nature Challenge and the federal government’s One Tonne Challenge could be incorporated into these more extensive, ongoing programs.
  • The model sustainable community development program: Establishment, support and promotion of model sustainable communities, including programs to teach people (especially young people) how to organize and establish such self-sufficient communities, and give them the opportunity to visit and learn about living in communities that are wholly committed to sustainability and the well-being of all their members.

All four programs will enable, encourage, connect and help organize local, grassroots efforts to achieve sustainability from the bottom up — starting with committed individuals and families and then expanding to the ‘cellular’ level — small communities of interest, both physical and virtual, self-forming and self-sustaining, and then linking in to national and global programs and initiatives. The idea here is that each ‘cell’ develops its own customized program for sustainability — things that make a difference at ground level, things that the cell’s members are personally committed to and will help each other see through to completion — and, just as important, this program makes moving closer and closer to sustainability a way of life, a consideration in everything the cell’s members do, something that colours all their daily activities, instead of just being disjointed and temporary ‘challenges’.

Our partners bring exceptional skills in environmental economics, open source technology, research and analysis, leading-edge complex problem-solving techniques, entrepreneurship and innovation, sustainable business, intentional community formation, and social networking, organization and communication.

In our partnership with you, the Sustainable Living Collaborative is seeking the following:

  • Regular meetings with members of the Foundation working on your Sustainability within a Generation initiative, to coordinate our two organizations’ activities and to obtain your advice in running programs of this type
  • Sponsorship, endorsement and publicity for our programs
  • Assistance in obtaining funding for our programs

In return, the Sustainable Living Collaborative offers your Foundation:

  • Momentum for the Sustainability within a Generation initiative through four potentially very visible, newsworthy and participatory programs
  • Publicity for the Foundation and the Sustainability within a Generation initiative
  • Actions that ‘average’ Canadians can take to be part of the solution to sustainability within a generation
  • Skills that our partners can bring to bear on other projects of the Foundation

If you are agreeable, we would like to suggest an initial meeting be held [date & place to be determined], involving representatives of the Foundation and partners of the Collaborative, with the following objectives:

  • Discuss and explore areas of synergy between our organizations — specific ways we can further our mutual goals,
  • Decide how we should ‘brand’ and publicize the four Sustainable Living Collaborative programs for maximum exposure, and
  • If both organizations agree it is appropriate, draft an agreement setting out proposed areas of collaboration, support and joint activity.

[closing to come]


I have identified twelve individuals (only some of whom I know personally, and none of whom I have spoken to about this) who I think would collectively bring most of the varied skills and knowledge promised above to the four Sustainable Living Collaborative programs. If they, and you, think this idea is viable, I will then propose a Formation Meeting, using Open Space invitation and organization methods, probably in Vancouver next month. I hope this isn’t boring to non-Canadians — it may make sense to set up a whole network of national Sustainable Living Collaboratives around the world (the principles shouldn’t be that different from country to country), but for now we need to walk before we run. If you are interested in launching one simultaneously in your country, pleasekeep in touch and we’ll coordinate our activities.

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10 Responses to The Sustainable Living Collaborative: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

  1. etbnc says:

    Since this is a direct follow-up to Dave’s earlier post, perhaps regular readers have no more to add…? Or perhaps the conversation is occurring via email…At any rate, I suspect we’ll read more about this project as it evolves.

  2. patrick says:

    i’ve been reading over the site for a while now and keep coming across your idea that everyone should become veggie or vegan. while i am vegetarion myself and encourage others to think about their food choices, i don’t think that everyone has to be vegetarian. if for moral reasons, why value animals over plants and if for environmental reasons, why not eat local organic meat that was fairly treated (if everyone went veggie and thus all farms switched to veggie production, we would see a huge rise in world food production and our population would likely follow)? i’m interested to know your train of thought on the subject

  3. Wow, very inspiring thoughts you have good sir. I stumbled upon your site today, and I am very impressed. I enjoy the few articles of yours I have read in the last hour and I look forward to more about your potential partnership and expansion of the SLC. You are truly a captain worth following. I believe you are on the right track and that people (CANADIANS) are truly waiting for something inspiring like this. You explain everything so clear and thought out, with amazing ideas. I thank you for your enlightening opinion and innitiative. Its refreshing to see this passion for non-capitalist reasons. I have always thought that our society has to hit rock bottom before we change, or innitiate change. Trial and error system, learning from mistakes. My fear is that we do not change once this “FINAL OPPORTUNITY” presents itself whatever it may be. Just shrugging it off in a week, or month like our “gym memberships” and “fad of the week.”Im glad to be in an environment daily (post secondary institution [not university] that commends and encourages free thinking in non biased opinions).My teacher is very intelligent and has a typical “internet” mentality of “learning obsessive”.I once again commend you, and encourage your passionate dedication. I would also like to see an email newsletter or something once you have a bit more information. If this is something that comes about, I will be right behind you (LEADING ENCOURAGING AND EDUCATING) in my home and community.-21 year old from SK

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve responded off-line to Patrick.

  5. steve black says:

    As a future Director of SLC I would like to thank you for establishing this organisation. It has been wonderful to read the inspiring ideas that will eventually be the foundation of my daily work. You also have to engage Tim Flannery who Australia will be putting up as the guy we need to lead us from this mess. Your three party (Pollard, Suzuki, Flannery) talks at Bonos house (UN SG) will become a thing of legend. From grass roots only grass can grow. You and yours(ours?) are surely great oaks and red gums that inspire and provide a stunning view. My thanks, :)

  6. says:

    Nice article here, if only everyone was serious about saving the world.

  7. eric says:

    I appreciate your effort and the idea. However, i fear that too few people will actually participate to make a real difference. keep on trying though!

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  9. Great article keep up the good work.

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