The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

by Katherine Richards


Marines, 1983-1989

Trying to encapsulate what exactly sets the Sustainability Institute apart from other organizations seems simple yet indescribable. In a single moment, experienced and expressed by Corps member Ken, the essence of the Sustainability Institute comes to life.

After his years of service in the Marines, from 1983 to 1989, Ken transitioned into a few different jobs upon return. He worked for a computer company, in a management position, retail, and security until through the Veteran’s Association he discovered the Sustainability Institute. Thus far, Ken has been able to experience and learn about weatherization, energy conservation, and teamwork. What he values the most, however, is the relationship between corps member and homeowner that exists on a personal level. At the heart of what makes the Sustainability Institute so unique, this relationship, as described by Ken, is one that is “mutually beneficial”. Instead of the typical repair man/woman sent from a generic, corporate-sized organization to simply “get in and get out”, the Sustainability Institute functions through a interdependent program that engages both parties. On a microscale, this process bears a great deal of similarities to the process of development on a global scale. Sustainability Institute’s approach embodies the essence of the old saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. One of the biggest flaws with the “get in and get out” approach is that it usually yields only a short term solution. Furthermore, not only are Corps members at SI trained in how to weatherize a house, they are educated on why it’s important and what purpose it serves. Thus, the Corps members are prepared to keep homeowners engaged in the process, informing them on what they are doing and why. This way, if an issue were to arise in the future, homeowners would be equipped with the knowledge they need to solve the problem and sustain the solution.

Now, here is that moment you’ve all been waiting for. Ken recalls, “there was one day where I didn’t show up to work because I was sick. When I returned the next day, the homeowner asked how I was feeling, which means that he noticed I wasn’t at the house that day.” The fact that the homeowner realized Ken wasn’t on site one day illustrates a perfect example of what exactly sets the Sustainability Institute uniquely apart; personal connection. It should come as no surprise that this part of working with the VCC is the one Ken values most because he is a firm believer in the importance of sustaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit. With a history as a bodybuilder, he has first-hand experience of how critical it is to maintain one’s health. Connecting with another individual may seem insignificant in the vast and complex scheme of the human body, but sustaining a personal connection can be tremendously impactful to the human spirit. Thus, for a single moment, the heart of the Sustainability Institute is exposed. By building sustainable homes, SI is in turn building sustainable lives.

About krichards
Katherine Westmoreland Richards holds a dual-degree for International Business and Management and published an acclaimed research thesis on energy in the Netherlands. Katherine's passion for energy continued as she worked in Ecuador to help create sustainable business solutions for a reserve in the rainforest. Katherine now works on development at The Sustainability Institute and uses her experience and passion to continue to develop a sustainable Charleston.