Finding out what’s important at the Rocky Mountain Institute
This is a guest post by my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell’s ReGeneration.org, where this post originally appeared.
OK, so maybe that isn’t an accurate account of what Sarah and I did during our visit at the Rocky Mountain Institute, but believe it or not, it still applies to what we learned there.
Nestled amidst the golden autumn alpines and fragrant spruce trees of Colorado’s picturesque Rocky Mountains in Snowmass, the Rocky Mountain Institute was founded in 1982 by resource analysts Amory and Hunter Lovins as a research and consulting agency devoted to ensuring that the planet we leave to our children is better than the one we inherited. They have a special focus on energy efficiency and are seen as pioneers and leaders in that field.
Originally staffed by only a handful of devoted forward-thinking scholars and experts, the Institute had humble beginnings in a small green trailer near Amory’s home. It didn’t take long for policymakers, organizations, and businesses alike to see the value of RMI’s work in helping them run more efficiently while saving them a bundle in the long run on energy and operational costs.
Lionel Bony, director of the office of the chief scientist, spoke to us about RMI’s mission, as well as a few of the projects they currently have in the works. Here are a few of the highlights of our conversation with him.
RMI is not about pie-in-the-sky ideas and theories. It’s about real solutions that can be implemented today. Hence the “cold beer and hot showers.” RMI’s Mobility/Vehicle Efficiency (MOVE) Vice President Michael Brylawski can explain this correlation far better than I could. He also touches on all the good work the MOVE practice is doing in the video below.
The Institute is also very engaged in formulating solutions to the environmental challenges brought on by the growth of cities. We had a chance to talk one of RMI’s original members, Michael Kinsley, a senior consultant for their sustainable cities and campuses practice.
The global environmental movement has grown tremendously since those days in the little green trailer, and the Rocky Mountain Institute has grown right along with it. Once a project of passion for a few concerned thinkers, the Institute now has a staff of almost 100, and this has presented some new challenges.
As the green movement grows rapidly, how can RMI stay in front of the conversation and avoid losing relevance amidst all the new voices contributing to the environmental discussion today? To this end, the Institute hired Llewellyn Wells, whose previous work in the entertainment industry (as one of the original producers of the Emmy-winning series The West Wing, among other projects) has given him rare insight into the best ways to present your message to the rest of the world.
Clearly this is a good problem for the Institute to have, and from what we saw there, they will maintain their position as a respected leader of the movement for some time to come.
When you have time, check out their website. It has tons of great information about what they are doing today and what they hope to accomplish in the future.
But first, a cold beer and a hot shower.