Sustainability in the Shenandoah Valley and Beyond – Interview with Chris Cain

Ciao lovelies! Today is the second-to-last day of Sustainability Month on OFT, and for today I have for you all an interview with Chris Cain! Chris Cain was my Sustainability in Business professor. She is also the former director of the Staunton Innovation Hub in downtown Staunton, VA.

So now, on to the interview.

    How would you describe yourself and your connection to the world of sustainability?

 I try to live my life with all three aspects of the of Sustainability in mind: people, planet and profit. For most of my professional life, I have helped people out of poverty by helping them grow businesses. As I have said in class, I think it is important to make people a priority, not just environmental impact. In my personal life, we live in a 700 square foot house, have one car, try to buy zero plastics and shop with companies that reflect my values. Having said that, it is virtually impossible to do that 100%.


    How would you define sustainability in your own words?

 For me, it all about conscience capitalism. Sustainability is a framework to make educated choices on how we make and spend our money.


    I’ve heard recently that Staunton is eliminating glass and plastic recycling, could you explain this issue further?

 I don't know much more than you do. I do know that downtown town business owners are furious.  I spoke with Mayor Dull and she is confident that we will come to a solution pretty soon. The leaders of Shenandoah Sustainability are working on a proposal for the City to ban plastics. We will see.


    Are there any movements that you know of locally or efforts being made locally to change this decision about glass and plastic recycling?

As noted above, Shenandoah Sustainability and the leaders in Earth Day Staunton are working on some strategies with the City.


    Could you tell us a little about the Staunton Innovation Hub and its impact on local sustainability?

 To date, not much. We are in Phase 1 of the project. We recycle and will be a B Corp company. One of the most sustainable things we have done is given new life to a run down building in Staunton. I know they will try to be LEED certified.


    What aspect of sustainability do you think Staunton and cities like Staunton should focus on the most? 


The most pressing 2 most pressing concerns are 1) incentivize the reduction of the plastics 2) implement a living wage.


    How do you think local sustainability efforts in Staunton affect sustainability on a global scale?

If Staunton can come up with a solution for the plastics problem in a reasonable amount of time, it could be used as a model for other cities to implement.


    What do you think small businesses in Staunton and other cities could be doing better in terms of sustainability?

Pay a living wage and reduce waste.


    What can the average person do to impact local sustainability?

2 things: buy less stuff and educate yourself about what you buy. This is inconvenient and takes time, but if everyone did it our world would be a very different place


    What can the average person do to impact global sustainability?

Same as above


    Do you have any “big takeaways” that you’d like people to keep in mind regarding sustainability?

Don't forget about the people part. We get so wrapped up in the "green" aspects of sustainability. We need to refocus on the things that make the quality of life for people better. We need to pay people better, keep them safe and healthy, and encourage them to engage in social/civic discourse.

    Thank you so much for your time! 


Thank you for reading! See you on Monday for the last day of Sustainability Month on OFT! And thank you again to Chris Cain for answering these questions!

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Thanks again for reading, stay awesome, remember to love yourself, and I’ll see you in our next post!