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Sue Amar, EcoTuesday ambassador Jesse Martinez, and EcoTuesday co-founder Nikki Pava

At a recent EcoTuesday gathering in San Francisco, Sue Amar, Sustainability Officer at salesforce.com, referenced what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “law of the few” (aka the 80/20 principle), according to which 20% of the people will bring about 80% of the changes in the world. She’s a prime example of this herself, having single-handedly started a robust sustainability program at salesforce.com.

While many companies have recently embraced sustainability — even Walmart! — Sue explained how salesforce.com, with their commitment to the cloud, goes beyond the usual efforts to green the supply chain, travel, facilities, and other such areas. But beware: You may think you’re already using the cloud, but not all clouds are created equal! The salesforce.com sustainability site delineates the differences:

  • On-premises cloud: Onsite hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • Private (or “false”) cloud: A cloud that’s housed in a data center, uses virtualization technology, or is hosted — and still requires hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • 100% cloud: A cloud that uses “multitenant architecture” to allow sharing and economies of scale — using a small number of servers that are optimized to do as much as possible. This cloud has the benefit of being 64% more efficient than the private cloud and 95% more efficient than an on-premises cloud.

This kind of focus has made salesforce.com a leader in sustainability among high-tech companies. And their commitment to sustainability has been solidified and advanced by one employee, Sue, who started their sustainability program as a volunteer (in addition to doing her regular job) and now leads the effort full-time.

A section of the audience at EcoTuesday

EcoTuesday itself is another excellent example of the power of one or two people. Just a few years ago, the this networking group for sustainability professionals didn’t exist. Now, thanks to its two founders, Nikki Pava and Oren Jaffe, it’s spread to cities throughout the U.S and is providing a wonderful and inspiring venue to learn about what people like Sue Amar are doing.

This latest EcoTuesday gathering has inspired me to look into how I can help promote sustainability at my own workplace. Although Adobe is already strong in this area, I know there’s always more that can be done.

Every EcoTuesday evening I’ve attended has been similarly inspiring. I’ve met others working on sustainability and learned about all kinds of green resources and ideas.

Over a year ago, Erica Mackie spoke at EcoTuesday about GRID Alternatives, a local nonprofit she co-founded that provides solar to low-income families. Since then, I’ve volunteered at their Solarthon and convinced my employer to sponsor them. Not only that — a good friend of mine learned about the organization from me and is now working for them. If I hadn’t heard about GRID at EcoTuesday, perhaps she wouldn’t have thought to apply for the job, and they’d be out a great employee. But wait — there’s more! GRID was started by just two people who wanted to make a difference and saw a need that they could fill. They started small, but 10 years later, they’re growing by leaps and bounds. They’ve installed solar systems for over 1,000 families, preventing over 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

This shows what the vision of one or two people can create. Though we all rely on others and we need to work together to achieve our sustainability goals, each one of us can do a lot. Any of us who worry that we can’t make a meaningful difference should look at what people like Nikki Pava, Erica Mackie, and Sue Amar have done. That should be enough to restore our faith in the power of one.

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