Dry sunflower seed heads

Sustainability Is More Than “Being Green”

Like many of us, I have found a few silver linings in the isolation and disruption of the last 22 months. As my calendar cleared in March 2020 and the chronic busyness of self-employment settled into new, simpler patterns, I found myself with more time to think about priorities and purpose. This reset of sorts allowed me the space to tweak the direction of my business, but also to re-examine my values and put deeper thought into how to align my self-employed path with them.

At the mid-career stage I’m in, I have for a while now been privileged to be somewhat choosy with what work I take on and to focus on clients and projects that I care about. I’m incredibly thankful for this and part of me says, “This is enough.” Being able to do work that I care about as my career has always been my goal, and here I am doing it.

BUT. I look at the trends around me — widening wealth disparities, racial injustice, attacks on democracy, climate catastrophe and more — and feel compelled to take action. And the type of action that’s called for goes beyond what my microbusiness can do — especially considering I’m still early in my learning curve on these issues. It feels imperative to join forces with others similarly situated (i.e. business owners and self-employed folks) to continue learning and maximize our impact for change.

These are the feelings that led me to reach out and start talking with my network about sustainability. One of these conversations, with Eric Griego, led to the formation of SEED NM.

In early 2021, Eric and I connected upon the notion that in the context of business and economic development, “sustainability” means more than supporting “green” industries, and more than fighting for eco-friendly regulations. It also means supporting businesses that value their workers and communities. We noticed that the current entrepreneurial ecosystems in New Mexico needed a space for these kinds of businesses to connect, learn from each other and build their strength, both individually and collectively.

Right away Eric brought into our conversation a network of other brilliant folks who have been working on related goals — public banking, cooperative ownership, energy efficiency, equitable community wealth-building and more — and we started meeting regularly to advance this discussion of how to build support for community-oriented businesses.

It’s always humbling to start a new venture because almost always, there are others who have invested significant efforts within that space. We at SEED NM definitely recognize this within the realm of sustainability-oriented groups in New Mexico, and our goal is to amplify their work and help build collective power. What we hope to add to the mix is the following:

  • We aim to build a network of small businesses who can learn from and share resources with each other about sustainability, including learning how to incorporate sustainability best practices within a business, as well as advocating for policies that support sustainability throughout the economy.
  • We define “sustainable” in the context of economic development as an economy that values workers, strengthens communities, and protects the planet. A sustainable economy is one that is regenerative, not extractive.

How can you, a community-minded small business owner, be involved? In a nutshell, SEED NM will need your input and engagement to inform and support our work, which will focus on advocating for policies at the state and local level to support the type of businesses you represent. By sharing your needs and experiences with us, we’ll be able to target our efforts on policies that promise real impact — for example, advocating for a public bank that will improve equitable access to capital.

We are just starting our work and invite you to join us. For now, this means signing up for our email list (use the form at the bottom of this page) so we can keep you updated as we develop Working Circles and eventually a membership structure. Besides joining our email list, we invite you to contact us using our contact form (also below) to share ideas or specific questions about working with us.

We are hosting a Virtual Policy Symposium on Friday, January 14, 2022 to advance the conversation about sustainable economic development in New Mexico. The event is free but you must register. We also invite small businesses in New Mexico to take our survey to share with us your perspectives and interests related to sustainability.

I’m incredibly excited to see where 2022 takes us. I hope to engage with you to share advice and resources on running our businesses in line with our values, and to help shape the economic landscape in New Mexico towards a more sustainable, equitable future.

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