Curtis Dorosh: Green living, building, and volunteering

Curtis Dorosh

We are happy this week to present our readers with an interview that we conducted with Curtis Dorosh. He is an expert in green building construction and living green.

We believe he is also an excellent role model for those who want to help create a better society. We also believe that he demonstrates quality of thought and action that we would like to see more in the public service.

The following short biography was written by Curtis himself. Below the biography you can see the complete interview.

Curtis Dorosh has been a member of the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) for three years, and a board member for the past two and a half years. His love for our planet was inspired by an upbringing where his hands were often found in the earth. Whether composting, gardening, or preparing his own food with his family, Curtis was constantly connecting himself to the natural environment.

It’s an upbringing that has formed and shaped him into someone who gets involved and isn’t deterred by a big challenge. He has been heavily involved in the Building Saskatchewan Green movement and conference for the past six years. This year he is leading the conference committee. Wanting to fill one summer with adventure, he and his girlfriend rode a tandem bicycle across our nation.

Curtis has a busy career with Government Services where he works on Sustainability and Energy Management programs – moving government in a greener direction through its buildings, vehicles, purchasing, behaviour and operation. Somehow he has also found the energy to take his LEED AP and LEED NC instructor training while still managing his time in a way that allows him to feed an addiction to kiteboarding. He is full of energy and makes sure nobody gets bored at a board meeting.

When asked to describe the philosophy he lives his life by, he admits Mavis Leyrer described it precisely when she said, “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘WOO HOO – What a Ride!’

Another of Curtis’ favourite quotes is: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Curtis keeps a blog at: Why Is All I Ever Want Is More.

We contacted you for this interview because we know that you have been involved in sustainable building design and ecological innovation on the prairies. Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience in this area?

Education

UofR environmental systems engineering.  I spent one of my workterms planning the 3rd annual Building Saskatchewan Green Conference, where I learned about rammed earth homes (that I had a chance to tour this summer) and other unique green building techniques and things that were happening across Canada.

I started my Master’s degree in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University in January 2010.  This has been an absolute mind boggling experience for me.  Meeting and interacting with 50 plus environmental practitioners, engineers and non-engineers, from across the country who work in a variety of fields has been a learning dream.  The instructors are incredibly knowledgeable, the courses engaging and I come away with new thoughts, ideas and hope constantly.

As part of my studies I conducted an in depth review of the British Columbia Climate Action Plan which included interviews with public servants and a literature review of the climate file in B.C. since the Throne speech in 2007 when Gordon Campbell announced the public service would be Carbon Neutral by 2010 and also a revenue neutral carbon tax for the entire province.  This research has benefited and inspired me and is laying the groundwork for the A2A program in Saskatchewan and potentially an executive government greenhouse gas emission reduction target.

Green buildings

Buildings and Green Buildings were not covered in Environmental engineering, I also know only one of my coherts/fellow grads working in this area, I just sort of got lucky helping out with that conference and recognized this is an exciting area with lots of innovative ideas and things happening and I would like to be a part of it.  I have since started work in an Environmental Engineering position with the government of Saskatchewan and I get to work on reducing governments environmental footprint through policy, collaboration, retrofits, education and behaviour change daily.  I really enjoy it, most days!

I wrote and passed my Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) exam (hardest exam of my life) and went on to instruct the LEED course to designers, engineers and architects at SIAST Wascana.  I have been involved in 5 LEED projects to date and 10 BOMA BESt projects (Building Owners and Managers Association Best Environmental Standards for Operation) with Government Services.

I was the lead organizer of the Building Saskatchewan Green 2010 conference in Regina.  The focus this year was Green Today Greener Tomorrow and featured keynote speakers: Jerry Yudelson (who has written more books on Green Buildings than most have read, 16 at last count), ASHRAE’s incumbent president Tom Watson (exploring ways that the green building council and ASHRAE can better support each other in reducing building’s footprints) as well as so many other great speakers from Saskatchewan and out of province.  This conference is generating momentum, networks and knowledge for the green building movement in our province.

Volunteering

Roadmonkey Vietnam Expedition 2010 – I traveled to Vietnam for 3 weeks in Oct/Nov 2010 it was an unforgettable experience.  We cycled the central highlands for one week and spent the second week building a playground (I was responsible for the project management with two architects from New York and a carpenter in Vietnam – which proved to be a great learning experience coordinating materials, tools, timeline and costs through telephone, email and Skype) for an impoverished community.  This experience helped me put a face and a feeling on poverty and to understand the true importance of sustainable development.  The average ecological footprint (an indicator of how much of the planet we are using to conduct our daily lives) in Vietnam is 0.8 hectares (or less than half the planet if everyone lived like the Vietnamese) and its over 6.4 hectares in Canada (or more than 4 planets), this type of experience starts to puts things into a perspective that is difficult to obtain from behind a computer monitor.  The full report including my thoughts on the social, economic and environmental imperatives can be found here.

What initially sparked your interest in these topics?

My parents and a cross Canada Tandem bicycle trip I took during summer break from University in 2002. Here is an article about the trip published by the Carillon: U of R students cycle Canada: tandem style.

I gained respect and knowledge about the environment through my parent’s promotion of gardening, composting, recycling, bicycling, frugalness and supper time environmental and ethics discussions.  Coupled with a bike ride across Canada to bring out the passion and our somewhat different than norm taste in authors David Suzuki, Rachel Carson, William McDonough, George Monbiot, Tim Flannery, Anne Leonard, Richard Heinberg, Ronald Wright, Thomas Homer Dixon, Yvon Choinard and Dr. Seuss.

I feel like Fred Flintstone with a good and bad conscience directed by my parents and what I have read and counter balanced with the incessant wanting more (You Tube).  In his book Heat, George Monbiot argues that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change the world needs to stop flying for love and fun (Monbiot, 2007).  “It is wrong not to go to your best friend’s wedding in Cape Town and it is also wrong to go”, when considering climate morals (Monbiot Argument) (Monbiot, 2007).  This has been the conscience in my ear every time I travel along with my parents reminding me about it.  Monbiot argues that to achieve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 all the technology is available in every industry except long distance high speed travel (Monbiot, 2006).  “Climate change requires a reorientation of our moral compass” (Monbiot, 2006).  So knowing what I have been told and what feels intuitively true, to my one hundred percent intuitive (Myers Briggs Intuitives) (Wikibooks, 2006)  and ENFP (Myers Briggs ENFP) (BSM Consulting, 2010) score according to my Myers Briggs, how can I continue to fly for love and fun?

What do you think is the greatest challenge, or set of challenges, facing our society today?

Empathy! – being able to put ourselves in others shoes, caring and compassion for those around us.

Climate change and sustainable development!

The UNs eight millennium development goals!!

Also I think it depends on which side of the road or world you are on: desperate poverty, hunger, clean water in the south; laziness, obesity, wanting an unsustainable lifestyle in the north…

Also I think the gap between rich and poor is very important and needs to be reduced by good government policy and I think empathy, social norms, peer pressure and our society values will play a role too!

Why do you think these issues are so important?

Empathy will hopefully lead us to a society that cares about the little people and all the people.

Sustainable development is key to humans surviving and thriving on planet Earth.  Linking environmental, social and economic imperatives is vital if we are going to continue to move forward as a species.  I don’t think we can continue to thrive economically at the cost of environmental (habitat loss, biodiversity loss, non-renewable resources being used up, species loss) and social (sweatshops, poverty, inequality, hunger) imperatives.

We only have one planet, it is our life support or ‘home tree’ as the Naavi in Avatar would say.  Many are finding troubling signs that we are living well beyond the planets means to support us.  A few tell tale reports are included below.

  • The climate scientists are saying (IPCC) that the world is warming at an unprecedented rate and that it is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.  This will have adverse impacts on water, ecosystems, food, coasts and human health.  The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Summary for Policy Makers (International Panel on Climate Change, 2008).
  • Another potentially gloomier and easier to follow take on climate change: Wake Up Freak Out Then Get a Grip (Murray)
  • North Americans are consuming far more than our grandparents (4 times as much) and up to twenty times more than a person from India (Adbusters) (Adbusters, 2008).
  • The Ecological Foot printer’s are saying – 4.5 planets would be required to sustain us if we all live like Canadians (Wackernagel & Rees, 1996)
  • Bruce Cockburn (Cockburn, 1989) raises some interesting points:
    “Cut and move on
    Cut and move on
    Take out trees
    Take out wildlife at a rate of species every single day
    Take out people who’ve lived with this for 100,000 years –
    Inject a billion burgers worth of beef –
    Grain eaters – methane dispensers.”
  • Shania Twain (Twain, 2002) even gets it.
    “All we ever want is more
    A lot more than we had before
    So take me to the nearest store”
  • Is anybody listening to The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)?
  • A devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…
  • Major motion pictures Avatar and Wall-E trying to reach minds of all ages and ask, “what are we doing to our planet and ourselves”.
  • Over consumption of stuff, less consumption of life is not making us happier and definitely not making us better stewards of the Earth, our home tree.  (McKibben, 2007)
  • Recent work on money not being everything: “money can’t buy me love” (The Beatles, 1982).

How much awareness do you think the general public has of this issue?

I am currently conducting a survey in govt and one of its goals is to gauge govt employees current level of awareness. Also I know that the city of Saskatoon recently conducted a similar survey. I think awareness of the issues is very good, however action as we hear time and again is very bad in Canada, particularly on GHG emission reductions.

What work are you involved with that is trying to help better our society, and how successful have you been?

GS Green Strategy – aligning all ministries in GS towards a green Strategy aimed at reducing our environmental footprint (energy, water and waste from Space, Transportation and Procurement) also the intricacies of tracking, measurement and verification and at the same time preparing GS to support all other ministries in reducing their footprints through a voluntary program called Awareness to Action working to create Green Strategies in all govt ministries and reduce footprints. Success is slow but sure!

GHG reduction target for executive government, hoping executive government (all 21 ministries) will align with and adopt the provincial target 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 and report publicly on our success.

Volunteering – Habitat for Humanity (monthly), also organised a group build for our workplace and a family build for christmas with my family.

Roadmonkey – Adventure philanthropy, volunteer co-leader – details available here about Roadmonkey Ride Vietnam 2010.
Building Saskatchewan Green 2010 Conference lead organizer and a member of the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Green Building council.

What do you think is the best way for an interested member of the general public to help bring about positive change in our society?

There is no single best way but many good ways.

Do a little research/reading, determine what is important to you as an individual (pick your cause), create a plan, ask around regarding how to get involved in your cause, and then do something; get involved, donate, volunteer, focus your efforts. Share your success stories: invite your friends, tell your family members, spread the good word! Contribute and care, reassess your cause and effort, determine if your still on track, replan, repeat!!

Try to cut back to a 75% work week, you will make less money, leading to less spending, and less environmental footprint. This is not possible for everyone (ie making less than $20 / hour you probably need all those hours).

Thanks Curtis for your answers and for your great efforts towards a better society!

Ben Harack & The Vision of Earth Team

If you want to contact Curtis, you can find him at:
Curtis.Dorosh@gov.sk.ca
Ministry of Government Services
1920 Rose St.
Regina SK S4P0A9

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