On Thursday, June 3, AIANY WIA was pleased to host “In Dialogue with: Stacy Smedley and Betty Rexrode on their Paths to Net Zero.” Our speakers shared a passion for reducing carbon footprints on both a personal level and an industry scale.

Stacy Smedley grew up living partially off the land in a rural environment and developed a passion for sustainability at a young age. Her family eventually sold the farmland and she watched the fertile ground turn into suburban developments.  As she grew up and attended architecture school, she realized that not everyone has access to this relationship with nature. She made it her mission to address collective impacts on the environment to preserve natural habitats and resources. Stacy began her journey by developing open-access software called “Embodied Carbon in Construction” EC3 that enabled companies to track embodied carbon use at an industrial scale including supply-chain analysis.  It was critical that the software was easy to use and free. Eager to apply her findings to wider industry, Stacy grew into the role of Executive Director of Building Transparency and Director of Sustainability at SKANSKA. She is able to provide the tools for companies to procure, track, and reduce carbon footprints at industry scale.

Betty Rexrode, AIA, Principal of Rexrode Chirigos Architects shared her family’s journey of establishing a net-zero lifestyle on Oak Island in the Great South Bay of NY. When she embarked on this journey, many of today’s efficient technologies for harvesting solar power and the trend for eating locally did not exist. Betty walked us through the trials, tribulations, and long-term rewards of pursuing this lifestyle. The family came to understand the privilege of water we enjoy in this country after exclusively using rainwater harvesting for two and a half years. Today Betty’s family is able to live entirely off the land including food and water. They maintain a fruit & vegetable garden, sustainably farm & harvest mollusks, forage, capture wild game, and carefully track their collective impact on the land. They are stewards of the environment, working to preserve and restore biodiversity in the Great South Bay.

While recognizing that net-zero living is not a goal for every client, Betty emphasized the importance of establishing criteria for project-based decision-making that is right for any project regardless of ‘points.’

While preparing for this dialogue, our speakers collaborated on a carbon-tracking / habit correcting app concept for individuals called “NILCH” that would help people make incremental changes in their lifestyles.

We learned that we can examine our own environmental footprints, identify our personal tipping points, and make environmentally responsible choices.