Silver Spring Green – Looking ahead in 2014

Silver Spring Green

On Monday, January 13th, I walked to lunch at the newly opened Sweetgreen to meet with John Brill. John is the Executive Director of Silver Spring Green, a nonprofit that aims to make Silver Spring a leader in the sustainability community. The organization has grown swiftly over the past few years. In 2013, the non-profit put on it’s most ambitious programming to date. The organization’s big event, Silver Spring GreenFest garnered participation from over 50 local businesses and non-profits, 30 speakers and panelists, and local sustainable farms. Last year, Silver Spring Green also created a community garden with Broad Acres Elementary School classes, conducted monthly “Good Green Fun” happy hours, installed 10 recycling bins downtown with text in French, Spanish, Amharic, and English, and hired it’s first full-time executive director, John.

Silver Spring Green at Bike-to-Work Day 2013

Executive Director John Brill and Program Committee Chair Abi Rome at Bike-to-Work Day in Silver Spring

John’s enthusiasm for his work is infectious. His demeanor is care-free, but he speaks ambitiously and passionately about his goals for the community he works for. “We have a responsibility to be sustainable,” he says bluntly. “Either you are or you aren’t.” John believes that Silver Spring can be a hub of communication and action for sustainability. With 25 years of community social work under his belt, he knows that his dreams of “true sustainability” are possible, but that there’s a long road ahead.

As a child growing up in Columbia, John watched community-developer James Rouse transform his own neighborhood with a community garden. Since then, he has endeavored to create engaged communities with high levels of involvement. In the winter of 2011 he joined Silver Spring Green at a Programs Committee meeting. In the beginning, Silver Spring Green was a small group of highly dedicated community-members and business leaders.

At the time, the group had several projects that were running concurrently, but they lacked a leader to provide direction and prioritization. They also had almost no funds to support their programming. In 2012, John became the Program Manager, volunteering 20 hours each week to help shepherd projects through to completion.

Goals for 2014

Silver Spring Green is poised for a big year in 2014. The company moved into it’s new offices, a shared space donated by local energy efficiency company Elysian Energy. Plans include a continuation of core programs like GreenFest, the Green School Partnership, Rainscapes, and Good Green Fun Happy Hours. And many new events are planned including a ‘Green Multifamily Residence Series’, a speaker series, and a non-profit round-table.

Silver Spring GreenFest 2013

Silver Spring Green Program Committee Chair Abi Rome with presenters at Silver Spring GreenFest 2013

Silver Spring Green also has some new year’s resolutions for 2014. First, they want to raise more program funding. Next, they would like to create more strategic partnerships with the local community, focusing on businesses, low-income communities, and elected leaders. John notes that they have a unique opportunity thanks to the rich cultural diversity in Silver Spring. They hope to leverage relationships within the community to create higher-impact programming, establishing metrics for tracking the impact of their programs. They also want to raise awareness for sustainability and the Silver Spring brand. Lastly, the board is working to put together a 5-year plan that ensures the group’s longevity and enables them to tackle more complex projects.

Community Strategy

Silver Spring Green has developed a simple strategy for completing it’s goals: “educate, facilitate, initiate”. The group’s members hope to share knowledge and information about sustainable living with the community. The idea is to become a hub of communication and action for sustainability in Silver Spring. The role of facilitating takes time, and the organization is working hard to build strategic relationships.

John gets a kick out of bringing people with compatible ideas together. But he is most excited about where the rubber hits the road. “I’m impatient”, John concedes.  There are so many dedicated people here in Silver Spring who can see a better, more sustainable future for our community. Silver Spring Green is working hard to make it a reality.

-David Zussman, Marketing Coordinator for Elysian Energy