Catamount’s Jensen overseeing conference

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Darlene Jensen took the job as the executive director of the Catamount Institute in September and will oversee the annual Colorado Sustainability Conference Nov. 17 and 18 at the Antlers Hilton hotel.

Jensen has 20 years of experience in public and nonprofit sector program management. She most recently served as the executive vice-president of the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, a nonprofit serving 76 Colorado districts and landowners.

The Colorado Sustainability Conference’s goal is to raise awareness about best practices. This year’s conference is themed “Breaking Through the Barriers.”

Jensen took some time this week to talk with the Business Journal.

You have worked for a number of environmental organizations, what drove you to the field?

I have had the opportunity to work in the private, public and nonprofit sectors in the area of environmental management. Early on I recognized the need that business development and environmental management must come together and plans implemented for productive and sustained growth. I made this recognition through growing up in a river valley just outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. The area was home to productive agricultural activity which over time gave way to sprawling urban development. Waterways became subjected to substandard effluent and fertile soils were buried under concrete. I studied environmental science and business at DePauw University and continue to endeavor to make businesses profitable while sustaining our natural resources.

What part of this year’s conference are you personally excited about?

The value the messages the speakers and presenters will bring to our community is at the forefront of my personal interest in this year’s conference. From community involvement through representatives of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments to Colorado Springs Utilities, credible discussions as to how we may break through the barriers to expand our community through sustainable growth will be part of engaging panels and breakout sessions.

It is an honor to have the opportunity to host the conference with our partner Sustainable Fort Carson, one of the most, if not the most, forwarding thinking military bases in the country, at the forefront in sustainability.

Due to the reputation Colorado Springs is receiving on a national level in its movement toward sustainable development, the conference is able to host national speakers that are coming to Colorado Springs as they know their message will have considerable impact. The brilliant staff of the Catamount Institute has assembled a who’s who in sustainability of keynote speakers, presenting on topics from nutrition to water conservation, from energy independence to sustainable business growth.

Dr. Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange gives us the grassroots up growth perspective and will look at open source real estate models that will help build foundations for our next economy. Debra Eschmeyer of FoodCorps, a nonprofit organization, will speak to growing healthy kids and communities. As a mother of teenage twins this challenge is especially personal. Our children are our future and managing their health is a priority.

Joel Bourne, a National Geographic contributing writer, will address the challenges we will all face over the next 40 years in food, water and energy supply. David Sandalow, the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, will speak to reduction in foreign energy reliance and development of alternative energy sources.

At a time when businesses owners are cash-strapped, why is it important to attend this conference?

Colorado Sustainability Conference will bring together individuals and companies committed to building profitable and sustainable businesses. Through some of the successful and innovative members of the Pikes Peak Sustainable Business Network who will also be attending the conference, attendees will have the opportunity to learn new trends and develop valuable partnerships.

As our challenging economic times linger, to spend valuable time and resources to attend a conference on sustainability may not be a top priority for some, however, having an opportunity to gather with fellow business owners who are implementing sustainable practices in their businesses with resulting increase in their profits may provide the very information and incentive a business owner may need to move a business forward. The “C” in Catamount Institute is synonymous with catalyst, and the information presented at the conference as well as the alliances gathered at the conference may serve as a catalyst for businesses’ sustainable growth.

What is the city’s greatest barrier to embracing sustainable practices?

The list is long in Colorado Springs’ efforts for advancing its sustainable energy efforts. Partners across the region are working in collaboration to implement plans which call for sustainable energy development. The biggest barrier to embracing sustainable practices starts with our own personal commitment. Commitment to making changes that maybe outside of traditional practices. Changes which will elevate our businesses’ bottom line and cause others to take notice of the sustainable growth within our community, leading to Colorado Springs becoming a permanent destination location for families and businesses.