Kinder works for Colorado Springs Utilities, as a senior conservation specialist for the water services division. Now 38, he’s been at CSU for nearly two years. His responsibilities include commercial indoor water conservation programs, rebates, outreach and education. He holds a master’s degree in applied geography, with an emphasis on sustainable development.
Kinder is currently board president for the Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition.
How did you become interested in water conservation and sustainable development?
Graduate work at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs exposed me to different development methods, and my research led to examples where cities and projects were incorporating consideration of environmental, societal and economic impacts in business decisions.
They defined this decision analysis as sustainability, in that it incorporated more risks and business threats and opportunities. It seemed a more holistic approach than traditional financial formulas. Concepts like the USGBC’s LEED, organic production and fair-trade manufacturing are examples. I thought it made sense, since we’re dependent upon ecosystem services to survive, why not reduce our impacts on them as we are meeting our needs? Combined with the drought we experienced at the time, and the endless story of how our human consumption and processing was damaging the earth and its populations, I wanted to understand better ways of doing business. It seemed our expectations and solutions were being challenged, and I wanted to be a part of doing things better. Resource conservation is the nexus of the environment, science, economics and human behavior, making it endlessly challenging, and always rewarding.
What are some of the challenges you face in your industry?
I’m lucky to have a multi-dimensional career that involves facilitating the adoption of new technology, demonstrating return on investment and generating industry support. We do so through education, product rebates, case studies and collaboration. Major challenges are overcoming product perceptions and misinformation, encouraging new business practices and gaining interest and awareness in conservation. There is no one company or product that fits all needs, which complicates the discussion. Today’s economy has reduced available investment opportunities, and so projects must be overwhelmingly compelling to generate interest. Aligning conservation into planned renovations and remodeling is a simple way to gain cost savings on the job and operationally afterward. Gaining discussion early in the process remains difficult, but engaging all partners in conservation opportunities is becoming easier as owners, managers, tenants and the public become more aware of all aspects of conservation. Historically conservation was not always considered or of high importance.
Sustainability has gained favor over the years, particularly among businesses looking to save money. How has your job changed with time and technology?
Sustainability makes sense, because efficiency is smart. Information is helping society understand our capabilities, impacts and demands; locally and globally. The pace of response, innovation and experimentation is improving, and we’ve got great examples of leadership in the federal sector, specifically the military. Fort Carson and the US Army have taken a long-range view toward economic, social, and environmental stewardship, which has asked more of contractors and the private sector. The goal is to create less impactful products, higher performing projects, and partnerships that consider the triple bottom line. These solutions then are adopted by the private sector as well, and through economies of scale can be adopted by the general public, where we all benefit. The breadth and marketability continues to improve through time and technology, so operating sustainably is becoming easier.
Do you think the Springs is a welcoming environment for young professionals?
We have a small, strong and growing group of passionate, capable and connected individuals pushing to make great things happen here. We feed off of each others’ energy and are inspired by big ideas and accomplishments. It seemed bleak for a while, and there can be some uninformed perspectives that denigrate what many are trying to do. But in just a few short years, natives and new arrivals committed to enhancing our community with innovative projects, concepts and products. They’re making great strides, and these examples of key successes drive us toward pursuing additional stages and challenge status quo and beliefs. We believe Colorado Springs can compete with other great cities and we’re working hard to make that come true. At times the pace of change can be frustrating, and our culture can be too, but we know each increment builds on something greater, and that motivates us to continue and improve things here.