Sustainable Connections Staff
Derek Long, Executive Director
Derek Long has a track record of entrepreneurism and program development in government, for profit and non-profit sectors. Most recently he co-founded Sustainable Connections in 2002 and is the current Executive Director. Derek was the Program & Development Director from 2002 to 2009 where he started and grew many key programs and initiatives as well as holding the primary responsibility of funding the organization.
Derek served as the first co-National Coordinator of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) from 2002 to 2003, a national alliance of local business networks. BALLE’s mission is to create, strengthen and connect local business networks dedicated to building strong Local Living Economies.
In 1999, Derek co-founded Viatru (formerly World2Market.com), as a company to create opportunities for consumers to shop for products consistent with their values. This Fair Trade retail services firm helped companies source products from organizations that were leading the world in progressive business practices that included environmental protection, worker participation and pay, as well as charitable giving within their communities.
Derek’s position with the Federal Reserve Bank from 1997 to 1999 involved the management of multiple financial and logistical systems, developing productive interdepartmental working relationships and driving a vision of the Bank's developing role as an industry leader in electronic payments. He also had a successful first career in marketing and sales management with Rhone-Poulenc-Rorer. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with honors from the University of Toledo in 1991.
Derek served on the Waterfront Advisory Group, was a member of the Countywide Affordable Housing Task Force and served six years on the Board of Directors of the Community Food Co-op. Currently he serves on the Board of the Cloud Mountain Farm Center and the Washington Business Alliance. He hikes, bikes, camps, runs, skis and essentially spends as much time as possible with his daughter Hadley “Lulu” Long, for fun.
Michelle Grandy, Communications Director
Michelle Grandy completed her degree in Communication from Western Washington University right here in beautiful Bellingham and hasn’t been able to stop talking yet which very well suits her role as Communications Director and manager of the Think Local First Program. Michelle holds great admiration and love in her heart for local businesses having spent twelve years before coming to Sustainable Connections working for a locally owned print shop as a graphic designer and then as a marketing analyst for the oldest independently owned grocer in Washington State. She also dips her toes in the pool of local business ownership as the other half of EVL Enterprises.
Michelle serves on the planning committee for Bellingham's St. Patrick's Day Parade, Park(ing) Day planning committee and is Board Chair for Make.Shift.
When not too busy chatting about the benefits of Thinking Local First and of being a member of Sustainable Connections or volunteering she can be found riding her bike, out on the soccer field, or completing her next DIY home improvement project.
Rose Lathrop, Green Building & Smart Growth Manager
Rose Lathrop joined the Sustainable Connection staff in 2012 as a local leader in the green building movement. Rose has a versed background in sustainability practices from both the public and private sector and is transforming local building practices. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Planning and Environmental Policy from Huxley College for the Environment, Western Washington University. She is also a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Accredited Professional and a CSBA (Certified Sustainable Building Advisor). Rose has a deep-seated passion for sustainable living, and she practices this in her daily life. She is a curious blend of urban farmer, green building pioneer, and cheerful community-maker.
Mark Peterson, Sustainable Business Manager
Mark graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications. Through the years he has spent time in the bicycle industry, green building sector and commercial insurance. Mark is a LEED AP, achieved his Low Impact Development Certification and is a certified Project Management Professional. He joined Sustainable Connections in 2012 and is grateful to be pursuing a purpose driven career.
The multitude of Sustainable Business practices like energy conservation, alternative transportation and environmental protection have long been passions of Mark’s. He believes in volunteerism and has served as President of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, Co-Chair - Bellingham Public School Citizen Advisory Committee, The Bellingham Public School Facility Task Force, The Lake Whatcom Watershed Advisory Committee and is former Chair of the Bellingham Park and Recreation Advisory Committee. Currently, Mark is a member of the Whatcom County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
When not thinking about ways to help businesses embrace the triple bottom line, Mark can be found enjoying mountain biking, coaching youth soccer, photography, gardening, barbequing and spending as much time as possible with his wife and three children.
April Claxton, Office Manager
April Claxton first joined the SC team as a volunteer. The team so appreciated her work that it wasn't long before she had a desk of her own. While volunteering for SC she also worked as the manager for a local outdoor adventure business where she gained a huge appreciation for what it means to run a local business. Prior to moving to Bellingham, April worked for a variety of non-profits on the East Coast and in Montana. While there she coordinated campaigns, developed and oversaw large volunteer programs and honed her skills and love for systems and working behind the scenes to help organizations be as productive as possible. Her time away from the Northwest also made her appreciate the area and she is very happy to be back and to be making a home in Bellingham. April is also the Executive Manager for Recreation Northwest (home of the Bellingham Traverse) and Board President of ReUse Works.
Sara Southerland, Food & Farming Manager
Sara is a doer, mover, convener, action-oriented gal. She is passionate about local farmers and food businesses and seeing the two connect in ways that bring more healthy, local food into all the places we eat and shop.
Before her 5 years at Sustainable Connections, Sara worked in environmental outreach positions focused primarily around waste, watersheds and salmon education. With a journalism and communications background from the University of North Texas. Sara enjoys telling the stories of the rockstar businesses she gets the opportunity to work with, and bringing light to all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. In fact, she likes it so much she recently became a new business-owner herself! Sara is co-owner of Electric Beet Juice Co, a microjuicery and kitchen in downtown Bellingham that serves up juices, smoothies and eats inspired by seasonal local ingredients.
When she’s not busy planning the next Food & Farm hurrah or running a business, Sara is known to be a long-bicycle-rider, a lounge singer, hiker, potluck-hostess, dancer, home cook and food preserver, and adventurer at heart.
Jeff Aslan, Business Energy Project Advisor & Energy Program Manager
Jeff joined Sustainable Connections in 2013, after earning his JD from Vermont Law School with a focus on the nexus of business, energy and the environment. Through independent research and internships, Jeff focused his attention on developing statewide and regional energy efficiency initiatives, while also gaining energy efficiency project management expertise at the local level. Prior to law school, Jeff helped advise small businesses on financial matters, then focused his attention on energy efficiency and renewable energy, helping to install one of the largest solar arrays in Massachusetts. He is seeking to make his home the first certified Net Zero Energy home in Bellingham, sourcing 100% of the energy it uses from solar panels on the roof. When not geeking out about energy efficiency, Jeff can often be found in the mountains climbing, backcountry skiing, and paddling in his great grandfather’s 60-year-old wood and canvas canoe he restored. He also serves as a volunteer rescuer with Bellingham Mountain Rescue.
Erin McCain-Anderson, Event & Volunteer Coordinator
Erin McCain-Anderson has been putting on great parties and events since 2011 as the "Party Queen" here at SC. She's spent most of her life in Whatcom County and feels a strong connection to this place, the people, and values of the community. Her drive for building a stronger and more connected community has fueled her work for the last 20 years with her time as a program coordinator with the city, working with independent businesses and teaching environmental education.
As an event and volunteer coordinator Erin has a unique perspective and new ideas on how to connect business owners and individuals with the resources available at SC. And, as she likes to have a good time, her events always have an element of fun.
Erin has recently come to the realization that she is also an urban homesteader; growing food, raising chickens and rabbits and preserving everything she can. If you're ever in the mood to talk about lard, she's your gal.
Sam Gearhart, Development Manager
In his free time Sam enjoys making the most of what this glorious area has to offer – Skiing, sailing, cooking and doing his best to keep local breweries in business.
Becca Taber, Membership Coordinator
Becca graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Policy. Before working at Sustainable Connections, She held several customer service and support roles, volunteered through Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and at Western University’s Outback Farm. Previous to becoming the Program Assistant, Becca interned with the Food & Farming program for some time and enjoyed volunteering for many SC events.
After living in Bellingham for five years, she still enjoys finding new things to enjoy in Whatcom County. Becca relishes spending time raising animals including chickens and pigs, canning and cooking with local goodies and taking in the beautiful outdoors.
Nancy Orlowski, Energy Program Assistant
Nancy Orlowski is grateful to have joined Sustainable Connections in 2010. In her new position as Energy Program Assistant, Nancy developed a database application, of which she administers the supporting data for facility assessments for the commercial conservation services of the Community Energy Challenge. Having lived and raised a great family in Bellingham for the last 30 years, she also enjoys growing her garden, boating in the islands, volunteering in the community and walking in the wild.
Emily Larson Kubiak, Energy Advisor
Emily Larson Kubiak loves being an Energy Advisor at Sustainable Connections. Whether she is performing energy assessments at local businesses or educating homeowners about how the Community Energy Challenge can save them energy and money, she is excited to help people find the sweet spot where reducing environmental impact increases personal and economic well-being. Raised in the Northwest, Emily strongly believes in putting down roots and making a difference in your community in order to drive larger change in the world.
From humble beginnings staging one woman litter clean-ups and Earth Day parades as a child, Emily pursued a BS in Environmental Science and Minor in Sustainable Design from Huxley College with subsequent work in Recycling Education for Whatcom County and then Low-Income Weatherization with the Housing Authority of Skagit County. She is thrilled to have landed at Sustainable Connections and be involved in this work! Emily enjoys good books, good friends, geeking out, and working out.
Amy Vergillo, Communications Assistant
Amy ventured out to the big city of Seattle after graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. When the chaos of the big city drove her North, she found her roots in Bellingham. She held various sales support and marketing roles before opening her own firm, Fidalgo Designs. There, she was able to stay at home with her two small sons and still exercise her creative brain. Then, Amy jumped into the nonprofit world and eventually became the Communications Assistant at Sustainable Connections in 2013.
She was instrumental in helping Sustainable Connections develop their Toward Zero Waste Campaign, volunteered on the Whatcom County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, served on the board of directors at Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, and is a certified Carbon Master.
When she’s not at work, Amy tries to keep up with her two sons, Arlo and Louigi. Their family stays busy hiking the Chuckanuts, biking around town, camping near streams, finding ways to expand their gardens, cooking local food, and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Click here for staff contact information and for a listing of Board members and Advisory Councils.
Though we have a bias for ACTION - we also try to think deeply...