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.
Alex Ramel, Policy & Energy Director
Alex Ramel joined Sustainable Connections in 2008. In his position as Policy and Energy Manager, Alex is facilitating the implementation of clean, renewable and efficient energy strategies. Presently, most of his time is spent developing and implementing the Community Energy Challenge, but even bigger ideas are brewing for the future.
Alex joined SC from ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability where he helped dozens of local governments conduct baseline greenhouse gas emissions inventories. He was one of the lead authors of the Local Government Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is the nationally recognized standard for emissions quantification. He has developed or supported the development of many local climate action plans, identifying the most effective steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to that he worked for the City of Bellingham’s Office of Environmental Resources where he developed Bellingham’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Local Climate Protection Plan, and worked closely with Sustainable Connections to implement the Bellingham Green Power Community Challenge. He received a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning from Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment in 2005.
Alex also serves on the Board of the Whatcom County Conservation Voters and on the Whatcom Community College / Bellingham Technical College Worker Retraining Advisory Committee.
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.
Erin McCain-Anderson, Event & Volunteer Coordinator
Erin McCain-Anderson is excited to have found her place as the SC event coordinator, working with like-minded peers in a progressive and change making organization. Erin was born in raised in Bellingham and feels a strong relationship to the people, places, and values of the community. Her passion for building a stronger and more connected community has fueled her work for the last 15 years with her time as a program coordinator with the city, working with independent businesses and teaching environmental education.
As an event coordinator Erin has a unique persepctive 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.
When at home, Erin loves to be in her garden, reading and cooking, all in the company of her fabulous family.
Amanda Sipher, Development Manager
Amanda Sipher takes great pleasure in serving as a resource to others, and feels extremely fortunate to have found a position that allows her to do just that. Prior to joining SC's staff as Development Coordinator in December 2010, Amanda managed development, financial, advocacy, and marketing activities for various public, private, and nonprofit organizations in Oregon and Washington. As both a professional and volunteer, Amanda truly enjoys building relationships with others and working collaboratively to achieve common goals.
Amanda's lifelong love of learning has led her to complete a BA in Economics from Western Washington University, as well as graduate degrees in Arts Administration and Nonprofit Management from the University of Oregon. Her research investigates sustainable and smart practices in community development, cultural policy, behavioral economics, and resource development.
Aside from seeking funding opportunities to support SC's innovative programs, Amanda spends her time browsing around her favorite local bookstore, playing violin and ukulele, supporting arts organizations, discovering built and natural environments, and enjoying her family and friends.Abby Hade Terpstra, Membership Coordinator
Abby found Sustainable Connections shortly after moving to Bellingham in 2006 and has been spending time there, first as a volunteer and then as an employee, ever since. A born-and-raised Midwesterner, Abby got her degree in Outdoor Education: Natural History on the shores of Lake Superior before heading out for adventures in Vermont and Washington. Her career path has lead her from tallgrass prairie naturalist to insect zoo director, from AmeriCorps environmental educator to Community Land Trust assistant, from organic produce deliverer to wilderness therapy logistics coordinator. Abby tributes her roots – first jobs include pulling weeds in her mother’s garden and sweeping construction sites for her father’s green building company – to her commitment to a healthy, sustainable, and community-oriented lifestyle.
When not reveling in organization using color coding, alphabetical order or size differentiation, Abby can be found taking brisk walks or slow hikes, pouring over cookbooks for new ideas, gawking at huge mountains and tall trees, reading, keeping up with her family, and trying out any manner of new hobbies.
Sara Southerland, Food & Farming Manager
Sara Southerland is passionate about serving the community around her and connecting people with the environment and community we live in and the food we eat. Throughout her volunteer and work experience, she has led and assisted with numerous environmental outreach and education efforts and campaigns throughout Washington state.
Sara was born and raised in Fort Worth, TX and completed her degree in journalism from The University of North Texas. Soon after, she headed to Washington to utilize her education with an environmental and community-based lens. Holding positions as an environmental educator, outreach and volunteer coordinator, Sara has helped lead a successful region-wide outreach campaign for energy efficiency, a Sustainable Connections TZW campaign, worked with Grays Harbor area schools and businesses to implement pilot recycling programs, created and led an environmental science after school program, organized a variety of community events and co-published the first Chehalis Basin Watershed Pledge.
As previous SC volunteer, Sara is delighted to be a part of and contribute to the Food and Farming program and the vibrancy of Whatcom County’s food system. When she’s not planning the next food and farm based hurrah, Sara loves to dance, sing, cook and preserve food, play keyboard, hike, bike, ski and try new things.
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 Program Assistant
Emily Larson Kubiak loves being the Energy Program Assistant 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.
Becca Taber, Program Assistant
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.
Jeff Aslan, Business Energy Project Advisor
While Jeff is new to the Pacific Northwest, he’s no stranger to energy conservation and working with small businesses. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and French from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Jeff helped advise small businesses on financial matters. Jeff then focused his attention on energy efficiency and renewable energy, helping to install one of the largest solar arrays in Massachusetts. Jeff earned his Juris Doctor degree in Vermont Law School, focusing on the nexus of energy and business. Through independent research and internships, Jeff focused his attention on developing statewide and regional energy policy while also gaining energy efficiency project management expertise at the local level. Jeff was attracted to Bellingham because of its proximity to the ocean and the mountains and its many opportunities to get out climbing, skiing, paddling, and biking.
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...