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Sustainable Connections Staff

Derek Long, Executive Director
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Derek 2016Derek 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, 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. He hikes, bikes, camps, runs, skis and essentially spends as much time as possible with his wife Kate and daughter Hadley "LuLu" Long, for fun.

Rose Lathrop, Green Building & Smart Growth Manager
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Rose 2016Rose 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
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Mark 2016Mark 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.

Sam Gearhart, Development Manager
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Sam 2016Sam comes to Sustainable Connections as a born and raised Bellingham local. After growing up in Bellingham and graduating from Sehome High in 2002, Sam departed the area with a heavy heart for Oregon where he completed his undergraduate degree. Prior to joining the Sustainable Connections team he was in Washington, DC where he spent six years working in development for a small international non-profit. Sam is passionate about the Bellingham community and is deeply committed to growing Bellingham and Whatcom County into the very best possible versions of themselves.

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.

Jeff Aslan, Business Energy Project Advisor & Energy Program Manager
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Jeff 2016Jeff 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.

Emily Larson Kubiak, C.E.M., Energy Advisor
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Emily 2016Emily 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.

Molly Williamson, Energy Program Assistant
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Jordan Beaudin, Energy Management Engineer
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Jordan 2016Jordan brings a hands-on approach and a passion for energy conservation to his role at Sustainable Connections. Born and raised as a carpenter in New Hampshire, he received a mechanical engineering degree in 2004 and headed west shortly after that. He eventually ended up in Whatcom County in 2006 after 2 years as a field service engineer in the thermal power plant industry. After working as a timber frame carpenter and a test engineer in the wind power industry, he settled into a career as an HVAC controls technician, where he earned an electricians license and learned the finer details of energy management. At this point he has worked on construction and energy projects in 25 states and 3 countries.

He is a firm believer in re-use before re-cycling, and integrates this into everything that he does. He currently lives with his wife and 2 sons in their self-built home in rural Whatcom County. When not spending time with them he can often be found maintaining his electric pick-up truck, volunteering at the local library, or sharpening his chisels.


Orion Eaton, Energy Project Advisor
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Sara Southerland, Food & Farming Manager
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Sara 2016Sara is a doer, mover, convener, action-oriented gal, with a mission around good food and building community. Her favorite part of coming to work every day is getting to work closely with business owners and partners who share passion for growing the local food scene in Northwest Washington. 

With a background in communications and non-profit outreach, Sara enjoys telling the stories of the rockstar businesses she gets the opportunity to work with, and bringing light to the hard work, talent, innovation, and damn fine food we grow, produce, and create here. Through her 6 years in the Food & Farming program, she has helped start the Eat Local First Campaign, facilitated the start-up of the NW WA Chefs Collaborative, Demo Days at the Market, the Farm Fresh CSA Fair, and connected food & farm businesses of all kinds.

Sara believes in good food as a business model and also co-founded Electric Beet Juice Co, an organic café and juice bar in downtown Bellingham that serves up seasonal healthy eats. 

When she’s not busy planning the next Food & Farm hurrah or running a business, Sara enjoys experimenting in her own kitchen, hosting dance parties, getting blissed out at hot yoga, writing lounge tunes, and adventuring outdoors.

Alex Smith, Food & Farming Outreach Coordinator
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Alex joined Sustainable Connections in 2015 eager Alex 2016to work with people in every stage of the food system. Since earning his BA from WWU in 2008, Alex has worked in a diversity of roles, including farmer, cook, and social services provider. He has had a passion for food at every stage, from growing vegetables in his garden or farm, to cooking meals and preserving. Alex is passionate about Bellingham and all it has to offer in natural beauty, community, and  forward thinking. When he’s not working, he can often be found in his garden, on his bike, hiking a trail, swimming in an alpine lake, digging through records, or cooking up something delicious.


Diana Meeks, Food & Farming/Communications Assistant
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Diana 2016Diana is a Pacific Northwest native that has made her way back home after extensive adventuring around the West Coast. She graduated from Arizona State University, with a degree in sustainability and a focus on communication. She has worked and volunteered for a number of different organizations doing outreach and education including Waste Management, The Sustainability Consortium, North Seattle Community College Sustainability Office, and the PCC Farmland Trust. She is passionate about understanding how to craft campaigns that move individuals to action and help create happy, healthy, sustainable communities.

Diana is incredibly happy to get to be a part of the amazing community here in Bellingham, and when not working enjoys what all other good Pacific Northwesterns do: nature! She loves to hike, bike, climb and garden, but also loves to spend time indoors on those particularly rainy days reading or listening to hip hop.


Amy Vergillo, Communications Manager
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Amy 2016Amy 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 Manager at Sustainable Connections.

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.

Erin McCain-Anderson, Event & Volunteer Coordinator
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Erin 2016Erin 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 Sustainable Connections.  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.

Becca Weathers, Membership & Think Local First Coordinator
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Becca 2016Becca 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 still enjoys giving back and volunteering with other local non-profits. Before taking on her Membership & Think Local First role at Sustainable Connections, Becca was the general SC Program Assistant, and spent most of her time with the Food & Farming Team. Before officially working at SC, Becca interned with the Food & Farming program for 2 years and frequented many SC events and promotions as a volunteer. 

Becca loves living in Bellingham--she’s one of those WWU students who couldn’t leave-- and 7 years later, she still enjoys finding new things to enjoy in Whatcom County. She spends her free cooking, crafting and soaking up as much of the outdoors as she can!

Kate Rinder, Administrative Manager
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Kate 2016Kate joined Sustainable Connections after several years leading and coordinating backcountry environmental and sustainability education programming for North Cascades Institute. She holds a masters degree in Environmental Education and a certificate in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration. She previously worked with the Northwest Earth Institute doing volunteer coordination and outreach around sustainable behavior change.

When not busy making sure the organization is functioning as a healthy and efficient ecosystem, Kate stays busy with endless yard and garden projects, yoga, running, climbing, trying to get her chickens to cuddle, experimenting in the kitchen, and exploring the amazing playground of the North Cascades.


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...


 2016 staff deep thinking



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