The Sustainable Connections Team

We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

Derek Long

Executive Director
Connector, family man, thought leader, runner, visionary

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Derek, our fearless leader, has a long record of entrepreneurism and program development in government, for-profit, and non-profit sectors. He co-founded Sustainable Connections in 2002 and became Executive Director in 2009 after successfully growing many key programs and initiatives. Derek was also the first co-National Coordinator of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) in 2002. He is deeply committed to creating a community that works well for all people, and believes our region is rich with the potential to do so.

Before his foray into the non-profit world he co-founded Viatru, an online Fair Trade retail service, and also worked with the Federal Reserve Bank. Derek attended the University of Toledo, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with honors. He has served on the boards of the Washington Business Alliance, Waterfront Advisory Group, Countywide Affordable Housing Task Force, and Community Food Co-op. Currently, he enjoys serving on the Board of Cloud Mountain Farm Center.

Sam Gearhart

Development Manager
Driven, solutions, systematic, ocean lover, sarcastic, native

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After working for six years with a major humanitarian charity accredited to the UN, Sam has spent the better part of the last decade helping nonprofits succeed financially. He is deeply committed to growing Whatcom County and Sustainable Connections, into the very best possible versions of themselves. Sam has an incredible eye for detail and ability to manage the minutia of local and federal grants – a skill all of our program managers are exceeding grateful for! He graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s in International Studies and currently manages all of Sustainable Connections’ donor programs, grants, and financial engagement strategies.

Kate Rinder

Administrative Manager
Organizer, yogi, systems thinker, climber, problem solver, nature

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Kate has a Master of Environmental Education degree and certificate in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration. She is passionate about making things better – the planet, the region, our community, and Sustainable Connections – from outfitting us with the latest tech to streamlining all of our internal systems. She has a diverse professional background from volunteer management to coordinating backcountry programs, doing outreach for sustainable behavior change, and environmental education. Her wealth of experience and varied skill set have created an environment of excellence that helps Sustainable Connections run smoothly and efficiently!

Erin McCain-Anderson

Event & Volunteer Coordinator
Doer, detailed, homesteader, dancer, grounded, optimist

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Erin is Sustainable Connections’ designated Party Queen. She has managed innumerable events over the years – from 100-person plated dinners to 1,000-person community parties – and they are always a success. As Volunteer Coordinator, she enjoys connecting individuals to meaningful work opportunities, and has brought some incredible talent to Sustainable Connections’ programs. Her drive for building a stronger and more connected community has fueled her work for the last 20 years, both with us and previously as a program coordinator with the city—working with independent businesses and teaching environmental education. There is no one in the biz who can do it better; her connections, experience, meticulous preparation, and unshakable calm mean that all of our events go off without a hitch!

Becca Weathers

Membership Coordinator
Effervescent, purposeful, determined, local lover

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In her role as Membership Coordinator, Becca is passionate about helping local business owners build successful enterprises with a strong local following. She believes that a prosperous independent business community is closely tied to the health and success of our region. Becca has been with Sustainable Connections since 2010, and has built close relationships with owners in all sectors. She also heads the Think Local First Campaign – one of the first and most successful in the United States – and loves finding new and unique ways to encourage our community to always Think Local First! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Policy and has volunteered with Lydia Place, Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, Recreation Northwest, Planned Parenthood, Nooksack Valley School District, and Sean Humphrey House. She is also an active member of Whatcom Women in Business and Whatcom Young Professionals.

Amy Vergillo

Communications Manager
Designer, creative, visualizer, tea lover, mom, helper

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Amy makes our world beautiful and is the genius behind Sustainable Connections’ communications strategy! She has an extensive background in various marketing and sales roles, including owning her own firm, Fidalgo Designs. She’s been with Sustainable Connections since 2013, and has headed several large communications projects like the Bellingham Energy Prize, in addition to being the artistic force behind our content and collateral for programs and events. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, and is driven to create messages that inform, motivate, and inspire action through thoughtful design.

Rose Lathrop

Green Building & Smart Growth Manager
Vivacious, partybus, imagination, bright, skillful, determined

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Rose has been involved with Sustainable Connections in one way or another since the very beginning! As a local leader in the green building movement, she has been instrumental in establishing some of Bellingham’s most loved building projects including Millworks Cohousing, KAPOW!, and Solarize Whatcom. Rose obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Planning and Environmental Policy from Western Washington University, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor, and was named as one of the 2016 Under 40 Honorees by the NW Energy Coalition. She is continually energized by the innovation and creativity in our community and is committed to helping Bellingham create spaces that transform, nourish, and reflect the beauty of our place.

Mark Peterson

Sustainable Business Manager
Enthusiastic, committed, soccer fanatic, thoughtful, family

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As the Sustainable Business Manager, Mark helps our business members successfully navigate greening their businesses with ease. With a varied work history across multiple sectors, he is sensitive to the pressures owners face, from limited time to limited resources. Mark is a LEED AP, achieved his Low Impact Development Certification, and is a certified Project Management Professional. He has helped many local businesses create and measure a variety of sustainability projects from Towards Zero Waste to assisting with B-Corp certification. He believes in giving back to the community you’re rooted in, 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 Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. Currently, Mark is a member of the Whatcom County Solid Waste Advisory Committee. Mark graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications, and is grateful to be pursuing a purpose-driven career and for the opportunity to work with a wide array of incredible local businesses!

Sara Southerland

Food & Farming Manager
Inspired, high fives, culinarian, idea-maker, convener, bold

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Sara has been with Sustainable Connections since 2010 and works closely with local food businesses, farmers, and regional organizations to help create a food renaissance here in Whatcom County. She is also a bona fide renaissance woman! She has been the lynchpin for many key programs including the Eat Local First Campaign, NW Chefs Collective, Demo Days at the Market, Farm Fresh CSA Fair, and Whatcom County Farm Tour. She is a co-founder of local food business Electric Beet Juice Co., and is incredibly active in the community – from teaching raw dessert classes at the Co-op to hosting film screenings at the Pickford’s DOCtober series. She received a degree from University of North Texas in Journalism, and has an abundance of communications and outreach experience in nonprofits. Food is the vehicle that drives Sara’s inspiration – bringing all the right people together around a table, working with innovative social entrepreneurs, turning creative ideas into action, and facilitating good food for all.

Molly Williamson

Energy Program Assistant
Social, perceptive, girl power, music lover, education

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Molly was one of the first graduates of Western Washington University’s Business and Sustainability program, earning a bachelor’s degree with a minor in Economics. She comes to the energy program from the world of waste, having previously managed Western’s Recycling Center. Molly aspires to help people connect and create a positive relationship with the planet so that our communities are not only sustainable but flourishing! Her attention to detail and eye for excellence make the work she does for the energy team invaluable.

Diana Meeks

Food & Farming/Communications Assistant
Intentional, inspired, hiker, earthy, research, word lover

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Diana has worked and volunteered for a number of organizations doing environmental outreach and education including Waste Management, The Sustainability Consortium, and PCC Farmland Trust. She attended Arizona State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability with honors, focused on Communication. She is a published author and is dedicated to crafting campaigns that can move individuals to action. She writes copiously for Sustainable Connections, and has been dubbed “the Spice Girl” for adding a little zest to all of our copy! Diana also coordinates the Whatcom Food Network and volunteers for Animals as Natural Therapy. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association and Whatcom Young Professionals.

Jeff Aslan

Energy Program Manager
Energy expertise, innovate, transform, climbing, backcountry, health

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As the Energy Program Manager at Sustainable Connections, Jeff brings cutting edge strategies to help businesses save energy and make northwest Washington a national leader in energy efficiency innovation. In 2013 Jeff joined Sustainable Connections after earning his JD from Vermont Law School with a focus on the nexus of business, energy and the environment. Though Jeff has only been working with the Energy Program for a number of years, he has always been a certified energy geek. Prior to law school, Jeff helped install one of the largest solar arrays in Massachusetts. His home is also a laboratory for energy efficiency, becoming the first certified Net Zero Energy home in Whatcom County in 2016, sourcing 100% of its energy from roof-top solar panels. He is passionate about using the most innovative strategies to advance energy efficiency and find broad solutions to address climate change. Jeff serves on the boards of Bellingham Mountain Rescue and Kulshan Community Land Trust.

Emily Larson Kubiak

Energy Advisor
Proactive, geek out, efficiency fiend, adventure, coordinator, laughter

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Emily believes there are exciting and elegant ways to help people use fewer resources, while at the same time increasing their happiness, comfort, and prosperity. She is a Certified Energy Manager and also a certified energy efficiency enthusiast! Emily pursued a Bachelor of Environmental Science and minor in Sustainable Design from Western Washington University. She has previous experience educating residents around recycling for Whatcom County and also low-income weatherization for the Housing Authority of Skagit County. Whether she is performing energy assessments at local businesses or educating homeowners about the Community Energy Challenge, she is excited to help people find the sweet spot between reducing environmental impact and increasing well-being. Emily is also a mentor with Women in Energy Mentoring Network, helping to inspire the next generation of changemakers and innovators.

Alex Smith

Food & Farming Outreach Coordinator
Curious, passionate, musician, gardener, sometimes chef, systematic

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Alex has worked in many different parts of the food sector, bringing an exceptional skill set to the Food & Farming Team – from running his own small organic farm, to working in kitchens and coordinating community wellness groups. He is dedicated to building a community where local farmers and food businesses can thrive, and residents have ample access to healthy, whole foods. Alex graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. He has always been passionate about food, from seed to skillet.

Orion Eaton

Energy Project Adviser
Artist, efficient, reflective, camping,
father

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Orion holds a degree in Clean Energy Technology, many certificates in green building, business, and sustainability, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Energy Management and Policy at Western Washington University. Orion loves big picture thinking and is inspired to find energy solutions for the complex and interrelated systems energy is a part of (we think he may be the key to solving our regional energy challenges by 2040!). He also enjoys educating people about how to find energy efficient strategies that work for their buildings and finances. With nearly 20 years of experience in carpentry and construction, including commercial solar installation and LED lighting design, Orion understands how to navigate the art and science of energy efficiency so that it makes practical sense for any business.