The Sustainable Connections Team

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

Derek Long

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

360.647.7093 x101

Read Derek's Bio

Derek 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 of Cloud Mountain Farm Center prior to an anticipated merger with Sustainable Connections at the end of 2018. 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, Community Food Co-op, and Cloud Mountain Farm Center.

Sam Gearhart

Sam Gearhart

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

360.647.7093 x109

Read Sam's Bio

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.

Mary Tully

Mary Tully

Administrative Manager
Spreadsheet spelunker, homesteader, researcher, patient, generous

360.647.7093 x104

Read Mary's Bio

Mary joined our team in Spring 2019, eager to demonstrate her commitment to providing attentive service and support for Sustainable Connections’ staff, stakeholders & mission, through careful listening, observation, and collaboration. Mary has experience with federal government contracts that involve complex environmental investigation & remediation services. She also comes to us with higher education administration experience at Western Washington University’s Computer Science Department, where her core focuses were to promote an encouraging & welcoming educational environment for all students, while expanding/growing to meet a significant increase in student demand. Mary has been a volunteer organizer for the Cascadia Skillshare Faire, to build community resilience by sharing & expanding the breadth of valuable skillsets our community members possess. She is personally passionate about each of our programs, which increases the excitement, anticipation and shared joy of witnessing well-thought out ideas put into action to bear fruit!

Sara Southerland

Sara Southerland

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

360.647.7093 x114

Read Sara's Bio

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 was 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.

Maressa Valliant

Maressa Valliant

Food & Farming Marketing Coordinator
Details, connector, resourceful, nurturing, dance & music, kind

360.647.7093 x103

Read Maressa's Bio

Maressa has a wide range of marketing experience, garnered from working with all kinds of organizations from small family businesses to high volume retail outlets. With over ten years in graphic design, website development, and communications she is a wealth of knowledge. She’s also passionate about creating a sustainable food system, and educating people – especially children – about how to find, prepare, eat, and enjoy fresh local food! She has held a variety of roles for both non-profits and private entities, managed retail stores, and previously helped a manufacturing company excel as its Director of Marketing. She has volunteered with the University of Washington Autism Center, and multiple community based organizations. Spend a few hours with Maressa, and you will be sure to notice a deep love for Bellingham and the Pacific Northwest.

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

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

360.647.7093 x111

Read Alex's Bio

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.

Abbie Lindeberg

Abbie Lindeberg

Event & Development Coordinator
Compassionate, nature lover, musical, gardener, community-minded

360.647.7093 x108

Read Abbie's Bio

Abbie feels most herself when she is creating a sense of community; big or small. She brings that enthusiasm for togetherness when working with all of Sustainable Connections programs, organizing events, coordinating volunteers, and assisting with development. Abbie is a Washington State University graduate with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Mathematics. After graduating, she participated in two years of AmeriCorps building her skill set with science and nature based education and outreach. Abbie also worked as the environmental coordinator for a ski resort, helping to streamline their waste and planning large scale events with the environment in mind. She enjoys being part of a team that makes such a huge impact in the community and is full of creative ideas for her coworkers and the community.

Amy Vergillo

Amy Vergillo

Communications Manager
Designer, creative, visualizer, idea generator, helper

360.647.7093 x105

Read Amy's Bio

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.

Kerry Eastwood

Kerry Eastwood

Communications Specialist
Passionate, approachable, nature lover, gardener, knitter, twin mom

360.647.7093 x110

Read Kerry's Bio

With over ten years of experience in the outreach field, Kerry is passionate about connecting people to resources that can better our community. Kerry has held communications positions with both the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and the City of Bellingham’s Public Works Natural Resources Division. Kerry has a BA in English and a minor in Environmental Education; she holds a certification in copy-editing from University of Berkley California. She is a strong communicator with a knack for making complex subjects accessible. Kerry is energized by collaboration and is honored to be one of the many minds working to meet our community’s growing needs.

Becca Weathers

Becca Weathers

Membership & Think Local First Manager
Effervescent, purposeful, determined, loves local anything

360.647.7093 x106

Read Becca's Bio

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.

Rose Lathrop

Rose Lathrop

Program Director, Green Building & Smart Growth, Energy, and Sustainable Business
Vivacious, partybus, imagination, bright, skillful, determined

360.647.7093 x107

Read Rose's Bio

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

Mark Peterson

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

360.647.7093 x116

Read Mark's Bio

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!

Emily Kubiak

Emily Larson Kubiak

Energy Advisor & Program Coordinator
Proactive, geek out, efficiency fiend, adventure, coordinator, laughter

360.647.7093 x113

Read Emily's Bio

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.

Orion Eaton

Orion Eaton

Energy Project Advisor
Artist, efficient, reflective, camping,

360.647.7093 x117

Read Orion's Bio

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.