•  HomeAffiliationsArticles & AudioClientsContact Us
 •  Current ProjectsFAQsLinksTestimonialsWho is Margo Covington?
 •  Resume

Full Article or URL address

Title:  Playing Our Way to Sustainability, With Free Sample Game Enclosed!

Summary:  A two-part article written for the international Greening of Industry Conference 2003 in San Francisco, CA that explains: 1. Playing is a way of implementing activities together, and 2. An early example of Waste-As-Value Links (WAV-Links) - where we began linking stakeholders toward zero waste through economic development in New Mexico. This effort didn´t reach critical mass, but new efforts are now underway through the non-profit Sustainable Communities /ZERI NM, Inc. margo@wavlinks.org



After submitting an abstract to the 40-nation Greening of Industry Conference 2003 (that was accepted for presentation), based on a model that seemed to be emerging in New Mexico through a collaboration of many entities in the New Mexico Environmental Excellence Alliance (NMEEA), conditions changed so drastically that the future of NMEEA is now uncertain, and while the partnerships still exist, the larger possibilities are at least on hold. 

Because of those dramatically changing conditions I was inspired to look more deeply at why we were successful before hand, and not successful later.  It became clearer as I considered a “root cause analysis” that the model I was to share with you would be stiff and structural without a description of the fluid foundation of playful process that created it.

The  “game” I was originally proposing to NMEEA and to you:  Waste As Value Links otherwise known as WAV-Links will be described at the end.  It is my hope that the WAV-Links model, while specific to our local situation in New Mexico, can inspire you as to what you might do by adapting it for your own local use. And the playfulness at the beginning will inspire how you work in the links, the relationships, the connections and communities in which you live.


The process of how we “get to sustainability” is more important than the “there” of sustainability.  We get so focused on what sustainability is, that we forget to notice how we’re getting there!  And even if we all agreed about a vision of the future that is sustainable or restorative today, inevitably conditions will change as we go!  So it makes the process, the “how” we get “there,” more important to focus on.  And I propose that playing games is more likely to get us “there” than serious work! SO I’m talking about playing with the processes of restoring ourselves, and oh, by the way, while we’re at it, restoring the planet. 

First, at what point can we freeze-frame life on the earth and say “this is sustainable”?  We’re fooling ourselves to pretend that is the case.  When in the last 4.5 billion years of history did things on the earth stop and say, “Great!  This is sustainable.  We can stop now”?  In that way, we can look at “sustainability” as a verb – an action – rather than an adjective – describing – or a noun – a thing.

Second, in both human history and recent years in the topic of sustainability, humans have built lots of muscle around the structures of what they want.  They’ve developed a lot of “what’s” – incredible technologies, incredible organizations structures, and structures of buildings, roads, books, and stuff we buy. 

We even have enough “sustainable” technologies currently available that if they were implemented, would transform the world in some very intended dramatic ways.  But the implementation seems to be so very slow.  Why aren’t we doing sustainability better?  It is obviously not a process based on just pure rationality, or we would have done it already.  Why aren’t we implementing those incredible technologies, and reaping the benefits?

We’re not having enough fun in the process!  We’re not playing with it.  We’re so darn serious!  How do I know?  I know because I’m one who has been pretty doggone serious!  Someone recently asked me, “Do you play?”  I was taken aback… what do you mean?  Play an instrument?  Or play play?  I don’t play basketball or go out salsa dancing like some of my friends.  I don’t enjoy watching the playing of sports.  I was hard-pressed to think, what do I do that is playful? 

After some serious thought :-), I realized that my play area is here – in thinking about what’s in my head and heart and that the doing of the playing was in the sharing of it with folks like you…and in doing it in fun ways. 

How did I come to that conclusion?  Because I find these thoughts and actions to generate enthusiasm in me.  I get excited.  Can’t put it down for the thrill of it, like when I first wrote up WAV-Links.  I find myself laughing with others at meetings.  I find myself enjoying their ideas and activities.  I enjoy being on a “winning team.”  I enjoy.

What are some of the characteristics of playing a game together?

RULES:  Games have “rules”.  We establish them before the game and agree to abide by them. Sometimes we break the rules… on purpose to see if we can get away with it, or accidentally.  Sometimes we change the rules.  Sometimes we change them during the game… like children do.  “OK, time out!  This is a free spot where I’m safe.”  Sometimes we change the rules in between the games.  “It’s only OK to change the rules this way.”  In any case, the reason the rules don’t change is because we don’t change them.

We modify the game to make it “better”.  The game is defined by its rules.  In many ways, what the rules are is less important.  But, as we know, some people can get pretty serious about the rules.  Some people forget that the rules are mutable.  Some even go so far as to believe that the rules of their favorite game are everything!

SKILLS:  In games, each individual’s skills are essential.  We train and train ourselves to get better at the craft of the game.

IMPROVISATION: Both individually and together.  We can improvise alone and/or together.  We add our individual creativity to the skill we have in playing the game.  This improvisational activity allows for serendipity, the unknown, which can make games even more fun because they are unpredictable.  Allowing for the inclusion of each other’s creativity can make for even more fun.  We have “stars” who are particularly skillful at the craft as well as the improvisation.  A good example is the basketball player, Michael Jordan.  But even he couldn’t succeed without a great team of other players with skill and improvisation.

COMMUNICATION:  Communicating well with the other players is essential to a successful outcome by the team.  Withholding information that is useful to the others on your team creates mistrust and results in less and less being accomplished.  At worst, it can dispel the team or create enmity that is counterproductive rather than productive.

In my game:  As I’m learning to “play well with others in sustainability circles”.  ;-)

THE ANSWER:  I’m allowing that there is no “The Answer”.  I’ve worked with people (and been a zealot myself) who are mildly annoyed to very upset when others don’t just grab on to and enthusiastically use another person’s favorite “model” or “game”...  as if it’s the “best” model or “only” model around.  How could there possible be one “best model” for everyone?  It’s ludicrous to pretend that’s true!  Biodiversity and ecosystems can exemplify how there is not one answer.

ARE WE THERE YET?  I’m letting go of the outcome of my work, of “getting there”… wherever “there” may be!  I’m learning to let go of the (* expletive deleted*’s) and replacing them with, “Hm… that didn’t go the way I had hoped.  Make a note.  What other options are there?  What other options might there be that we haven’t thought of yet? Can you help me here?”  “Would you help me here… Puhlllleeeeaasssee?” or, “Is it time to just let this whole issue go?”  This is a very different approach from standard business practices as described in most business training manuals and magazines where the business person is admonished to reach their goals… often at great cost.  We praise those who do this… put them on the cover of the magazine, etc.  But we forget the old adage, “getting there is half the fun.”  What if “getting there” was the point… if it was, in fact, all the fun?

IT JUST GETS BETTER:  And in letting go of the outcome of my work, I’m learning that I either get what I thought I wanted or I get something even better.  It’s often not obvious at the first moment we don’t get what we want, but inevitably shows up.  The key to this one is to NOTICE when a better solution DOES show up, so I can notice it… make a note.  (More on this when we come to the WAV-Links model.)  The other result of this is I’m getting less frustrated or angry, and I’m having a lot more fun. 

…AND MORE CREATIVE:  Letting go of the outcome that we thought we wanted also allows for the newness of creativity… creative new solutions we haven’t thought of yet…. But someone will.  Ideas that I haven’t thought of yet… but perhaps you’re the one who will!

IT FEELS GOOD:  When I play in these ways, I often feel

·     energized,

·     encouraged,

·     hopeful,

·     creative,

·     productive,

·     joyful,

·     generous,

·     happy. 

Even the moments that are challenging are worth it because they get me to where I feel even more joyful, more energized than before.

PLAYING (as kids say) or IMPLEMENTING (as adults say):  Playing has more of a “doing” meaning than a “thinking about” or “planning” meaning, though they can be very valuable too.  But playing gets us doing something… and doing it together in a way that we can be energized, encouraged, hopeful – even joyful.

IS IT HOPELESS?  OH, COOL!  You see a problem?  Is it hopeless?  Cool!  Completely hopeless?  Or just almost hopeless?  If it’s completely hopeless, maybe we ought not to take it on.  So you think it’s almost hopeless?  Cool!  What is almost hopeless about the problem?  Let’s play!  I enjoy the challenge of the puzzle of getting to sustainability.  You too?


I realize I’m opinionated about these things.  I’ve been fascinating by these things for a long time and paid close attention… not only in my professional life, but also in my personal life.  I have watched what works and what doesn’t work. 

IF I’M WRONG… I’ll have a lot of fun on the sinking Titanic.  I’ll go singing and laughing with others who are singing and laughing.  I’ll probably continue to ignore others who are fighting, struggling, angry, depressed - what looks to me like having a lousy time.

AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE… I’M RIGHT.  When I work with individuals and organizations that are taking themselves very seriously (which usually looks like they are very attached to things turning out THEIR way) if find that the group struggles with their work, can’t get much accomplished and doesn’t have much fun.  While groups of individuals who are enjoying themselves… get energized to do more, work better together, get more accomplished and have more fun.

Among facilitators, we sometimes simplify the description of the stages of group process into “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.”  Initially the group forms – the people come together as a group.  Then groups have a tendency to storm:  to get agitated about issues they disagree on.  But there comes a time with they work out their differences and find the common ground for how they can work together – they establish norms or “rules of the game”.  Then they can actually get work done – performing.  I’ve seen groups fluctuate between these, and some have even gotten stuck in loops that keep bringing them back to “storming” for years at a time.  But when groups work well together, they can spend most of their time “performing”… get things accomplished together.

EXPLORATION:  And that enthusiasm, improvisation, creativity, generosity, compassion are what I want to explore.  And that what we call “sustainability” and “restoration” is really just enthusiasm, improvisation, creativity, generosity and compassion – in thought, heart and deed.  (Generosity also includes implications of other words as well:  generate – to bring into existence; generation – the act or process of generating, procreating; generative – capable of producing)  We can explore what we have too much of… what we’re throwing away… in ways that satisfy our curiosity, desire for drama, support our creativity, and develop or compassion and respect, while being generous to others in our joyful exploration.

AND MAYBE EVEN HEAL THE WORLD WITH LAUGHTER? Norman Cousins made the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” famous in his book Anatomy of an Illness where he describes how he cured himself of a life-threatening disease by, among other things, watching funny movies that made him laugh.  What if we could take this to a world-wide scale?  I think we could heal ourselves and the planet by playing and laughing our way into a sustainable future!


So, how do groups “play” and “play together”?  What do we see?  What do we call it?  Each organization is made up of people… so first and foremost; it’s the people who are playing together, personally.  If you don’t like me, you’re not going to want to play with me  (even if you have to), even if our organizations are doing work together.    You’re going to resist me, not trust me… however it may show up.

Similarly, organizations have visions and mission statements – mandates from someone else, often hierarchically “above” them, like boards of directors, funders, or overarching bureaucracies up the “food chain” - or that they have determined for themselves – like in strategic planning meetings of groups, divisions or departments.

No matter how a group “gets” their mission and vision, it is their vision or mission that coalesces the creativity and intention of the larger group that is often shown by the enthusiasm and commitment of the individuals in it.  Whether they personally believe in any of  it or not, those individuals are  getting paid – or volunteering because they really like it, or their  imagination is sparked -  to do that work – to express with enthusiasm the work needed to do the vision or mission.  While we don’t often use the words “play”, or “fun” to describe we do use the words “benefit” or “buy-in” to describe the motivation in organizations.

So it is the organization’s vision and missions as embraced by the people within them that defines the creativity, the motivation, the enthusiasm, and the mandate to do a certain kind of work.  Characteristics of an organization that plays well includes many different kinds of behaviors exhibited by their members, like:

·     Communicating information easily within the organization

·     Communicating information easily outside with other organizations

·     Shared, transparent information: reducing proprietary information / secrets to a minimum

·     Commitment to help the larger network for the benefit of all.

·     Seeking accountability in a way that builds trust.

·     Commitment to Quality, e.g. commitment to continuous improvement

·     Valuing different opinions, different stakeholder voices, different member voices.

·     Being able to shift readily from hierarchical structures and processes (e.g. ownership, board of directors, management, worker bees) to non-hierarchical structures and processes (e.g. consensus visioning, or strategic  - action planning, or process improvements)

·     Being willing to find consensus, when that is called for.

·     Sharing credit for the successes with other organizations

·     Optimizing (vs. maximizing) sharing of resources for the benefit of the larger network.  This includes not only sharing resources and information about resources, but also leveraging (multiplying) existing resources for mutual benefit.

·     Coopetition:  The creative blend between cooperation and competition

·     Reduction in need to blame or judge

·     Willingness to look for the mutual benefits, so that at least no group or constituency loses at any step.

·     Eliminate coercion, manipulation to get others to do what I want, that they don’t/might not want to do.

·     Be willing to change our mind.

·      “Showing up, telling the truth, listening to the truth and being unattached to the outcome”

What happens when an organization DOESN’T play well with others?  You’ve been here.  Think about it.  Does each organization share the credit for successes with other organizations?  Or do they ignore the work of others that got them all there?  You’ve been in this position… If one individual or organization becomes proprietary; If one organization is afraid for their turf (budget, jurisdiction, contracts, etc.) and makes sure others can’t get it; If one organization becomes secretive about resources that might be available to others, or if the organization starts to “pick nits”, requiring exacting procedures, then the process of working together becomes more and more difficult, and less and less is accomplished together.  One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel… one person; one organization that is “grumpy” or “attached to their outcome” can make the entire process problematic.

In the short run we often see the territorial organization “succeeds” and sees results… but it is inevitably at the cost of the others around them.  However, in the long run (and it’s just a matter of time) that same organization loses the support of the other organizations… they go play somewhere else, or play much less enthusiastically if they must play… and the results of the “greedy” organization or person often begin to diminish.    Finger pointing and blame begin, and even more time, resources, money, and effort is wasted.


I’ve just given you a very personal perspective.  And I promised you a “free game” – the WAV-Links model:  an emerging model of moving groups to sustainability.  I hope that, by giving you this specific example, you can see ways of adapting it to where you are.  It’s a model that, as of this writing, didn’t play out! In January and February of this year I put it together to explain the current collaborative efforts underway around the state, interwoven with additional collaborations.  The purpose was to help folks in our new state government administration understand a larger context that some other organizations and individuals had been playing out already, with the ideas some had been discussing about a larger context for results in alignment with the campaign promises of the new governor.  And to show the new administration, that if they choose to play this way… there was a unique role they could play in precipitating a larger vision.  Where their leadership role could encourage the enthusiasm and creativity and implementation of existing and new players toward catapulting us all to a better future… in a way that would have fun and enthusiasm and creativity built in.  Like the teacher, Ms. Frizzle, in the cartoon series The Magic School Bus so often says, “Let’s get messy!” 

Relevant History of NMEEA: 

So let me give you some context.  NMEEA’s approaching decade-long history is as the volunteer support system for the Pollution Prevention Program of the NM Environment Department (NMED).  More specifically, most of the members are also active volunteers in the internationally recognized Green Zia Environmental Excellence Program that includes Governor’s Awards and the Green Zia Tools  However, in the six months between when I submitted the abstract for consideration, and the day of submission, NMEEA has gone from being a vibrant, expanding organization, to one whose future is quite uncertain.  A number of circumstances coincided to mean that historical memory and leadership at the traditional host organization was lost just at a time a new Administration came into office, and the group selected that person to be the lead chair of three co-chairs.  The only actual co-chair remaining was inundated with priorities and work from the new Administration.  So, as of this writing, a meeting is being scheduled for early September.  We will see what will come out of the ashes!  Certainly, the formal and informal relationships – the fun we have together already – will continue, but the any implementation of the overarching vision will most likely come from somewhere else.

But in January of this year, the confluence of Green Zia work through NMEEA and a new and very energetic ZERI effort in New Mexico combined to provide new energy and enthusiasm to sustainability efforts in New Mexico.  ZERI (with a Z, not an X) is a systematic approach to moving materials in a way that adds value… that converts liabilities… what we’re throwing away… into assets.  Founder Gunter Pauli has brought this approach to countries all around the world, and now in the US, has brought it to New Mexico.  More on that later.

By combining the work of and collaborations around these two programs, we were finding an opportunity to reduce pollution in individual businesses and industries, and link materials flow in a broader “eco-industrial” manner that increases profits, reduces risks, supports authentic local culture and relationships, and… oh, by the way, helps restore the planet.  Because all share credit for the improvements, transparency of communication and results became the hallmark for these activities.  Self-selecting participation based on self-determined benefits was ensuring the success of the whole group.  WAV-Links was a way to bring attention to identifying and refining what the “conscious connection” role must be in order to ensure success of the whole.

While the description below is dry, the activities we have already started are great fun.  The only way this project can really flourish is through the playful interactions between organizations (with their missions supported) and individuals (who find the work fun and energizing).  The amount of work with the enormous potential results can go much more quickly and effectively, if all are “playing”!




VISION - Collaboration toward Economic Development, Cultural Strengthening & Environmental Restoration. 

Communities where everything is valued:  all materials, ecosystems and individuals.  Where increasingly higher value is created. 

Where liabilities are turned into assets. 

Where Creativity is the name of the game. 

IMAGINE a small village in a high valley in Northern New Mexico.  There is a community that has been working toward living off the land the way that generations before them did, but with the knowledge and desires of today.  The people in this community are fiercely proud of their Hispanic traditions. Tierra Wools Cooperative is at the center of activity.  The women owners are weaving beautiful rugs and blankets.    And they have utilized ZERI help to complete the missing links in their vision.

IMAGINE:  A shepherd raising organic sheep and wool.  Shorn by locals.  Spun by locals.  Sold to the weavers who dye the wool with all native dyes:  cochineal red, walnut brown, indigo, Chamisa.  Where the wastewater from the wool washing process go into a wetland around which they grow crops to feed the sheep.  They also have a fishpond; fed by compost and earthworm wastes that feed algae in the pond that feeds the organic fish the community eats.  The clean water is used to water the gardens of dye herbs, fruit trees, and maize - corn.  The manure as well as offal from the slaughtered sheep, mixed with green waste from the gardens is used as food for worms in compost (used for soil remediation.)  The worms are little enzyme factories.  The enzymes from the worms are used to make detergent to wash the wool.  The forest slash that comes off the mountains to reduce extreme fire danger is shredded and used as a substrate for indigenous mushrooms.  Depending on the wood and the kind of mushroom, the protein-rich mushrooms are food on the humans’ tables, while the mycelium of the fungi convert the wood chips into a food supplement for cattle, turkeys, sheep and goats.  That helps lighten the overgrazing problem of their grasslands.  So you can see, by moving materials through all 5 kingdoms of nature, what WAS considered waste becomes valuable at each step. 

And now imagine how strongly this vision supports the traditional culture of the place.  How it values the elders who still remember the old, almost forgotten technologies.  How it values the creativity of their children to come up with new solutions that spin off beyond this simple system?  How much fun the greater community has, developing wealth, strengthening family traditions and seeing hope for their children and grandchildren to stay in the community, and not have to all migrate to the city for jobs.

OK.  Let’s tie back to playing for a moment.  So this sounds pretty great, right?  But maybe for this vision to work optimally, the individuals must be on speaking terms with each other!  What if the worm/detergent person isn’t speaking to the wool washers?  This is where I see the playing together as important.  And this is where I respectfully disagree with Paolo Lugari, the man who started the successful ZERI community in internal strife-torn Colombia, called Las Gaviotas.  He says that, when things are going well, he likes to “stir things up.”  In my view, there are quite enough misunderstandings, missed deadlines, broken down cars, marital infidelities, different political opinions and mixed messages in this world to create stir things up quite enough!  So I still stand by my understanding that playing is key here… that we move toward enjoying our activities and ourselves individually and together more and more.

Back to ZERI

ZERI is a keystone to this vision, and is elegantly summarized by founder Gunter Pauli in his ZERI presentations.  ZERI is a natural sciences-based methodology of attaining value added products from wastes.  It was established by the Geneva-based ZERI Foundation recognized by the United Nations and currently being undertaken locally by Sustainable Communities/ZERI-NM.   

The ZERI approach is deep and full and great fun to explore, but for our purposes now you need to know a couple of basics.

Consciously Utilizing The 5 Kingdoms Of Nature: 





     Algae / Protoctista

Consciously Utilizing 4 Design Principles:

(Yes, Gunter recently added a fourth)

1.     Do not eat from your own waste.  And it is degenerative to feed waste generated in one kingdom to others in the same kingdom.  (e.g. mad cow disease)

2.     Whatever is a toxin or virus in one kingdom is either neutral or a nutrient to the other kingdoms, except for radioactive waste.

3.     Work with what you have.  To the degree that solutions are imported, they are degenerative.

4.     When all 5 kingdoms cooperate, everything can be integrated and separated at ambient pressure and temperature.  If NOT all kingdoms are actively involved, then integration and separation will require pressure and temperature, thus causing entropy beyond the creation of energy from the sun.

The value of ZERI for WAV-Links becomes even clearer when we think about industries; we can see that the 4 Design Principles also apply.  Look at Design Principle #1:  If we recycle aluminum cans back to aluminum can factories, it’s expensive (degenerative) because, in order to get the aluminum to its original cleanliness and concentration, we have to clean all the inks and coatings off.  Why not find an industry that needs a slightly lower quality of aluminum, where no cleaning or processing is necessary?  The aluminum becomes more valuable (less cost to re-process).

Design Principle #2:  Whatever one industry is throwing away (what is “toxic” to them) could be used by at least one other industry.  And while we are not very good at taking things apart, there will be many successful businesses in the future that are great at better separation technologies.

Design Principle #3:  Even for industry, the farther away the source of their materials, the more expensive the transportation to get them there, and less helpful to the local economy.

Design Principle #4:  Vacuum, high pressure, very high or low temperature solutions increase the costs of the industrial solutions, and require more fossil fuels, while often limiting the size of the “container” that the solution must occur within.  (Think of vacuum chambers, autoclaves, etc.)

So, as we look at connecting land-based solutions, and then connecting eco-industrial solutions, it doesn’t take long to link our entire industrial society in our thinking – land-based and industrial all tie together in a huge, and growing web of value-added steps.  And value-added is another way to describe business and to understand economies.  And imagine communities where incubators are designed for the diverse needs of linked businesses… that would turn into increasingly complex, valuable eco-industrial parks.


To provide a context and a model for statewide collaboration toward sustainability and restoration is emerging in New Mexico.  By utilizing a conscious recognition of missions of organizations and state agencies, benefits to organizations and individuals, working with formal and informal partnerships that already exist, and identifying “missing links”, there is an opportunity to coalesce and link a  Chaordic organization  out of those relationships. 

To promote economic development that also responds to society’s basic needs and protective and restorative of our environment and natural resources through the natural treatment and use of “wastes” from industries, small businesses and land-based activities (forestry, agriculture, mining) as value-added products which expand and stimulate additional economic opportunities, while also supporting land-based cultures and new creativities. 

And to identify and solve barriers to successful, linked communities of businesses, in a way that will ensure broader partnerships are involved to solve those barriers.  For example, needed assistance in the areas of:

     Business skills, entrepreneurship, writing business plans,

     Technologies, both existing & kinds not yet invented,

     Traditional, Community, Education solutions,

     Governmental Barriers, e.g. zoning, regulations.

This model was designed for an “encourager” role: whose communication, transparency of information sharing enabling and encouragement links the players, particularly in the early “gestation” stages.  Such an encourager would have to be supported by state government, non-profit or other organization whose mission is in alignment with this kind of activity.  There are surely numerous other ways of “doing” this!


Also key to this vision are the Green Zia Tools and Approach that are part of the Green Zia Environmental Excellence Program of the New Mexico Environment Department.  (NMED)  This internationally recognized Pollution Prevention Program has the tools and experience in working with industry, government and small businesses in New Mexico.  The Green Zia Tools and Approach show how, through quality process improvement, businesses can identify where they are throwing away their profits.  The annual Governor’s Green Zia Awards are based on the national Malcolm Baldrige and Quality New Mexico Awards.  The Green Zia Tools are long-recognized quality business tools (like process mapping, root-cause analysis), that when put in a specific order with certain questions asked, can readily result in an action plan for waste reduction and pollution prevention.

This program was strongly applauded in the report to the Governor by his Transition Team assigned to analyze the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) in December 2002, with both industry and environmental representatives as one that should continue and be expanded, and that a formal link from NMED’s Green Zia Program be made with New Mexico Economic Development Department. 


(See end of this paper for the actual names of New Mexico groups.)

·     Relevant State departments:

o     Energy Minerals & Natural Resources

o     Economic Development

o     Environment

·     Local Government(s)

·     Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

·     Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) a program of National Institutes for Science & Technology

·     Closest ZERI organization

·     Regional Development Corporation (RDC)

·     Quality / Baldrige organization

·     Educational institutions

·     Chambers of Commerce (CofC)

·     Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI)

·     The Municipal League (ML)

·     Council of Governments (COG)

·     National Laboratories – part of U.S. Department of Energy

·     Tribes and Tribal organizations

·     Interested Communities

·     Other stakeholders that self-select and/or add value to the project


1.     Initial Pilot Phase:            Community

2.     Second Phase:            County/Region(s)

3.     Third Phase:                 Statewide

4.     Ongoing:                 Support for the linked businesses.

                    Process improvements for WAV-Links

Each of the above phases would have similar kinds of activities summarized as follows:


Identify key resources and major/problematic waste-streams with potential for process improvements and/or value added economic opportunities, keeping in mind both industry and land-based activities.  (“What are we throwing away?  What are our worst problems? e.g. forest fire prevention through forest thinning slash. 

Process Improvements

Assist prioritized industry sectors with process improvements, technical support.  Tends toward industries, including manufacturing.  Green Zia Tools.


Identify waste streams and/or problem areas, rather than costing to throw away and/or cause pollution.  Identify priorities (“critical mass”) of links for success of the connections.  Tends initially toward land-based businesses, which often have deep traditional/cultural roots.  ZERI “due diligence”.  Systematic approach to move materials through the 5 Kingdoms of Nature with 4 principles.

Kinds Of Partners 

·     New Mexico Small Business Development Center (NMSBDC)

·     Sustainable Communities Inc/ZERI New Mexico (SCI/ZERI NM) and ZERI International (ZERI)

·     New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (NMEMNRD)

.              New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) particularly their pollution prevention program: Green Zia (GZ)

·     New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD)

·     Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

·     Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia)

·     Regional Development Corporation (RDC) – a Community Re-Use Organization of

the Department of Energy

·     Larger businesses, e.g. Intel

·     New Mexico State Forest Service (NMSFS)

·     United States Forest Service (USFS)

·     Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

·     Picuris Pueblo (tribe)

·     Nambe Pueblo (tribe)

·     WERC Consortium    http://www.werc.net/ 

·     Farmers Markets

·     Landfill Managers – City/County

·     Water quality managers

·     Watershed experts

·     Sewage treatment managers

·     County governments

·     New Mexico Municipal League

·     Business Trade Associations

Kinds of Benefits during this step:

·     Preliminary (easy/fast) pollution prevented and cost savings.

·     Tracking/ measuring of results – shared systems being developed (measured in money as well as materials)

·     Beginning of measuring broader results being coordinated

·     Increasing transparency of information

·     All can take credit for all the results


Existing Businesses

·     Identify and contact existing businesses that can start to be linked.  (SBDC’s).

·     Provide prioritized lists of those businesses that are needed to provide better value-added links to:

o     Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and

o     Chamber of Commerce

·     for dissemination to potential entrepreneurs.  (In some SBDC centers over 50% of the people who walk in say something like, “I’d like to be an entrepreneur.  What business shall I start?”)

Advertise / Promote

·     Advertise in local media regarding the key first businesses.  Advertise the value to the community. (Stronger economy, supporting traditional land-based culture(s); lessening tax burden through: less pollution, slower filling of landfill, etc.)

Initial Support For Existing And Potential Local Entrepreneurs

·     Provide entrepreneurship and business-plan writing training through local SBDC to the diverse cluster of businesses. 

·     Facilitate good communication between them.

·     Technical support for technologies they need.

·     Ombudsman/Encourager to assist with (surprise) barriers.

Kinds Of Partners 

·     Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s) – Entrepreneurship skills, business planning…

·     SCI/ZERI NM, ZERI International

·     New Mexico Municipal League (or create a state ombudsman for business solving unusual problems with regulations, policies.)

·     Council of Governments (COG), local governments and Municipal League for local regulations, policies…


·     WERC Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development

·     Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Labs, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) SATOP program - for technical assistance

·     Manufacturing Extension Program of National Institutes for Science and Technology – Lean Manufacturing

Kinds of Benefits

·     More preliminary value-added for problematic waste-streams.

·     Track results, measure in money, cash flow analysis, pollution prevented, or other relevant measures.

·     The beginning of measuring of broader (cross-agency) results is coordinated, tracked.

·     All can take credit for all the results. 

·     Increasing clarification of proprietary vs. shared information.

·     Increasing transparency of information where relevant, results ($/pollution prevention) are beginning to become less anecdotal, more trending.

·     Increasingly notable results. 


·     Similar to the above, but with a larger or statewide scope of businesses, e.g. only one of a particular kind of business is needed in the entire state, like cardboard recycler.

·     Ensure county-wide, statewide stakeholders in landfill and water quality/quantity and sewage treatment are in participation.

·     Link learnings and assessments with schools (K-PhD)

·     Out-of-state business recruitment for still-missing business links.


1.     New Links

·     Continue to identify with businesses and ZERI what other needed businesses might be.

·     Business incubators for linked businesses.

·     Ombudsman role to find appropriate help to solve unusual problems.

Kinds of Benefits:  Continuing to identify new business opportunities through looking at what is being thrown away.  Less pollution.  Lower costs and reduced risk for the throwing away businesses.  Lower cost of goods sold for the receiving businesses.

2.     Business Skills

·     Entrepreneurship, Business Planning, Financials, Financing, Marketing, etc.

Kinds of Benefits:  Measurable successes in each business and all businesses.  More businesses.  Stronger businesses.  More profits.  Larger markets.  More jobs. 

3.     Technologies

·     Help linked businesses / communities to find necessary technology solutions in a cost-effective manner. (Needs-driven, not technology-driven!)  Especially separation technologies.

Kinds Of Benefits:  Smarter solution technologies, more jobs, better economy, less in the landfill, supports programs that provide these solutions. New roles for national laboratories’ brain power  (“tech transfer”).

4.     Governmental Solutions

·     Unusual business solutions may have zoning, regulation, financing barriers that must be solved. 

Kinds of Benefits:  More creative solutions to “problems”, e.g. new zoning codes, new kinds of regulations, new kinds of tax structures, that can help the next generation of businesses.  Lower taxes, less pressure on (and cost for) landfills, cleaner environment, fewer costly brownfields, better business climate.

5.     Traditional, Community, and Education Solutions

·     Encourage elders remembering traditional, cultural, land-based technologies – that can be researched by youth.

·     For employees:  At-risk-youth, drop-outs, welfare issues, self-esteem. 

Kinds of Benefits:  Traditional cultures are valued and supported.  Rural communities get stronger economies, without imported and/or polluting industries.  Reduce welfare rolls.


The following two lists of known and potential new partners for WAV-Links are those known to the writer only.  There is no attempt at finding exhaustive connections.  Those partners with an asterisk * are members of NMEEA:  New Mexico Environmental Excellence Alliance.


·     Governmental/Schools:  Resources, Leadership, Communication, Analysis, Education

·     Non-Profits:  Resources, Existing Programs, and Community Projects

·     Green Zia Program of NM Environment Department (GZ) (NMED)*

·     NM Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department (NMEMNRD)*

·     NM Economic Development Department (NMEDD)*

·     Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)*

·     Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)*

·     Intel Corporation*

·     Durango McKinley Paper*

·     Many other business members of NMEEA*

·     NM Small Business Development Center Network (NMSBDC)*

·     NM WERC at NMSU - Waste-management Education & Research Consortium (WERC)*

·     NM Manufacturing Extension Program (NM-MEP)

·     Sustainable Communities/ZERI New Mexico (SCI/ZERI)

·     Picuris Pueblo

·     Tierra Wools

·     Regional Development Corporation (RDC)

·     United State Forest Service (USFS)

·     State Forest Service (NMFS)

·     Espanola Crisis Center

·     Tewa Women United

·     Center for Service-Based Learning

·     Green Alliance

·     Green Marketplace


·     Interested Businesses 

·     In-state - existing, entrepreneurs considering what to start

·     Out-of-State – recruited businesses

·     Farmers Markets and Farmers’ Associations

·     Interested Communities: Picuris Pueblo, Tierra Amarilla/Los Ojos

·     NM General Services Division (GSD) – who purchase for state government

·     Business Expansion and Retention Program

·     Business Incubators (Santa Fe Business Incubator)

·     NM Recycling Coalition

·     Quality New Mexico (QNM)

·     Chambers of Commerce (CofC)

·     Regional Economic Development and/or Non-Profit organizations like T.R.A.D.E. - Tri-Area Association for Economic Development

·     Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI)

·     The Municipal League (ML)

·     Council of Governments (COG)

·     Local Governmental Groups, e.g. Sustainable Santa Fe Commission

·     Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council (ENIPC)

·     Technology Ventures Corporation (TVC)

·     Other stakeholders that self-select and/or add value to the project

·     Trade Associations

·     Schools

·     U.S. Department of Commerce


Whether WAV-Links ever happens in New Mexico, or even whether NMEEA continues as an organization is yet to be determined.  And what structure you have found that works in your lives may also change. 

But what seems to be certain is that we all will be doing – playing with – something that moves us toward sustainability.  Just your presence at the conference, or that you are still reading, indicates that sustainability is probably a game you are playing! 

The process of how we “get to sustainability” is more important than the “there” of sustainability.  We are still looking at what sustainability IS!  And even if we all agreed about a vision of the future that is sustainable or restorative today, inevitably conditions will change as we go!  So it makes the process, the “how” we get “there” can be much more fun to focus on.  And playing games together is actually more likely to get us “there” than serious work!

And we can play well together in many different games, but if we “play well with others” we can derive mutual benefit to infinity!  Let’s play an improvisational, creative game together, where we are joyful and have fun… and maybe, just maybe… we can BE sustainable, restorative, generous and happy!

And if you don’t like the way I’m playing it, that’s just fine with me. (The game I’m playing is not about coercion!)  I like playing different games at different times.  I’m always looking around for other games that might be fun to play… maybe that’ll be yours!  And I’m open to suggestions for how to make the game I’m playing more fun.

So, I’m looking for some new playmates.  Let’s play!
Top of page.

Back to prior page.

 •  HomeAffiliationsArticles & AudioClientsContact Us
 •  Current ProjectsFAQsLinksTestimonialsWho is Margo Covington?
 •  Resume
© 2001-2024 Covington Consulting.  All rights reserved.