Broad Shoulders to Stand Upon: 30 years of Rocky Mountain Institute

In this 30th year of Rocky Mountain Institute’s history, it is an opportunity to reflect upon how far we’ve come and how fortunate we are to have the leadership of this terrific organization. With its hybrid structure of innovative research supported by contributions from individuals and foundations, and consulting services provided for businesses and other organizations, RMI has supplied the impetus for game-changing ideas across the fields of buildings, transportation, energy production and resource conservation.

Proof of concept is one of the key areas that distinguish RMI’s work. Sure, it’s great to come up with groundbreaking solutions, but unless you can show others it will be worth the effort and without ruining the bottom line, why would anyone care?

Working with people like Tony Malkin, owner of the Empire State Building, and our other partners in the building’s deep energy retrofit is just one example of how RMI makes proof of concept tangible, credible, and viable in the real world.

It is for this reason that celebrating RMI’s 30th anniversary at the Empire State Building makes sense. The retrofit of this building has the capability to drive a major shift in the thinking of how many buildings can be remodeled and upgraded.

The energy and cost savings worked together to benefit the various leaseholders in the building, improving the bottom line as well as the comfort of those who work there every day. And this iconic building represents the epitome of what it is to be American—a classic example of what we have the power to do if we put our minds together.

When I signed up to co-chair RMI’s 30th anniversary celebration with Peter Boyer, he and I had a brief discussion about fundraising, which was basically, “What are we getting ourselves into?” Neither of us aspired to be asking people for money. But somehow we’ve managed to find periods of fun in this endeavor.

Talking to people about RMI over the past few months has been a nourishing experience. We’ve spoken to longtime supporters who have followed RMI’s work almost from inception and continue to enthuse about the impacts. And we’ve had conversations with relative newcomers to the organization who are amazed to hear how long ago some of these “breakthrough” ideas were conceived.

Through the history of RMI, donor support has enabled the research that leads to breakthroughs that then are tested, refined, and proven through our partnerships, all of which we will celebrate May 10 at the Empire State Building.

RMI’s current focus stands upon the capable shoulders of Amory Lovins’ early work. In 1976, he coined the term “soft energy path”—where energy efficiency and renewable energy replace the “hard” path of fossil fuels. This developed into the core mission of RMI: to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources.

RMI is now attracting to our fold the best and the brightest scientists, architects and engineers, with graduate degrees from some of our country’s most respected educational institutions. It can be intimidating to think about that at first, until you meet these people and realize they have engaging personalities as well.

They are the kinds of people who can do more than just think up new ideas; they also have the capability to communicate and inspire business leaders to prove these ideas will work. And they work together with these leaders to find profitable solutions to big, gnarly problems.

You might be asking, “How do I fit in?” Right here of course! Share with us your thoughts and ideas via the comments below.

Most of all, we want to thank you for your support of our work.

With warm regards and gratitude,

— Suzanne Farver
Treasurer, RMI Board of Trustees and Host Committee Co-Chair

Photo permission: The Empire State Building design is a registered trademark and is used with permission by ESBC.