Jonathan J. Halperin
Jonathan J. Halperin
Designing Research, Communications
and Strategies for Sustainability

Enough Defining

Implementation, not definition, is the challenge for sustainability today. Despite much harrumphing and navel-gazing about what exactly sustainability means, the core is clearly understood. As we have explained it to young students at Mundo Verde, sustainability means taking only what you need now and saving the rest to share with others. One can quibble over that simplification, but at core it is correct. And around that core are many facets that both enable and challenge people grappling with how to ‘do’ sustainability.

As movingly captured last evening at the premiere of La Expedición at the Josephine Butler Center in Washington, DC, the Mundo Verde community works on three facets of sustainability, nurturing children to become future leaders. I facilitated the discussion afterwards with invited parents, education thought leaders, faculty, and community leaders. 



The public premiere is Saturday, April 20 at 5:30pm at North Columbia Heights Green in the alley off 11th Street NW between Park Road & Lamont Street 6:30 pm-8:30pm (Facebook event page). This event is free and open to the public. (Special thanks to Meridian Hill Pictures and Washington Parks & People.) Questions? Contact: communications [at]

 La Expedicion Flyer


Mundo Verde is a bilingual school, ensuring that the leaders of tomorrow have skills to navigate and collaborate in a multicultural world. Second, students learn both in the classroom and even more fundamentally outside through carefully developed learning expeditions. And third, sustainability is both explicitly taught and modeled through the schools work with vendors. The outdoors thus becomes a classroom while the classroom becomes a teaching tool.

While the food provided by James-Beard Foundation award-winning chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff, partners in Equinox, for the premiere of La Expedición provided a lovely backdrop to this event, agriculture and the global food system was the central focus of last week’s Sustainable Food Laboratory summit where I presented the results of research undertaken for Unilever. With Molly Jahn from the University of Wisconsin, I urged leaders from leading companies (PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Cargill and others) and NGOs (Oxfam, Eco-Agriculture Partners, Conservation International, BSR and others) to build on the current farm-level certification systems and embrace landscape-level monitoring.

And on the flip side, hunger too is part of the sustainability equation. How can we have a sustainable world with nearly 2 billion people malnourished – roughly a billion of them from hunger and the other half from obesity? A Place at the Table opened last month in thirty-two markets and the digital mosaic we created of successful Americans who were once on food stamps continues to draw people in to an expanding national conversation and policy debate on ending hunger in America.

Stay tuned for more news from Mundo Verde and A Place at The Table, as I am also en route shortly to the CERES conference in San Francisco – where the focus will surely be more on the doing than on the defining.

When I began to unhook from SustainAbility in 2008, after 20+ years, to co-found Volans, Jonathan was working with the US end of SustainAbility — and sent the London end of the Volans team a large cardboard box of multi-colored felt rocks, which initially I couldn't make head nor tail of. I thought he was mad, or overly American.

But I have to say that, over time, those felt rocks have become a central feature of the Volans culture, thrown by team members at other team members (or guests) on the slightest provocation. That aside, he's a consummate professional, creative collaborator, skilled communicator, and keen intellect—and I am delighted both to have had Jonathan as a colleague and to now count him as a friend.

more testimonials >

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Feb 4

 Jonathan J. Halperin Retweeted Civil Eats
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Pay attention. Pay very close attention. This is just the beginning.
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USDA removes animal welfare reports from its website
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