We are excited to announce that Renee Gastineau has joined Paladino and Company as client development manager in the Pacific Northwest region. She’s a dynamic addition to our team, and we want to give our clients, colleagues, and peers the opportunity to get to know Renee better through a Q&A.

Renee, tell us about your background and the path that led you to Paladino.

I like to say that I focus on building credibility for organizations and making connections across diverse stakeholder groups. I’ve worked as a radio news reporter for NPR, a communications and marketing consultant, and a business development manager for many types of organizations. I’ve worked at architecture firms, the University of Washington, and small start-up companies looking to commercialize new clean energy technology.  I use the lessons I’ve learned through each of these roles to better understand my clients and their businesses.

Most recently, I worked at the University of Washington Clean Energy Institute with world-class researchers, graduate students, and entrepreneurs who are collectively inventing new devices and systems that will transform our energy systems for the better. My job there included connecting faculty and students to businesses and investors, and I saw first-hand that collaboration and innovation flourish when the traditional silos of academia and industry relax.  The UW is proving that when the best new ideas for energy and environmental innovation make it out of the lab and into the marketplace faster, we all benefit. I think that same love for technology, innovation, and collaboration brought me to Paladino.

Paladino found me! I wasn’t really looking for a new job. After I met the Paladino team, I felt as though I had arrived home after a long journey. The people here share the same love of problem-solving that I do. The Paladino approach is based in science and facts is driven by the positive economic and business impacts of sustainability.  And, they are great storytellers who want to share their ideas, knowledge, and successes.

Finally, the abundance philosophy and dedication to innovation really resonates with me. There is a strong belief here that we have the tools to achieve sustainability. And the team is unafraid of the unknown. If a new challenge arises, we have the will and the creative drive to figure it out. This is exactly the environment that I want to work in.

Where do you find inspiration in your work?

I get great satisfaction in connecting people and organizations who can help each other. It sounds simple, but it is really like putting together a big puzzle. You must understand what motivates people, what their goals are, what their backstory is, and what they want for themselves. That also extends to what they want for their business, their customers, and the world they operate within. Understanding goals and motivations can make those connections more obvious.

I love to get people talking and figuring out what makes them tick. Watch out when you meet me – I might start peppering you with questions. My mother tells me that my first words were “What’s that?” That’s probably why I started my career in news.

What direction do you think green building is headed? Where do you see the industry in ten years?

Coming most recently from a research and technology institution, I have a great appreciation for the impact that technology will have on the built environment.  Many of the new advanced materials for energy and buildings will be less expensive to produce, offer longer live spans, and will be much more efficient in generating and storing power. For example, there are new lightweight and flexible solar materials coming to market that can be printed using a roll-to-roll printing press and can be used as window films and roof tiles. Battery materials are increasing in efficiency and lasting longer. This allows intermittent renewable energy to be stored and used at times when it is needed, not just when it is generated by sun or wind. Sensors, software, and the Internet of Things are providing data and insight that can help us understand how humans and buildings interact. Artificial Intelligence technology, when leveraged appropriately, can encourage positive behavior change among the people who live, work, and play in the built environment.

Interestingly, the researchers and graduate students who are engineering these systems are doing so with great interest in using less toxic chemicals, earth-abundant materials, and thinking about end-of-life recycling and re-use. So cradle-to-cradle thinking is also becoming more prevalent in sustainability.

What role does sustainability play in your life outside of work? What does it mean to you?

I live on Whidbey Island in the middle of Puget Sound. In addition to people, my fellow commuters include sea gulls, bald eagles, sea lions, and on occasion, gray whales and orcas moving alongside the ferry. It is a daily reminder that the environment we live in is shared by so many, and there is room for us all if we are thoughtful about how we coexist.

On a practical level, I realized that I subconsciously incorporate sustainability into my life because in many cases it the easiest path. For example, I take public transportation most days so I can meditate, read books, and listen to podcasts instead of experiencing the stress of driving on the interstate. In addition to reducing my carbon footprint, I also get to work faster. I compost and recycle nearly everything because it is less-expensive than paying for weekly garbage pick up where I live.  As a result, we have reduced our waste to about one can of garbage a month.

I planted deer-resistant plants in my yard and found out afterwards that many of the same shrubs are also drought tolerant species that need less water. There are win/win opportunities in sustainability nearly everywhere I look.

Washington State Ferry leaving Clinton August 2017.

What is one positive impact you feel sustainability will support most in the world?

We live in the richest country on the planet and our capacity as a society to innovate and solve challenges is unmatched. Technology, economics, environment, policy, and social justice are so interwoven in the sustainability mix that it is difficult to adjust one without a large imbalance in the others. So I feel strongly that incorporating sustainable systems into our built environment is a way to ensure that everyone has equal access to a clean environment, and a safe place to live, work, and play.

What do you do in your leisure time?

I enjoy live music. I play the flute for my own amusement. I attempted to learn the fiddle, which provided me a great appreciation for those who have the talent to play bluegrass.  My husband and I spend a lot of our free and travel time going to shows in small clubs and large stadium shows in Seattle and in cities we visit. A favorite memory is standing in the middle of a huge soccer stadium in Milan hearing 50,000 Italians singing along to Pearl Jam’s cover of Rockin’ in the Free World.  There is just something life affirming about the common love of a song – it makes me believe that we as citizens of the planet are going to be okay and collectively figure out our differences.

We’re also big sports fans and spend many nights at Seattle Mariners games, watching college and pro football, and dreaming of one day getting the Sonics back in Seattle.

Then after all that stimulation I head to the woods or walk the beach near my home to be alone.

Global Citizen concert in Central Park in September 2015.

What are three things you can’t live without?

Other than obvious (my husband, dog, and friends), I probably couldn’t live without a good book, a decent set of headphones, and a pair of sturdy hiking boots.

Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island.

What are you most proud of?

That I have had the courage to try many things and have never stopped learning.

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