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Checking Out: Lisa Wynne

She’s fighting to help retailers comply more easily with sustainability requirements and opportunities




Checking Out: Lisa Wynne
Lisa Wynne
This sustainability expert with two architecture degrees runs EcoScapes Sustainability Solutions LLC, an environmental consulting firm. She’s fighting to help retailers comply more easily with sustainability requirements and opportunities.

Q: Can you remember your earliest brushes with the environment?

A: I was raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a lifestyle where nature ruled. Like when a moose gave birth in somebody’s front yard. Or when a bear would come into town and climb a tree to take a nap. The police would park themselves at the bottom of the tree until the bear left so nobody would bother it.

Q: Classic early-Americana.

A: Our Victorian home from the 1880s was built by a lumber baron who used seven different types of wood in the construction. A grand oak staircase, birdseye maple panels. It had all been painted white so when my parents bought the house they stripped everything and all the natural elements emerged. It gave me a great appreciation for materiality.

Q: Which you use to this day.

A: Retailers have a lot of sustainability issues. But since, in so many cases, they’re moving into the shell of an already constructed outer building, their primary issues become the walls, the displays, the flooring and, yes, the materials they use.


Checking Out: Lisa Wynne

Taking the LEED

Q: What was your first professional interaction with environmentalism?

A:After I received my architecture degrees, I joined Cannon Design in St. Louis. Within a week, they asked me to take my LEED exam. I was still used to studying and taking tests, so I studied for three weeks and passed the exam. I came back to the office and announced I’d passed, and they said, ‘Great! Now teach us how to do it, too.’
I developed study materials, presentations, lunch-and-learns. Soon the firm’s experienced architects were coming to me with all kinds of projects that needed LEED compliance or certification. My special calling had found me.

Q: Specifically?

A: Many store designers think that using sustainable materials – recyclable, rapidly renewable, certified – means their job is done. But, as I like to say, ‘sustainable in’ does not necessarily mean ‘sustainable out.’ At the end of the store’s life, anything that they can’t take apart becomes trash. If there’s MDF with glue, resin or welding that can’t easily be taken apart and reused. Nobody’s going to try taking out hundreds of screws. It’s not in the budget nor the schedule to do all that.

Q: And the solution?

A: Designing for disassembly, which takes a great deal of creativity. Some simple options are solid materials, removable adhesives, puzzle-piece designs. For example, acrylic is recyclable. You might not reuse it, but neither are you going to throw it out.

Q: How far have we come?

A: I’d say pretty far. When I was first working for a company 15 years ago, they had a suggestion box for employees. Some people suggested the company ‘should go green.’ And the CEO thought that meant changing our corporate colors to green. There’s now a company in Europe able to take MDF apart for reuse. That’s how far we’ve come.

Q: But we haven’t overcome the political disagreements.

A: We know the climate is changing. We no longer have the luxury of debating what or who caused it, whether it was natural causes, industrialization or our throwaway society. We have to deal with it. There’s no grand answer. Just the one in our face.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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