Each year, the U.S. Green Building Council announces the Top 10 States for LEED green building. For the first time since 2011, Colorado took the top spot on the list, which ranks states based on the number of LEED-certified square feet per person. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world with more than 100,000 projects engaged.

Each of these 10 states are leading the way in creating a higher living standard for those who live in, work in, and visit their state. But the work that goes into this transformation doesn’t happen overnight — it takes individual efforts, collectively, to make this incredible progress.

New York earned a spot in this year’s top 10 ranking because of the leadership demonstrated by the individuals working to make that difference at the local level. Our Living Standard campaign teaches that by taking steps as individuals, we can inspire others to take new and additional steps too, eventually leading to collective and large-scale change.

Jaimie Cloud, president of the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education in New York City, is one such individual working to make a difference.

“I am not a big believer in spending a lot of time coping with decline. We want to head toward reversing climate change,” Jaimie explains. The Cloud Institute prepares school systems and their communities to educate for a sustainable future through meaningful content and learner-centered instruction. “ One of the ways we educate for sustainability, using climate change as an entry point, is to explain to kids how the planet actually works. We don’t focus on climate change: We focus on a healthy and sustainable future.”

This story is part of our Living Standard “Storigins” sub-campaign, which highlights the origin stories of sustainability champions. Through these stories, we hope to encourage others to think about their own Storigins, why they were first inspired to act, and how their own unique backgrounds can help solve today’s mounting environmental obstacles.

Like Jaimie’s work with students through the Cloud Institute, USGBC also focuses on building this healthier and more sustainable future. In fact, it’s why we created the Living Standard campaign. The campaign provides a framework for building this brighter future through storytelling, research, and listening — lending guidance to green building professionals and others in the sustainability industry so we can all work together to make this future a reality.

Everyone starts from somewhere. And as our incremental actions build over time and multiply, they can lead to something great. New York certified 193 LEED projects in 2019, representing 3.76 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident — in no small part thanks to the efforts of leaders like Jaimie.

When we share our stories, we can inspire action in others. After all, everyone has a story to tell, and we can learn from each other’s actions both inside and outside of the classroom.  Today, take one action and share your story with us at livingstandard.org as we work to build a safer, healthier, and more equitable future for all.