Welcome to Roberts’ Green Letter

Roberts’ Green Letter: Applied EQ for responsible industry


Dear friends and colleagues,

What do the following have in common?

  • George Washington’s 1796 letter to the public declining a third presidential term

  • President Eisenhower’s speech warning the U.S. about the power of the “Military-Industrial Complex”

  • The 2021 TV special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry”

I see the following threads:

  1. I admire a lot about these folks, including the choice they each made to retire from a role in public service and to refocus their lives on more personal values.

  2. They critiqued their own world with brutal truths.

  3. They made a dire warning that remains challenging and relevant.

I’ve thought a lot about examples like this in planning my intentions for Roberts’ Green Letter.

I retired from full-time professional work in early 2022. When people retire in their 40s, I imagine them being independently wealthy, or with someone who is. I’m neither.

Sometimes I wish I had what people call “f**k you” money. Not because I want a yacht—a surfboard would be plenty. I want the freedom of speech that comes with it.

In another metaverse, I used to be paid for doing journalism. I practiced with delicacy the art of being a cheerleader for good efforts, but also critical when called for, as long as it’s written in a constructive way. (And “upbeat,” for any other fans of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”)

My job was to report the story, but also to keep the lights on. How much insider reaction could I report and still be invited back to next year’s conference?

A journalist writes for their readers, and many do a hell of a job. But any employed journalist has one reader who matters the most. It’s the rare boss who’s willing to give their staff full freedom of thought, and then also to have the emotional intelligence to make that real.

I hope you’ll join Roberts’ Green Letter for as little as a few bucks a month.

Why would that be worth it to you?

First let me acknowledge why it’s worth it to me. That’s the least I can do as a writer who believes that our biases are always part of the story, and important to name. Yes, I’m retired. However, I have a farm and a family to keep afloat, and maybe I have a bungalow in Bolinas to save up for.

And maybe one day, when you and ten thousand of our colleagues are enjoying Roberts’ Green Letter, I’ll have earned that “f*** you money.”

But my path is to earn my way into it. Not the other way around.

Here’s why I can do that for you.

I’ve already given myself the mentality I need. You see…

I’m not afraid of being canceled.

In my previous writing and work, I’ve always told you what was on my mind. That includes the 100s of articles and reports, and the thousands of tips I’ve written to tens of thousands of LEED project teams, sustainability leaders, and professionals.

But I have one shortcoming to make up for.

You didn’t know what I was leaving out. You didn’t know what stories I wasn’t telling. You didn’t know what elephants in the room, what emperors with no clothes, I was not able to call out, for one reason or another.

I was immersed in liberal, socially just, sustainable, double-certified, living, regenerative culture.

And I still am. I love this movement. I’m pulling every day for us to succeed together.

But I had some co-dependencies with myself, with my family, with my community, and with this entire culture that I needed to walk away from. I’ve had the honor of sharing with thousands of readers the stories of how I’ve done that. I’ve been sharing what kind of a culture I’m walking toward, here on Quill Nook Farm in southern Vermont, and in our world. That’s been on my blog, This Spot on Earth, and my forthcoming book.

I’ve been writing these stories to be useful to any reader.

And thousands of my old LEED AP colleagues have followed me to my blog to read them.

Readers like Mikhail Davis have sent me notes like this:

“Lindsay turned me on to your blog and it’s great to see the ‘unleashed’ Tristan on view there, free to delve into any interesting topic and digression as you please.”

It took a lot for me to take off that leash. In pressing “Publish” on many of those digressions I confronted my intense fear of abandonment. Would you hate me, would you cancel me, for telling you what I really thought about politics? About COVID?

Do I have permission to “re-face” a Civil War monument with my son? Is my truth, as someone who has been called an “old white dude,” welcome on topics like racism? On unconscious bias and sexism? On connecting with the living culture of the Abenaki?

In writing despite my fears, in writing about them with a pen dipped in my own blood, I discovered something. It was like a forgotten room in my own house with an old wardrobe. Behind some coats in the back—an undiscovered country.

The more I commit to writing the truth, no matter where it takes me, the more truths I am privileged to notice. The more truths are entrusted to me by colleagues like you. The more potential I see for real progress on our biggest problems.

I felt like I was on a good track early on with my blog when Michelle L., a LEED AP and Passive House Consultant, wrote and said this:

“I am really enjoying your newsletters… They are such a different and welcome reprieve from most of the types of technical and/or doom-and-gloom things that end up in my inbox. I shared it yesterday with another consultant friend who could use some new inspiration.”

That word… inbox. The horror, the horror.

I, Tristan Roberts, declare peace with your inbox.

I am offering Roberts’ Green Letter via substack with two planned Letters per week:

  1. Mondayish: Concise, actionable insights for your week in sustainability, material health, ESG, social justice, certification insights, and all good things.

  2. Thursdayish: Roberts’ Green Letter podcast. People you admire, conversations the likes of which you haven’t heard before. Inspiration would be too simplistic—it’s going to open up parts of yourself where you find truth and inspiration.

What’s new here?

My only regret with my existing This Spot on Earth blog has been seeing professional colleagues unsubscribe now and then. “This Spot” is more of an art project. I write to make sense of things. I write for my son. I write for a slow read over tea.

Roberts’ Green Letter on substack is a new, independent platform. Myself and my team will bring those emotional, nature-inspired, technically rigorous, concise insights home to your professional inbox.

Friend, have you ever heard a well refill?

The 200-foot drilled well for our home is 10 feet outside our mudroom door. When someone’s just taken a bath and the dishwasher is running, the pump draws the water level down a few feet. Sitting on the porch you can hear water trickling back in from cracks in the Earth, filling the well back up to equilibrium with the aquifer.

I’ve worked alongside my colleagues in industry for 20 years. I know how hard you’re working.

Roberts’ Green Letter offers a short read or listen to refill your well.

If your well is full or your week is simply too busy, delete without FOMO. Our intent with Roberts’ Green Letter is synchronistic. Right message, right moment.

You can do it now. Go now and delete any emails from me. Feel the relief.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about what’s needed in the industry. I’ll tell you one more thing that joining Roberts’ Green Letter (now! you’ll love it!) will get you.

Accountability.

“Selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true.”

That was the conclusion of reporters at NPR and PBS Frontline in 2020. They went into the cellars of executives and university libraries and found internal corporate documents going back to the early days of the plastics industry. They spoke with retired executives at the biggest petrochemical companies who made key decisions.

They found that the plastics industry was willing to spend millions of dollars, and even billions of dollars over time, on a lie. They worked to convince the public that the majority of plastic could and would be recycled. And that helped the industry sell more plastic.

This gives me nightmares about the value of my work. It raises the most fundamental questions about what greenwashing looks like. How much are we complicit in without even knowing it?

Professionals like you and me have been working long hours to build a sustainable, circular economy one HPD, one LEED credit doc at a time.

Is it worth it? Are we “moving the needle”?

My answer, channeling poet Wendell Berry’s “Mad Farmer,” is to say:

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

My friends, when I look only at the facts in front of us, I could be a pessimist.

But when I consider that undiscovered country through the forgotten wardrobe, I’m a rigorous optimist.

Yes, our problems are big and many. Hold on, though. What’s bigger than our problems?

Laughter. Joy. Connection. Healing. Discovery. Collaboration. Nature as teacher. Rediscovering ourselves as part of the Earth, and the wisdom that comes from within when we do that.

You are enough. We can do this and we have what we need.

  • If you like what you’re hearing and agree, I hope you’ll join Roberts’ Green Letter, and become part of this community.

  • If you hate what you’re hearing and disagree, I hope you’ll join Roberts’ Green Letter, and become part of this community.

The safe space we need to work it out is inside.

See you there,

Tristan
Quill Nook Farm


People

Tristan Roberts
Hi, I’m Tristan—an author, father, and farmer immersed in “This Spot on Earth,” a.k.a. Quill Nook Farm, since 2005. I've also been immersed as a professional in sustainability and green building over that same time, and write from both experiences.