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Sustainability Insider

Featuring Paul Guarino, Founder & Director of Marketing, ASCEND Pittsburgh

For this edition, we hear from Paul Guarino, Founder and Director of Marketing for ASCEND Pittsburgh, who shares with us how ASCEND is putting sustainability into practice within their climbing and fitness community on Pittsburgh’s South Side!

We were excited to learn that ASCEND recently formalized an internal sustainability committee to gather information and set goals. What are two or three reasons sustainability is important to ASCEND?
We’re excited, too! In a nutshell, it’s important to our team on a personal level, and since we feel that individuals should actively contribute to the cause, why shouldn’t our organization also be held accountable? After all, ASCEND is comprised of individuals! Acknowledging that it’s hard to actually put good intentions into practice, we decided that the first step was to form an action committee, led by someone with experience, drive, and a love for climbing and the outdoors – Chelsea Huddleston! Additionally, I was a graduate student at Duquesne University when the MBA Sustainability program was established, and I was closely involved with its development. That background provided me with a deeper understanding of how sustainability is multi-faceted, and if implemented properly, can bolster financial health in addition to creating better environments. I have an incredibly unique opportunity in that, with some friends, I set out to start a passion project that ended up finding early success with sustained growth, and I’d be a fool not to foster a sustainable operation embedded in a passionate culture from the outset.

How is ASCEND getting started with sustainability?
ASCEND is honored to be a new partner of the Pittsburgh 2030 District and is eager to connect with like-minded people and organizations. ASCEND’s newly formed sustainability committee is currently collecting data to serve as a baseline for developing a viable sustainability plan, primarily focused on operational excellence, and the health and wellness of our employees and our customers. As a relatively new company, we feel that it’s critical to establish these systemic principles now, so that future decisions carry fewer burdens and more impact. Stay tuned for more details and ways to get involved with ASCEND’s sustainability efforts.

What advice do you have for other small businesses that want to be more sustainable?
My advice is unfounded at this time, because we’re just getting started, but I’d say it’s key to pick a single person to take the lead otherwise progress may fizzle out.

What do you like best about your job?
Developing processes. As an owner who is heavily ingrained in the operations of this growing business, and as the Director of Marketing, I am constantly tasked with creating unique systems from scratch with our team. It’s made more challenging, because we’re part of a new, rapidly expanding industry that doesn’t have extensive standard operating procedures and specific software tools. I am never bored and always have multiple long-term projects to manage and keep moving, which keeps me permanently occupied and engaged.


[Editor’s Note: ASCEND Pittsburgh is a Platinum sponsor of I Am Sustainable Pittsburgh.]