green building

Leader in Sustainability, Presidio Graduate School, Features Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai


Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai, was featured by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) in the article, "Net Zero Hero". Sam is an alumnus of the Sustainable MBA program at PGS — the graduate school that "educates and inspires a new generation of skilled, visionary and enterprising leaders to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world." Presidio Graduate School has earned accreditation in the sustainability-sphere and acquired Pinchot University (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute).

Sam tells Shawna Cain, "I selected PGS after a process of visiting classes and interviewing students and asking what their experiences were like. I realized that what I wanted was:

  1. A tribe. I wanted to be connected to people who cared about what I care about. I didn't want to be just another number, just another competitor

  2. I wanted to deepen my commitment and I wanted have a broader view of the way the systems work that perpetuate some of these challenges like climate change that we deal with all the time

Finally, the biggest impact that I think graduate school has had for me, beyond some of the hard skills, is that when you go to Presidio Graduate School you're able to look deep within yourself, and understand how to optimize our own personal growth, and I don't think any graduate school is able to do that the way PGS does."

Green Canopy's Alexa Ashley further interviewed Sam on his time at Presidio Graduate School and the value he took away from the Sustainable MBA Program:

AA: How did PGS teach you to think in systems?
SL: One of the things we did in first quarter was systems mapping, which is its own discipline, where you look at different components of how the world is structured, how  businesses are structured, environmental systems are structured. You deconstruct them, allowing you to understand the components and then you can see how they’re integrated. So often in business you might be a specialist and you might have mastery in one thing — but you may be working 100% in the wrong direction because you haven’t taken that high-level, systems-level view.

AA: What is the most value that you took away from the Presidio Graduate School MBA Program?
SL: The opportunity to practice and take big risks, and explore ideas, that typically — in the business setting — there just isn’t enough bandwidth or space or willingness from everyone, to just take a wild idea, to play with it, to deconstruct it, and to go all the way with it in a risk-free environment.

I saw lots of people grow from not having much experience in public speaking to feeling comfortable with it at the end of the program. For me, I was able to take storytelling and public presentation and be able to have a very formal structure to bounce off of and play with to where now I feel very confident. I now have a process to be able to get from point A to point B in a very short amount of time because that’s what the process forces you to do. It says, “Okay you have an idea? Okay, test it. Prototype it. Get up and talk about it." That’s a lot of what we do in business. We iterate through ideas very rapidly — and that’s what’s required for progress. 

It’s really encouraging and energizing to see other people that are just as passionate about sustainability and improving our world and that they are professionals engaged in business, and the curation of those two characteristics are unique to the PGS tribe.

Watch Shawna Cain's interview with Sam Lai below and read her article, "Net Zero Hero".

Living by the Lake: What Walkscore Doesn't tell you About Experience

Photo Courtesy of Tilly Goble: Naissance Photography

Photo Courtesy of Tilly Goble: Naissance Photography

We do not tend to write about specific neighborhoods on this blog that often – but I was compelled to write a story about Seward Park after having lived there for several years. In my experience, it was a great place to spend my twenties as the burgeoning Columbia City was just becoming cool - and then start a family in a more mellow part of the Rainier Valley. Even though I recently moved – I still have many friends in the Seward Park area and I truly think it is a hidden gem in Seattle.

I am thrilled that Green Canopy is building here - which is why I wanted to capture the spirit of the neighborhood. I remember watching with anticipation when the lots on Seward Park Ave, walking distance to my own home, went on the market. It was a great location – and I had hoped that Green Canopy would be the ones to snap up these three lots. When we eventually did, I made it a point to stroll by often to watch as we started construction. It was incredible to see our company in my own backyard!

For me, Seward Park was kind of a life-changing neighborhood – filled with long walks on the waterfront, my son’s first bike ride as an infant, magical hikes in the forest and making memories. What I didn’t understand when I went to look up the “fun facts” on the neighborhood was how the heck this community has a Walkscore of 54! It seems artificially low to anyone living here – but perhaps that is because Walkscore tends to measure quantity of amenities over quality of experience.

Many of the residents agree that they actually get out and enjoy their neighborhood often, perhaps even more than families and individuals living elsewhere. What you don’t see on Walkscore is the fact that biking, running and taking long walks through the park, to the local Temples, and along the waterfront are often DAILY activities for the folks who live here. It is an experiential neighborhood, for sure! Full of lazy afternoons of sunbathing and winter forest walks among the old growth. Cherry blossomed sunsets and the peaks of Mt. Rainier. Things that can't be measured by Walkscore.


What Walkscore does point out is that Seward Park’s commercial district is pretty small. It might not feel like Fremont every weekday – but it definitely hosts and handful of tiny and tidy mom-n-pops that the neighborhood loves. In fact – the impact of the PCC flagship store relocating to Columbia City was, and still is, really big news. Many fear that the store's relocation will be detrimental to the quality of life of the residents and businesses. As an anchor in the community – there was no question that the move would impact walkability and vibrancy. The cry for an equal or better future tenant has since been answered, however, as Third Place Books prepares to move in. It will likely be a change of pace for the area – but most are happy with the exchange. 


Seward Park is a magical neighborhood with many great memories and friends. I miss several of the south end hot spots – but the local gems listed below have a special place in my memory and can’t be forgotten. I know the future Green Canopy Homeowners will have lasting memories here and will fall in love with the neighborhood (if they haven’t already done so). No matter what Walkscore says – the experience of Lake Washington living and the quality of the local amenities continue to shape the future and reflect the past of this lovely, vibrant community.

  • Café Vita: Best coffee and service and the only place to get Mighty-O doughnuts in the south end.

  • Flying Squirrel Pizza: Yes, please. All of the time. I love that they serve their wine in stem-free glasses – and stock Molly Moon ice cream for dessert.

  • Seward Park Audubon Center:  Birding not your thing? That's ok! They have something for everyone! Who else offers midnight owl prowls and toddler walks through the forest. Watch soon for the Tiny Trees All-Outdoor Preschool!

  • Lake Washington and Seward Park: Pure Magic

  • Bent Burgers: Shake and a burger with outdoor seating. Need we say more? 

  • Pritchard Beach: The fine line between Seward Park and Rainier Beach – but so worth it to explore this pocket park, trails and urban farm

  • Essential Birth & Family Center: There is a relatively high number of health and personal care offices in Seaward Park including chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists and naturopaths. This center caters to new mothers and provides midwifery, pre and postpartum care, support and education to the south end’s diverse cultures. 

  • PCC: Sad to see you go, but looking forward to your successor!

The three homes that Green Canopy will be completing in July are named Baily, Rain and Dalis for their water-faring neighborhood. Baily, after the Baily Peninsula (the original name for Seward Park), Rain after, well we all know what that’s after, and Dalis – a Jewish name meaning “running water.” We are excited to be finishing up these hillside homes and bringing them to the market this summer. They are three, ultra-efficient homes with all of the green features and sustainable materials that we get to geek out on when marrying the built and natural environments.