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Runner up: Reg Snider, 50 

We’re in trouble, Snider warns in his entry, of witnessing the death of birth. “You see, I’m certain humankind will experience a cataclysmic breakdown within 50-100 years, which will likely result in the death of this civilization and a huge percentage of the world’s population — unless we humans make significant changes in the way we live.” He got our attention.

Snider predicts sustainability is the way out. “I’m more than interested in it,” he says – “I’m committed to it.” On a recent afternoon he meets a reporter at a Barnes & Noble, a stack of books on the subject in tow. One of them is very dense, and is called “Cradle to Cradle,” by University of Virginia professor William McDonough and his associate Michael Braungart. The book is not made of paper. It’s made of material that’s much heavier but more earth-friendly, and one day could contribute to the biosphere.

Snider, a former English and social studies teacher and track coach, describes sustainability as a practical approach to living, to replenishing the earth, in which “we meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.”

Sounds like lofty stuff. It’s not, he insists. And it’s not necessarily hard to achieve. What’s more, the idea of sustainability is different from dogmatic environmentalism in that there is no “holier than thou, greener than thou,” attitude that often works to alienate people or turn them off, he points out. In other words, if your life requires or even strongly suggests an SUV, you won’t be chastised for it. Sustainability focuses on inclusion and accessibility. “We’re all in this together and we’ve got to get out of this together,” Snider says. “We can make this world so much better by avoiding disaster and embracing the joy of abundant living through sustainability.”

His wife suggested he enter Style’s cover contest, he says, as a way to spread his message. Snider just turned 50, though you’d never guess it. He appears youthful and boisterous. He is the father of three young girls and a toddler son. He is so sure in his convictions that he pictures the cover image that he feels could best convey them: Snider in the James River holding his son with his wife and daughters just off to the side on some rocks. It would be analogous to his vision for healthier families and a more fruitful planet.

Snider would like to use his law degree and articulation of sustainability to coach businesses to think globally and work more efficiently. Remember former Martin Agency guru Jelly Helm? That’s the kind of practical approach to advertising and consumerism that Snider has in mind. “If someone came up with the challenge saying, ‘Come up with 100 things [about sustainability] that can wow me,’” Snider says he could. He might start by suggesting that companies and households look at their waste. “All waste must be food for something,” he says. Start composting. Collect what’s organic. Put it back in the soil. Initiate legislation. Subsidize alternatives to petro-based products. Penalize the industry that refuses to produce them.

The concept that the world is a connected system needs to be in the curriculum, he says, stressing that it isn’t affiliated with any political agenda or religion. It would be “like teaching ‘Lord of the Flies,’ but it has a sustainability factor,” he says. Everything up until now has been preparatory, he says. “In the world of work I want to accomplish my mission: I want to beat the drum for sustainability.” — Brandon Walters

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