Small Business Partner - Sustainable Design Group

Mary Alford, PE (center) and staff of Sustainable Design Group

1.       Tell us about your business; and what is your business philosophy?  

The Sustainable Design Group is an architectural and engineering design firm that believes that all design should be beautiful, durable, energy efficient, kind to the environment AND cost appropriate.  It should not have to cost more to design and build beautiful and sustainable buildings. 

2.       Why are you passionate about your commitment to United Way’s Community Investment Fund?  

Our firm is committed to our community and this is a wonderful way for us to show our support since we share the belief that good education is the cornerstone of a functional community; that financial independence and security is based on that education as well as other basic needs such as safe and energy efficient housing; and that health care, especially preventative health care, should be available to everyone.  I have a goal of one day helping the United Way by serving on the Community Investment Fund Advisory Committee since some of these issues are encompassed in The Sustainable Design Group's business philosophy. 

3.       What is something interesting or surprising that most people don’t know about you?  

I am a sixth generation Floridian and mosquitoes don't bother me.  I am passionate about protecting the environment of our fragile state and it's beautiful ecosystems - this is what led me down the path of being an environmental engineer that specializes in sustainability.  Besides designing for the traditional-built environment, I am also working with a team that is patenting a retrofit to commercial HVAC systems to significantly lower operating costs and lengthen the life of the systems, most recently installed at the Alachua County Humane Society.    

4.       What would your older self tell your younger self?  

I would tell my younger self that understanding your life mission is more important than an education and that spending some time learning what that mission is will bring you a greater happiness than following society's blueprint for success.  It is important to learn and to keep learning, but it is also important to listen to your gut and your heart. 

5.       Favorite quote? 

I have so many favorite quotes, this is a hard one.   But I was recently reading some quotes by Václav Havel, the former and first President of the Czech Republic who was also a poet and a playwright.  Here are a few things that he said that resonate with me: 

"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

"Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed."

"The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility."

"Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs."

Small businesses play a critical role in maintaining a thriving local economy. They are no less important to the success of United Way, as we endeavor to improve lives through our work in education, health and financial stability. Our Small Business Partners are an important, growing family of donors, who are vital to helping us meet the needs of our community.
To learn more about how you and your business can support United Way, contact Dana Clayton at or (352) 333-0846.