NextGen Spotlight: McCall Langford

Meet McCall Langford. She’s Ray Anderson’s youngest grandchild and the daughter of Foundation Trustees Harriet and Phil Langford.  Like her grandfather, who put Interface and the industrial world on the path to sustainability, and her mother, who inspired The Ray, she’s a visionary and a dreamer, and she’s definitely a doer.  In fact, for the better part of the past 1.5 years, she’s been…well…somewhat of a nomad, traveling the country up and down, and from side to side with her partner, Neal Ewen, all the time, having the time of her life, and exploring so many of the wonders that nature has to offer.

Langford and Ewen even spent part of the harsh Colorado winter in a tiny Teardrop Trailer. While they were truly “roughing it” most of the time, the experience helped McCall immerse herself in nature and was certainly instrumental in helping her identify the next steps in her educational career.

“While we were traveling I was so often full of emotion,” McCall said. “To me the wonders of nature are so beautiful because they represent the unknown.  I’ve been awestruck by nature’s mystery and it’s so apparent that nature holds so much knowledge for us to unlock; all those wheels that we don’t need to reinvent.  For the time that we traveled and basically lived in nature, to me, it was beautiful because it was the unknown, but I’ve come to realize that I want nature to be beautiful because I understand it.”
This awakening led McCall to recall the legacy that her grandfather left for her family and the rest of the world.
“I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first remember Daddy Ray talking about his environmental epiphany and what it meant for Interface, but I remember it was at one of our Christmas gatherings.” McCall said. “He talked about Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and trusted advisor to Interface, and David Oakey, Interface’s product designer, going into the forest to study how a forest floor worked, and how those principles were then applied to Interface’s carpet products. 
He talked about how David Oakey, took what he learned from Janine in the forest and applied it to carpet design to eliminate scrap waste and attic stock, and how the random designs eliminated the need for dye lots and edge matching on carpet tiles,” she said.  “We met so many of Daddy Ray’s mentors along the journey; Janine Benyus, Paul Hawken and so many others.  Without reading Paul’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, he certainly would have never had the epiphany, but to me, Janine’s work played such an important role in Daddy Ray’s conversion of Interface into a more thoughtful company, not just a successful one.  He saw truth in what Janine was doing and if he hadn’t found her, Interface would not be what it is today.”
When asked how she thought her life would have been different if her grandfather had not become committed to sustainability, and if the Foundation (his legacy today) had never existed, she said she felt like Ray Anderson would have still had a successful company, but her generation and the ones that follow would have still had to seek to unlock the sustainability puzzle.
“I feel our family and our generation were given a huge privilege of being able to exist in this world of sustainability without having to seek it, due to the fact that Ray sought it first,” McCall said. “For me, sustainability awareness was prevalent at a young age.  We were given a shortcut.”
Back to the 1.5 year long camping trip. “We were on the road so long and we met so many people,” McCall said. “I was awakened to so many little intricacies and secrets that nature holds.  It became very evident that my generation and the ones that follow must have clear discernment between how we build and create things and how the planet is affected.  All of the species that are here exist because they have evolved; because they have played by the rules of the Earth. For humans and nature there is still a disconnect and we are not following the rules.  The concept of biomimicry bridges that disconnect. With nature in mind, we need to listen to what it has to say and recognize it as a mentor.  If we can do that, then I believe we can probably solve most of the environmental problems we face today.”
Ray was a lifelong learner, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
McCall says she always thought she would find her career in business, so she completed her marketing degree at Georgia State University in 2013, but she always had an affinity for what she calls the “natural side.”  “I was way more into the beauty of the outside world,” she said.
It should come as no surprise then, that McCall has recently decided to pursue an Online Master of Science in Biomimicry degree from Arizona State University.  In fact, she embarks on that 2-year, 30 credit hour journey this week, beginning with two courses, “The Essentials of Biomimicry” and “Biomimicry Thinking.”
“We’re each making our own unique brushstrokes on the canvas that is Daddy Ray’s legacy.”
All of Ray’s five grandchildren and their spouses comprise what is called the NextGen Committee of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. The group meets regularly and takes an active role in perpetuating Ray's legacy by investing in projects geared to making the world a better place for Tomorrow's Children. Over the past six years, the NextGen Committee has funded $300,000 in programs with focuses ranging from conservation to climate change education to urban agriculture. Recently, the Committee has narrowed its focus to climate change exclusively, and it issued a new request for proposals for a $90,000 grant to measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a new or existing program.
When asked which of the NextGen projects she’s most passionate about, McCall noted that all the projects have been special to her, and it has become apparent that the NextGen Committee’s voice is being heard and expanded.  She says the Committee’s grants to the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) to fund expanded youth education in climate change are probably her favorites.  “Kids’ minds are like sponges and it is easier to teach them now than to try to correct things later,” she said. “These projects are educating youth early with special focus on carbon reduction and climate. By funding youth education, we’re able to tackle the challenges directly and touch the broad spectrum.
Each of us on the NextGen Committee brings something special to the table.We’re each making our own unique brushstrokes on the canvas that is Daddy Ray’s legacy.  I want my ‘something special’ and my ‘brushstrokes’ to come from a deeper understanding and knowledge about biomimicry and how it integrates into business.”
About the photo above: McCall says this photo is most special to her because it was taken this year at Disney World's Pandora in Animal Kingdom.  She notes that James Cameron's film "Avatar" depicts an alien world where the intellectually aware species has an outstanding connection and relationship with nature; a connection we should all aim to have ourselves.