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Chris Quartetti

From his office in one of the three landmark towers that comprise the world headquarters for Adobe Systems, Inc. in San Jose, California, Chris Quartetti can watch planes take off and land at San Jose’s Mineta Airport two miles away. Back in 2006, when the Adobe Towers were recognized as the world’s first commercial enterprise to achieve a total of three Platinum certifications under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, RMI was a proud member of the celebrated design team.

But that’s not how Quartetti came to be involved with RMI. And it’s sure not the way he first heard about Amory Lovins and the Institute’s work.

People learn about RMI in many interesting ways. Sometimes it’s through a book they picked up at a bookstore or been given by a friend or been assigned to read for a class. For others, it’s an off-the-beaten path visit to Amory’s home and the Snowmass Headquarters as part of a road trip. And for some folks, the first time they hear about RMI is because of a magazine article, a TV show, or even an internet blog.

For Chris Quartetti, it boils down to a cassette tape. Today an accomplished software engineer on the Adobe Illustrator Team he tells a story about a day long ago, when he was in Chicago: “The first time I ever heard of Amory Lovins, a friend of the family, Carl Parker, stopped by the house with a cassette tape of Amory speaking about negawatts. And I thought that was such a smart idea and a smart way to look at it from that approach—that it’s cheaper to build efficiency than it is to build a new power plant!”

This took place in the early- to mid-1980s, and something “clicked” with him at the time. In fact, Quartetti has been “finding ways to lead a more energy-efficient life ever since.”

In between then and now came college, followed by a move west to Stanford for graduate school. He found himself drawn to the “clean logic that you get in computer science,” and understanding how things really “work inside.” Even as a kid, he enjoyed building and tinkering with things, so there was also the appeal of “designing something and building it and seeing it work.” Yet there’s a fundamental difference about being in the business of building software, he says. “Unlike another field, if you break it, you’re not really breaking anything physical. You can unwind it and start all over again. No penalty.”

After earning his master’s degree in 1998 and working for Northrup Grumman for five years, he joined Adobe as a member of the Illustrator Engineering Team. One of the rewards of “working on this particular product,” he says, “is that sometimes we interact with the people who are testing pre-release versions and they’ll ask questions or say, ‘Gee it would be really great if it did it this way,’ and we can respond back. Sometimes it’s something that’s very easy for us to do and it will make these people’s lives easier on a daily basis. Every time they click here, they get a particular action. It’s really nice to be able to tailor [the program] and make it more effective for people.”

This desire to make things better and do things more effectively is a strong and recurring theme throughout Quartetti’s life—one that brings us back to the Chicago cassette tape and ultimately to the man who has actively supported RMI for well over a decade.

During the 1990s Quartetti kept hearing about RMI from many different directions. He heard Amory’s name mentioned more and more, and the memory of the long-ago taped interview and its message resonated even deeper. Over time, he liked what he heard and read so much that he became a donor. His generosity was soon noticed at RMI and one day former RMI Development Director Dale Levy called to acknowledge his support.

“Dale called when I stepped up my contributions in 2002,” recalls Quartetti, “apparently when most people were dialing back due to the recession.” After receiving this call, Quartetti responded by offering even more. He not only reaffirmed his commitment to RMI, but also began donating Adobe products for use throughout the Institute.

And he didn’t stop at that. Instead, he worked with Adobe to leverage additional support for RMI through the company’s matching funds program. In addition, Quartetti encouraged—and continues to encourage—his friends, relatives, and fellow employees to contribute to RMI.

Here’s how he did it: “Often people come to me with software requests,” he says. “And I’m happy to get software for my friends and relatives when they ask. My policy is to trade a check payable to RMI in an amount at least double my cost (still below retail) for the software. I leave the upside of their donation amount open. For What It’s Worth (FWIW) software obtained through the employee software purchase program is for personal use and gifts,” he adds, “so it cannot be sold.”

On a day-to-day basis, the Adobe software donations made possible through Quartetti have radically increased RMI’s ability to do cutting-edge work in graphic design and web development. As Jonah Bea-Taylor from the Communications Department explains, “Dynamic visuals are much more engaging to our audiences, and they help us explain some of the complex ideas RMI is developing.”

Moreover, Llewellyn Wells, RMI’s VP of Communications and Media, reports that Quartetti’s most recent software donations have “already been put to use in the design of our new microsites for the research and consulting teams. In addition, we are planning a major overhaul of our home page (www.rmi.org). This design process will greatly benefit from having the industry standard Adobe software.”

[Editor’s note: Even the Solutions Journal you are now reading benefitted greatly from our ability to work with professional layout artists and photographers—all the images and designs for the final copy had to pass through Adobe software.]

The list of Quartetti’s interests and accomplishments is long and varied. He’s a man who’s been walking his talk in all areas of life, from bicycling to and from work, to pet projects involving state-of-the-art lighting and retrofitting his parents’ home, to exploring cutting-edge economics and trends in markets and finance. He’s a skilled photographer whose love for nature and the environment shines through the lens of a camera, as shown in the photos at right.

According to RMI Senior Development Officer Ginni Galicinao, “Some donors prefer to support a specific project. Chris, on the other hand, totally understands the importance of providing core support to RMI’s general operations. Chris represents what a true ambassador looks like for RMI…not only is he a member of the National Solutions Council (NSC), he has donated software to RMI for years now, and he spreads the word about RMI every chance he gets. He is truly one of RMI’s most active supporters and promoters.”

--By Cindy Cash

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