By Linda Chipperfield, Green Seal’s VP of Marketing & Communications
The Greenbuild conference was loaded with opportunities for us this year. Not only was it conveniently held in our fair city (DC) many of our staff could attend, but we also got to visit with several current clients exhibiting at the expo. And as a USGBC board member, I was able to represent Green Seal at many of the leadership activities as well. Here are some highlights!
The opening plenary was introduced by HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who said that, “green means good health and more wealth”. Rick Fedrizzi, President of USGBC, echoed the Secretary’s sentiment, saying the environment and the economy are deeply connected. This seemed to be a theme for the week, maybe because Rick’s new book is about how “profit saves the planet.” He quoted Francis Perkins, the first woman to hold a US cabinet position, who said, “There is work to be done, so we do it.” Another Perkins quote I like: “Being a woman has only bothered me in climbing trees.”
Then Mika Brzezinski interviewed James Cameron and tried to keep him on the subject of climate change. Cameron said the collapse of Syria was in part due to drought, but then went on to encourage us all to be vegans because of the vast carbon footprint of animal agriculture. (Green Seal discovered that when we wrote GS-46/55). He also said that sustainable farming creates more jobs than current industrial farming, and kids in the US suffer from nature deficit disorder and need “digital detox”. And of course he plugged the new episode of Years of Living Dangerously. After the interview Rick brought out Mark Brzezinski, Ambassador to Sweden and Mika’s brother. He looks a lot like his dad.
I attended an Executive Luncheon that featured Paul Scialla, CEO of Delos and partner in WELL. The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing. I think the Mayflower GM got nervous when Paul said “This room is effecting your health. These lights will effect how you sleep tonight.” We also heard from the CEO of View Inc., the EVP of Multifamily at Fannie Mae, and a rep from the International Finance Corporation at the World Bank. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Carolyn Jones, Director of Corporate Architecture for Starbucks and then taking her to my favorite one (and the fastest in the world) at Connecticut and K Street.
One particularly inspiring event was the 5th annual Women in Green Power Breakfast. 540 women attended this sold-out event that focused on mentorship. I was fortunate to host a table discussion that included three women from the same company. One was lamenting that she wanted to be a mentor but didn’t know how, when another said, “What do you mean? You’re my mentor!” You never know who your “mentees” are. The event featured testimonials from 4 generations of women, from a high school Girl Scout to Janine Benyus, the mother of Biomimicry. My new favorite word is FORMIDABLE!
The exhibit hall was inspiring as always, and I was happy to volunteer at LiveSMART, the mobile exhibit from my own Florida USGBC chapter. It is a sustainable materials and resources trailer designed to build awareness about living more sustainably. It includes games for kids (get your LEEDLego certification!) and a walk-through model home with tips on buying green, reducing waste and conserving resources. This was its maiden voyage, and the exhibit debuts at an NFL game here in Jacksonville in December.
On Friday I had the pleasure of introducing an education session with two dynamic women working to green the U.S. government: Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary for the USDA, and Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. They discussed several occasions where the Army has worked closely with the USDA on sustainability. For example the Army converted a coal power plant to burn agricultural waste and was able to sell the excess power back to the city where the base was located. One interesting statistic: the cooking oil converters that the Army installed at the base in Bagram, Afghanistan showed a ROI in just 17 days! Overall, as with the opening plenary, there was a lot of focus on the environment and economy both benefitting from their activities.
The closing plenary included a panel with Vasakronan, Kohler Company, Starbucks, United Technologies, and Harvard University. Harvard School of Public Health just released a study funded by UT that suggests people are twice as productive in green buildings, with as much as 300% increase in information usage. The panel predicted that the next phase of green building will involve looking at the ROI on occupant health—a company invests up to 90% of the cost of a building on its occupants. Other bits of knowledge: New acronym: ESG–Environmental Social Governance; and Starbucks is giving free tuition to all of its employees working 20 hours or more. The closing speaker was Dr. Joseph Romm– Center for Energy & Climate Solutions founder, and former Assistant Secretary for the DOE. His blog, Climate Progress, is the most widely read climate blog in world. He gave tips on talking about the issues (“stories sell, numbers numb”) and encouraged us to keep fighting the good fight.
All in all it was an inspiring and invigorating few days in our nation’s capital. Two members of the USGBC board are on their way to Paris this week to support green building at COP21. Wish I was going, but I was happy to represent Green Seal, our clients and partners, and other non-profits as a USGBC board member, walking the floors of Greenbuild. See you next year in Los Angeles!