Kelly Thompson, Manager, Sustainability

I was lucky enough to attend the 2012 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which was held in San Francisco in November. A little bit about the conference: Greenbuild was first launched in 2002 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to focus on increasing sustainable and efficient building practices. Over the past 10 years, as the green movement has continued to gain momentum, the conference and topics covered have grown remarkably.Greenbuild Sustainability Education


The Greenbuild Conference is where professionals in the industry and people who care about sustainability gather together to discuss trends, grow the network, and brainstorm new ways to green where we live and work. Attendance at Greenbuild increases each year, and this year there were over 30,000 attendees! I found the classes and training sessions to be very educational and wanted to share some of the things I walked away with.



Five Ways to Engage Residents, Guests, and Staff in Your Sustainability Plan

There are many ways to get people interested in green, but the challenge is to keep them interested. In one of the classes I attended, they discussed five ways to build participation in your sustainability program:

1. Be transparent – go for building certifications like LEED® or ENERGY STAR® that score buildings’ performance and use scorecards to compare you to other like properties.

2. Get them engaged – report your findings, good and bad, and identify areas for improvement.

3. Set standards for your property and operations – use products that have a green certification like Green Seal™, ENERGY STAR®, the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE), or WaterSense® where ever possible, and beware of “greenwashing” which is a deceptive spin put on green marketing.

4. Build a panel or board to better understand their needs – in order to know what people care about, you need to ask them! For example, start a Green Team, then invite anyone to join and contribute to making your properties more sustainable. Not only will that make them feel like they are part of the change, but you’ll also get opinions and suggestions right from the source.

5. Keep it simple – easy is good. Generally speaking, things that are hard to understand or require your audience to drastically go out of their way will be less effective.



San Francisco was a great location for Greenbuild this year because both the city and its residents are really passionate about sustainability. They have great public transportation options like the BART and Muni, bike racks located all over the city, and a landfill diversion rate of 77% (nearly 1.4 million tons a year).  Additionally, a paper bag in my hotel room asked guests to place paper, bottles, and cans in it to be recycled. It was the first time I’ve seen anything like that in a room, and I hope to see it implemented in other hotels in the very near future.

In the Moscone Center, where the conference was held, there were three bins strategically placed together to collect Greenbuild attendees’ waste.

Greenbuild Recyling Bins


In this picture, you’ll see that the blue bin was for recycling, the green bin was for organic material that would be industrially composted, and the black bin was for trash. Not only were the bins widely available, there was clear signage on each one to help you determine where your waste should go. Since, as you know, end user education is an important part of “going green,” these signs made it easy to determine what goes where. I am very excited to attend next year and hope to see you there too!


Did you attend the conference this year or in the past? What were your key takeaways?


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