Show Wrap-Up: GreenBuild 2009

Having finally landed in one piece (mostly) on the East Coast after a whirlwind week of traveling to Opportunity Green in Los Angeles and GreenBuild 2009 in Phoenix, I am just now gathering my thoughts and notes from the shows.  I have to say, GreenBuild proved not only to be the best green event I’ve been to all year, but the best overall trade show I attended in 2009.  Most of the sessions were informative and interesting and despite some of the greenwashing from some of the manufacturers on the floor, I met a decent amount of folks with innovative, unique products and services for the green building industry.

The US Green Building Council reported a total of 28,000 attendees showing up for the 4-day long event which is impressive for a green event, even more impressive given the current economic climate.  I can say that the Phoenix Convention Center did seem packed although the separate exhibit halls (an inside source told me they weren’t allowed to call them the “main hall” and the “upper level hall” because exhibitors in the smaller hall were getting upset) weren’t too crowded.

Highlights:

Opening Plenary Celebration

The USGBC proved they know how to throw a good party.  The show opened with a night long celebration at Chase Field complete with catered food, drinks and special guest speaker Al Gore followed by a killer concert given by Sheryl Crow.  The bar even featured organic beer and wine, including Bonterra Chardonnay, one of my favorites.  Kudos on good taste!  The opening speech was given by USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi who was inspirational and clearly excited.  “Welcome to all 28,000 of you who didn’t get the memo that we’re in the worst economic recession of all since the 1930s,” Fedrizzi said to loud applause. “Good for you, you’re not buying into it.

Al Gore impressed as always, interjecting self-deprecating humor into a very informative and touching talk about our choices towards survival or devastation.  Gore pointed out that right now, in 2009, we have all the tools we need to solve the climate crisis.  So the question isn’t how but when and who.  I spent most of the speech wondering where this vibrant, inspirational man was during the 2000 election.  But anyway.

(Side note: There were a few protesters outside the opening plenary event with signs directed at Mr. Gore.  One of them said “GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH TO MAKE MONEY.”  Really?  REALLY?  Someone needs to get you a computer and access to The Google.  You’re missing some information, kiddo.)

Offsets in the Form of Foot in Mouth

I like to play the critic at green shows, mostly because I work in communications and tend to scrutinize a bit closer than most what message it is you are trying to get across – and of course how accurate it may be.  However, I went maybe a bit too far when I stepped into the Renewable Choice Energy booth and declared, I don’t believe in carbon offsets!  Turns out (heh), the fine folks at Renewable Energy Choice sell carbon offsets to companies looking to reduce their footprint.  Oops.  Well, I still stand by that statement but I certainly felt a little bad about stating it so fervently in front of them.  They were great, though, very nice guys and proceeded to explain that they don’t simply sell the offsets, they work with companies to find ways to reduce their output altogether and then help mitigate things they cannot avoid with offsets.

Well, ok. That I can buy into, a bit.  One of the guys pretty much disagreed with me entirely when I said it was more about encouraging bad behavior and less about saving the environment.  Yes, but who cares where and how the good comes from?  If they don’t really want to save the world but we can convince them to do so anyway, without really thinking they are, then who cares? Not a bad point.  I could still launch into a whole theory on systemic behavior and how it never changes if you just make it less reprehensible, that people literally have to be guilted into change, but NEVERMIND.  I am sure they are GREAT at their jobs (honestly) and I am even going to write a blog post about their wind offsets for every cell phone in the US.  Look for it soon.

Pretty, oh so pretty products

I don’t own a home.  Yet.  This is the key word.  It has become a front of mind purchase for me these days and while I watch my best friend and her husband complete their dream home, I cannot help but daydream about the day I can design mine.  (Or rather, have her do it for me and drink wine on the couch.  Either way).  But there were many products at the show that were not only sustainable and eco-friendly but just downright gorgeous.  IceStone, a favorite of mine since the minute I saw it, is simply beautiful.  Durable surfaces made from 100% recycled glass and cement, IceStone looks a bit like granite but in my opinion, is brighter and sleeker.

The other product that I thought was stunning was Alumillenium, a company that creates distinctive and luxurious metal tiles from 100% recycled metal.  I not only thought their tiles were gorgeous but they have very cool branding which for a marketing communications geek is a total bonus.

I have a whole section for “un-highlights” if you will, so stay tuned for GreenBuild: Some Things That Were a Total Fail soon.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

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