Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Da Mayor

We're slightly remiss in noting this later in the day... Mayor Francis G. Slay of the City of St. Louis made an unscheduled appearance at the GTH conference this morning, with some remarks for those assembled for the morning's kick-off. Usually, the Mayor's site follows up with some comments, or two, on his appearances and we'll track those mentions over the next day/two.


Sure enough, here's a link to comments on the Mayor's site.

A quality moment's rest

Thanks to Herman Miller for the additional seating options, scattered through the America's Center for the past few days.

After a nice, long walk from Point A to Point B... a Herman Miller moment is most enjoyable.

Video: GTH 2008 Highlights

Video: David Bertorelli

MTV @ the Expo

The trade show is being covered by blogger Steven Smith of MTV, who is using Arcturis' Chrissy Hill, the chair of GTH's communications committee, as guest host and interviewer.

You can find the video blog of this effort online in about a week's time, at MTV's Think sub-channel. Here's a link to the Missouri page there, and to an article about Chrissy from earlier this summer.

Wal*Mart: Diamond Sponsor

The Diamond Sponsor for GTH 2008 is Wal*Mart, a company represented through the conference's three days in the exposition hall.

Wal*Mart's online presence offers a variety of information about the corporation's work in the field of sustainability.

In fact, one of the sub-channels of the site is decidate to just that phrase, and here's the link to Wal*Mart's Sustainability efforts.

At the expo, Wal*Mart was showing off its reusable bags, which are currently in play throughout the company's stores.

Here's a blip about the impact they're having:

Every year, nearly one trillion plastic shopping and grocery bags are used around the world. The vast majority are then sent to a landfill. To help reduce the number of plastic bags that are wasted each year, and to engage our customers in helping us reach our sustainability goals, we introduced reusable shopping bags in October 2007.

Made from 85-percent-recycled content, the bags hold more than twice the amount of an average plastic bag. Customers can find the black reusable bags in Wal-Mart stores and purchase them for $1 each. At the end of their life-span, Wal-Mart will recycle the bags.

Our estimates show that during its average five year lifetime, a reusable bag can eliminate the need for at least 100 disposable plastic bags. To date we have sold enough bags to eliminate the need for at least 400 million disposable plastic bags. In April 2008, as part of Earth Month, Wal-Mart gave away 1 million reusable bags, reducing the need for another 100 million disposable bags.

Q/A with Pat Justis

The chair of GTH was found in the expo hall during the morning hours of Tuesday, attending to various tasks, greeting the passing parade of attendees and generally taking in the overall feel of the conference from as many vantage points as possible. We grabbed a few moments of his time between those tasks, to get a state of the conference, with the afternoon sessions the only remaining elements of GTH.

GTH: How would you categorize the success of the conference to this point?
Justis: Very successful. I'm very happy. I've talked to a lot of exhibitors that are happy, to a lot of speakers and attendees. I've been to workshops and sessions and could not be more pleased. Maybe a little bit more pleased, but not very much more pleased.

GTH: What did you learn from prior conferences - either attending, or just hearing from people - that helped you try to adapt and improve this one?
Justis: A few things. Greening the conference as much as we can. The other thing was making sure that people had time to take in the exhibits and take in the new technologies and existing businesses, what they offer to help get the job done. And just logistically, not being too spread out, so that people have time to get to exhibits and workshops and food and events. All those kinds of things, I think, we've addressed pretty well.

GTH: The flipside is that I'm sure people from Detroit are intrigued by what's happening and what works. What are you telling those folks?
Justis: We've been telling them that as soon as we're finished paying the bills, we'll be happy to talk to them and to pass that along. We haven't really talked a lot about details and lessons learned, yet. We have talked about speakers and things that they might bring back. Like the Greensburg, KS, group, having them come each year to give an update.

GTH: Any personal highlights?
Justis: The City Museum was my favorite place. Second would be tied, between Ray Anderson and the Greensburg, KS, folks who were so inspiring in their message. I wouldn't have wanted to miss those, they were fantastic. Really balanced approaches, but visionary in moving us in the right direction. You don't always get the visionary, soul-searching stuff and they definitely hit the target on that.
GTH: Last thought, then. What would you like people to take out of all this, other than just the three days in the convention hall.
Justis: I'd like them to take away the imperative of what we have to do, that we have to change the way we are doing business. We can't do business as usual. And, hopefully, we can connect them with techniques on how to follow that imperative, how to get it done.

Greensburg GreenTown

Before May 4th, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas was home to 1400 people, a handful of schools, numerous farms, shops and amenities. After a tornado ravaged the town, destroying 90% of its structures, Greensburg (located 2 hours west of Wichita) decided to rebuild--only this time, they decided to do it green.

At Tuesday morning's session, Daniel Wallach, founding Director of Greensburg GreenTown, hosted a panel made up of Greensburg's former Mayor, John Janssen; the school's Superintendant, Darin Headrick; and the City Administrator, Steve Hewitt. Speaking to a large, captive audience in Ferrara Theatre, the panel discussed their initiatives, challenges, hopes and decisions that have all played a crucial part in the LEED-certified reformation of a ruined town.

Most of the townspeople fled after the natural disaster, but many have returned, becoming completely involved in the rebuilding of the place they once called home. Not quite at the end of the school year last May, children were displaced from their classrooms, but the town built temporary facilities after considering the effect bussing them to other cities could have on the community as a whole.

The panelists also discussed the great cost at which LEED buildings are built. "It's not $.5 for Coke or a quarter for a candy bar--Middle America is expensive." Greensburg hopes to have 4 or 5 certified green structures, including its city hall, museum and a business incubator. The in-depth website, www.greensburggreentown.org, offers thorough information on the plans, its staff, its history, and ways to donate.

"You didn't hear the word 'LEED' a lot in Middle America," joked Steve Hewitt, "but you do now."

Q/A with Dan Kopman (Schlafly Brewery)

During the City Museum "dessert party," you couldn't miss the Schlafly Brewery stand, just inside the main doorway. There, co-founder Dan Kopman greeted people with: a) beer; and b) information about his company's intriguing role in St. Louis, along with a commitment to consistently greening its brewing operations. We stole Kopman away from the taps long enough to get a few minutes' of conversation.

GTH: We posted something up the other day about Schlafly and your environmental practices. Tell us about your philosophy in that vein, as a company.
Kopman: Local. It wasn't by design. Ten years ago when we were planning our new building, or you planning what we wanted to be as a brewer, we weren't thinking, "oh, we need to be green." We were thinking "how many nights do we want to be in a Super 8 in Omaha?" Let's just sell our beer locally, not other parts of the country. There's good beer all over the place in this country. Our long-term plan was to focus on our market. And everything we've done to this point has really been in the spirit of that mission. If we support other local food companies by buying their products and selling them at Bottleworks or if we have our farmer's market, where we tie farmers to consumers, it's all about encouraging people to consume locally. It's not about spending a lot of money to be green, it's just about doing it. Does that make sense?

GTH: But there are extra efforts like the garden at the Bottleworks that seem to dovetail into that effort, too.
Kopman: When you're growing it next to where you're serving it, that takes the lowest amount of fuel necessary to get it to the restaurant. It was a bad parking lot that needed repaving. It was cheaper to tear it up and do a garden, than to repave it. And we had plenty of parking spaces, so we didn't need more.

GTH: To what degree does your clientele understand this philosophy, as opposed to simply liking the food and the beer?
Kopman: They wouldn't come back if they didn't like the food and the beer. You can be as green as you want to be, but at the end of the day, you have to produce a certain level of quality that people want to come back for. We've always done that. That's always our mission: to brew some of the nation's greatest beer, right here in St. Louis. That hasn't changed. It's really pretty simple from that perspective. We're not trying to be something we're not.

GTH: Can you give us a sense of the conversations you've had with people tonight?
Kopman: They're impressed to see there's another local brewery. A lot of people come not expecting to find another brewery. That doesn't take away from what the city's largest brewery is doing; they do so much for the city, as everyone has heard about recently. But we're very comfortable in our role as St. Louis' other brewery. So there's been a lot of that discussion, explaining to people what our role is, and that we're not aspiring to be anything more. That's really important: to be comfortable in the clothes that you wear. And try not to wear someone else's clothing. And buying fewer new clothes is environmentally sound.

Q/A with Mike Roberts Jr.

We ran into Mike Roberts Jr., a developer and political candidate, at the City Museum. Roberts, 29, was more than willing to talk about his work and the inspiration he's gotten from attending GTH and we were happy to get those perspectives.

GTH: Tell us about your interest in green issues, generally, and where it began.
Roberts: It began with a concern with the environment. We have a lot of issues with greenhouse gases and people who are generally not educated enough about how they can benefit by recycling. As a developer with the Roberts Companies, we've decided to go green. We built the first single-family subdivision in St. Louis, called Roberts Place using insulated concrete forms, geothermal heating/cooling systems, energy sustainable building materials. We're also building Roberts Tower, which is the first Gold LEED certified mixed-use tower in Downtown St. Louis history. And we're building future buildings to at least be energy sustainable.

GTH: In terms of environmental efforts also being good business, can you address that a touch?
Roberts: There was a time when it was too expensive to build green, if you will, but because of the demand, manufacturers in the world are starting to mass produce energy sustainable materials that are cost effective for the business developer. But what's also great about it is that you'll recover your cost through lower utility bills and tax credits that you may get through legislation passed recently. And it's great for PR. It's good PR for developers, which is a good thing.

GTH: Do you think younger candidates and officeholders will come around to this way of thinking in the next couple years?
Roberts: I'm running for State Representative in the 64th District here in the City of St. Louis and my number one initiative is green tax credits. I want to incentivize the state and the City of St. Louis, to where everyone's home, their residential and commercial buildings, are energy sustainable. I believe the younger generations to come, those even behind me, will be aware that we need to do something right now. Our environment is suffering. We have to offset high fuel prices, so that people can continue to live a high-quality life.

GTH: What your take on the conference? Have you picked up anything new? Or has anything been confirmed in your mind?
Roberts: Yes to both. I did pick up a few new items today. I'm intrigued by a way to waterproof insulated concrete forms with a material that is recycled. It creates a film that is waterproof. And the new cork flooring. I remember when it was the regular tan color. Now it's every color you could imagine. And they're really doing some fun things with cork flooring. In terms of confirmation... is this a fad? Or it is something that's moving throughout the country? People are excited about these green initiatives. They're good, clean ways to help the environment, to save money and it's neutral. You don't have to be a Republican or a Democrat. It's right down the middle. It's just a good thing for us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Video: Recycling Run

Hotel greening

One of the tasks undertaken by volunteers at the Greening the Heartland Conference was making recycling a greater component at the America's Center and at neighboring hotels. That's been an interesting process, for members of the local Earth Day organization and the EarthWays Center. Earlier, during the lunch break, we accompanied a trio of volunteers on their recycling run to a nearby hotel and it was fascinating and entertaining, both.

We'll have some video on this effort by tomorrow afternoon.

By the by: props to the people making that effort happen, as it requires equal measures of diligence and patience.