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Building a Greener Tomorrow

Kimberly Lewis from Greenbuild talks about the work her organization is doing to improve energy efficiency in U.S. buildings, and what she learned from the Champions of Change: Clean Energy roundtable at the White House.

I will never forget the tremendous opportunity and privilege afforded to me last week as I was invited to be part of the Champions of Change roundtable – not just because it was a thrill to be at the White House as part of a national celebration of every individual’s ability to drive meaningful, positive change, but because of the deep honor of representing my brothers and sisters in the green building movement.

Every year, at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the passionate thinkers and doers who make up the green building community gather for what I think of as our tent revival. You’ve never seen an industry conference so fundamentally based on passion for doing what’s right – what’s right for our environment, for our underserved communities, for our global economy, and for our children and their children. Green building is good business – because it’s not business as usual. I’m so delighted that the President and his Administration recognize the green building community as the agents of change they are.

Just a few examples of the ways the Greenbuild family, the U.S. Green Building Council’s membership and volunteers, and all of our friends and colleagues in this movement are changing the world and winning the future:

  • Green jobs. Two years ago – even before the economic stimulus pumped millions of dollars of investment into efficiency retrofits for our building stock – Booz Allen Hamilton projected that the green building industry would create or support 7.9 million jobs from 2009-2013 alone, pumping $396 billion of wages into workers’ pockets and $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product. Putting Americans back to work isn’t just a function of businesses; it’s not just a function of governments and policy-makers; and it’s not just a function of non-profits and advocacy groups. Recovery is being built by partnerships that bring everyone to the table. At Greenbuild 2010, with the support of our friends at the BlueGreen Alliance and the City of Chicago, our first-ever Green Jobs Summit did just that, and the conversations sparked there are the kinds of conversations that will connect innovative employers with innovative workers – rebuilding our economy while redefining the future.
  • Social equity. The benefits of green need to be accessible to all of us, regardless of where we live. Cities and communities need to be healthier, greener – and more equitable. Green building rests on the concept of the triple bottom line, where economic viability, environmental sustainability and social equity are all co-equal in importance. Through green affordable housing, green schools, scholarships and grants to help underserved communities be part of the Greenbuild family and build pathways to success centered on green building, this movement is stepping up to ensure that our mission of green buildings for all is a reality.
  • Transforming the hospitality industry. The best agents of change build bridges. Our movement isn’t just about changing buildings, and one example of where our community has found opportunities for cross-over is in greening the meetings and hospitality industry. When you think about it, the conferences, events, trade shows, meetings and conventions we host in cities across the country every year are a microcosm of the building industry. With each event we host, we build entire cities within convention centers, bringing thousands upon thousands of people to these temporary mini-cities that we build and then tear down year after year. The people who attend these events have to eat. They have to travel, sleep, hold meetings, and get in a little recreation as well. We need to ensure that while we’re hosting our communities at these events, their activities support their own health and comfort as well as the vitality of the local, national and global environment and economy. This is why we have made it a priority to lead by example. Every year, we raise the bar on our greening standards for Greenbuild, holding ourselves, our exhibitors, attendees, hotels, convention centers and other stakeholders to ever-increasing standards of excellence in the way we conduct business together.

Thank you to the Administration for recognizing the powerful changes being driven by the green building industry. I was humbled to be on hand as a representative of this community of hundreds of thousands of true Champions of Change.

Kimberly Lewis is the Vice President for Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, U.S. Green Building Council