Sustainability goes global

Conference brings crowd of 30,000, Gore to Phoenix

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Eco talk: Former Vice President Al Gore discusses global warming during the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo on Wednesday night at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix before a crowd of 30,000 people.(Matt Pavelek | The State Press)
Published On:
Friday, November 13, 2009
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The U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which brought about 30,000 people to Phoenix this week, gave ASU students a chance to rub elbows with professionals in urban development industries.

The council opened its keynote address on Wednesday at Chase Field to students at a discounted price. It included speakers from 12 different countries, a speech delivered by former Vice President Al Gore and a performance by music superstar Sheryl Crow.

Global Green Integrators, a recycling company, recruited students like sustainability junior Brian McCollow to separate food waste and volunteer in other ways. Students also helped staff the University’s booth at the conference.

“It was a chance to be on the field when Al Gore was speaking,” McCollow said.

The three-day conference, which ends today, brought together professionals, exhibitors, educators and students who traveled from across the world to learn about how to make their buildings and companies green.

Attendees sat in on lectures, looked at exhibits and walked through the Green Building Job Fair – many of their goals were to aid in boosting the economy with businesses in a sustainable way.

McCollow and six other students from ASU sorted plates from a conference buffet into trash, recycling, compostable and food waste bins on Wednesday night. The food waste was taken to a pig farm, he said.

Though the workers received $10 an hour for their time, McCollow said he would have attended Wednesday night’s keynote address regardless.

“It was really interesting to hear from all the different [green building council] executives from around the world,” he said.

As a sustainability student, McCollow looked at the conference as a chance to learn more about the growing industry and what is happening in sustainable development.

“This is kind of a way to get in touch with the professional world,” he said.

Sustainability freshmen Joe Hennessy and Natalie Goldfarb also attended the event.

“It is a good opportunity to network,” Goldfarb said. “I feel like ASU is on the right path with these innovative ideas of sustainability.”

Hennessy said attending the event was a great way to experience the green movement as it happens.

“After hearing some lectures at ASU … I feel secure in the future about how we’re trying to be more carbon-neutral,” he said. “Al Gore reassured that notion.”

In his speech, Gore expressed hope that the U.S. can overcome the crises with the environment, the economy and national security, something many students said they found inspiring.

“We can solve this crisis,” he said. “We have all the tools necessary to solve three or four climate crises.”

Many students across the nation are changing their course of study or academic majors to fields incorporating sustainability, Gore said, implying that sustainability is a key to future success.

Justice studies freshman Kristin D’Souza said she was especially inspired by Gore’s words.

“I think it’s a big issue, especially since it’s our generation that’s going to see the harmful effects of global warming,” she said.

ASU is taking strides with its School of Sustainability, D’Souza said. There are also many clubs on campus that provide outlets for students to make a difference in the area.

“There is strength in numbers,” she said.

Though Gore’s opening address was the main reason she attended the event, D’Souza said she learned a lot about urban development.

Gore said the developments in urban planning are taking a step in the right direction, but everyone can do more to inspire change in policy and government, which will ultimately have the greatest effect.

“In the USA, political will is a renewable resource,” he said.