TFM Managing Editor Anne Cosgrove reports from the road.
I had a busy and enjoyable day today in Grand Rapids, MI attending Green By Design 2, a symposium focusing on innovative ways for companies to develop, manufacture, and distribute “eco-effective” products and services. This is being sponsored by the Wege Foundation, Steelcase, and Grand Rapids Community College.
The day was jam packed with events, including a speech by Tom Chappell, co-founder of Tom’s of Maine, which produces personal products (such as toothpaste and body wash) that use all natural ingredients. Tom explained how he and his wife, Kate, have been able to build a successful business while staying true to their values of being environmentally and socially responsible.
Next up was Stuart Hart, PhD., a professor of management at Johnson School, Cornell University. In his talk, Hart took on the arduous task of addressing “What does sustainability really mean?” As he aptly pointed out, it can mean different things to different people, depending on who you are. For instance, facilities management is most interested in things like efficiency of operations and reducing waste, while a CEO may be focused on developing products and processes that make the company a sustainable player in the marketplace. It was interesting to see the vast reach of the concept of sustainability–often within just one organization.
Hart also addressed clean energy technologies and how their market share might be increased significantly; one observation was that solar energy and others might find vast growth potential in undeveloped countries first, rather than in developed areas such as the United States or in western Europe. From there the market demand would blossom as a result of proven widespread installations in these regions. Sort of a bottom-up theory.
A seminar later in the day addressed “Greening the Building” which discussed various strategies to lessen the impact of buildings, as well as some updates on the U.S. Green Building Council LEED programs. A LEED Neighborhood Development program, which will address urban sprawl and other development issues, is currently in the preliminary stage with comments being accepted until October 27.
The last seminar I attended was titled, “Sustainable Product Design: Traps, Trade-Offs, and Triumphs.” In addition to a discussion of how product designers are in a position to effect change with their visions, the instructor also talked about how green products may not always be what they seem (the trap), or it may have great sustainable benefits–at the expense of another feature (the trade-off). And then there are those products that have it all (the triumph).
Tomorrow is another busy day. I’ll report back then….