On The Road: Another Green Day

The second day of Green By Design 2 in Grand Rapids, MI featured another round of interesting and informative sessions. (To read my observations about the first day of the event, see previous posting, “A day of sustainable ideas.”)

Sponsored by the Wege Foundation, Steelcase, and Grand Rapids Community College, Green By Design focused on ways for companies to develop, manufacture, and distribute “eco-effective” products and services. But some of the sessions on this closing day of the event delved a bit deeper into the urgent need to ease the demand on our earth.

I was fortunate to attend a discussion led by William McDonough, the renowned architect who considers in each of his projects the impact on the planet. McDonough spoke eloquently on the concept of Cradle to Cradle design (the use of materials with characteristics that enable them to be perptually circulated in a “closed loop” cycle). Among the highlights of this freeflowing discussion was the assertion that our “solar income” has the potential to provide all the energy we humans require. We just need to harness it. McDonough also discussed toxic materials (such as cadmium) that, depending upon their application and handling/reclaiming, do not necessarily need to pose a deadly threat to our environment. Design and intent are key.

In the latter part of the morning, attendees gathered to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speak about the state of our environment and what is and is not being done about it. Mr. Kennedy, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, gave some disturbing examples of the damage already done to our national resources (including the fact that 500 of the 2,800 lakes and pools in the Adirondack Mountains have been rendered sterile by acid rain).

Pollution sources run the gamut from huge fossil fueled power plants to products with material composition that precludes them from being reclaimed for another use at the end of their useful life. It is heartening to know that there are alternatives that exist; to be part of the solution, we need to seek them out and incorporate them into our own strategies.