Conference breaks new, green ground

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It not always easy being green, but it’s getting easier every day – whether you want to don some organic cotton jeans from Levi’s, plant a rain garden or eat locally grown organic foods – the sheer number of options out there are offering more means for people to pursue a greener path.
At the second annual Green By Design conference last week, presented by Minnesota Green Communities, the focus was on green options and developments in the building and design industry.

With workshops presented by local architects, designers, non-profit organizations and others, the event brought an array of knowledge and information to attendees that ran the gamut from affordable green building and renewable energy options to the health advantages of green structures and stormwater management.
Landing celebrated environmental attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. to deliver a keynote address on the second day of the event, Kennedy not only filled the ballroom, but generated a standing ovation.
Known for his best-selling book, Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy, Kennedy was an impassioned speaker. Linking the governmental regulations and oversight to environmental safekeeping is one focus of Kennedy’s approach. He said he tries to maintain a bi-partisan approach in his environmental work, although “it’s more difficult to find an equal number of Republicans” who will participate, he wryly notes.
But the point Kennedy makes is clear: the success of a democratic government is based in its ability to be a world leader and that necessitates assuming a leadership role in sustaining and preserving the environment, something the current executive branch is sorely lacking in.
Launching into a fevered attack on the media, Kennedy talked of his overwhelming disappointment in the media’s role of providing accurate information on environmental degradation and the role that the Bush administration has played in rolling back legislative environmental protections. (He also recently wrote an overview of the current administration’s cabinet appointments – many which bode poorly for the environment.) In addition, the media’s lack of global coverage and its reliance on canned reporting is one of the most disappointing things that are happening now in regard to environmental and global coverage Kennedy said. In a society where Anna Nicole Smith and Brad and Angelina take up more airtime and column space than deforestation, climate change or the rising global issue of lack of clean water, the media’s inattention to providing valuable public information regarding environmental issues is abysmal.
While Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback may not draw the same kind of enthused response that Kennedy did, his panel presentation on sustainable cities, along with other area mayors, emphasized that while the federal branch may be slow to embrace new environmental policies, cities are stepping up to the plate. The Minneapolis Greenprint shows that Ryback’s office is loooking toward sustainability and environmental issues for the city.
Unfortuantley another guest speaker, Xavier Bonnefoy, was unable to attend due to illness. (Bonnefoy, from France, is the Head of Environment and Health Consulting in Paris and is a former advisor at the World Health Organization.) In place of Bonnefoy, Ellen Tohn of ERT Associates presented an in-depth, full-circle analysis of how healthy homes can contribute to overall health. Many greening practices are now known to reduce causes of certain respiratory problems, allergies and other toxins than can pollute indoor air quality.
With a strong focus on the affordability of greening building and development – many attendees were from non-profit organizations working toward multi-family affordable housing — the workshops offered provided practical information from how to source green building products to incorporating green ideals into property management.
In the end, no matter the scope or budget of your project, Green By Design showed that whether you’re looking for a pint of non-toxic interior paint or looking for information on how to build a zero energy building, it could all be found at the conference.
Here are some additional links related to workshops given at Green By Design:

Minnesota Overlay to Green Communities: New 2007 threshold requirements for funding new multi-family construction projects.

Verified Green: Green build and design company.
Barr Engineering: Stormwater management.
Building Knowledge: Green building consultants.

Center for Energy and Environment: Minnesota non-profit
US Green Building Council: Minnesota chapter

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