Elisha Montgomery

Attendees gained tips and strategies for sustainable processes and reducing environmental impact.

On May 1 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USGBC held the IMPACT 2018 conference, the premier green building event in the Midwest. Throughout the day, attendees learned how businesses have risen to the challenge of creating sustainable processes and reducing their environmental impact.

Here are the top three lessons we took away from the conference to help us think about how to advance green building.

1. Making an impact on environmental change takes strong leadership.

Opening keynote speaker Laura Kohler shared how her family's company, Kohler Inc., has worked to protect the environment and support its local community, while continually growing the business.

One example of this effort, said Kohler, is Waste Lab, an initiative that takes materials from the company’s manufacturing plants that had been headed to the landfill and turns them into building materials, which can then be resold to customers. This underscored the theme of her message: how we as a community can use our expertise and work collectively toward a more sustainable future.

Kohler also said strong leadership and innovation are essential to fostering sustainable approaches to business. “Over 80 percent of lifetime impact happens at the product development state,” Kohler said. “So, it’s important to start early.”

Leaders can only be effective with motivated teams, and Kohler shared two ways to foster excitement about sustainability among employees:

  1. Offer education and opportunities to employees to get them involved in creating a sustainable future.
  2. Use green initiatives as team-building exercises.

2. Motivation for environmental change should be human-centric.

During one of the educational sessions, “Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle: Circadian Lighting Discussion,” speakers Dr. Shadab A. Rahman, Ginger S. Rucker and John Hwang discussed how interior lighting choices can affect circadian rhythms during sleep.

They said simple changes, such as different lighting, can improve health and wellness for all occupants, from hospital patients to athletes in a sports stadium. It’s important to examine how new technologies will be applied and how they can affect users who regularly interact with them.

3. Create the message around the cause.

Closing keynote speaker Rachel Gutter offered 10 steps toward creating a more sustainable future. She added that companies should focus on personalizing the message, highlighting what’s important to them and framing their message around that idea.

  1. Be brave, and say what’s true.
  2. Change is the only constant.
  3. We are all in this together.
  4. If we make it about scarcity, we never experience abundance.
  5. Create definition.
  6. Making change isn’t about credit.
  7. We don’t win if we can’t keep up our own reserves.
  8. Market transformation is a journey, not a destination.
  9. Stay humble.

Gutter left her last step blank, to demonstrate all the rules haven’t been written yet. She said we should be open-minded, willing to learn and accept new ideas.

IMPACT 2019 will take place April 8–9, returning to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It will be colocated with the Green Schools Conference and Expo. We were excited to take part in this year’s IMPACT conference, and hope that next year’s event fosters the same enlightening discussion and networking opportunities.