This article also appeared in Huffington Post.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen it and yet I still find my mind regularly drifting back to Silver Linings Playbook, the 2012 Oscar-winning movie about an emotionally battered and psychologically disabled young man’s belief that the only weapon he has to battle his clinical depression is a positive attitude, and the only trajectory he needs to take in his battle is one that points him skyward.
That is the reason this young man dares to be so hopeful and so incredibly optimistic throughout his often gut-wrenching ordeal. That’s also the reason why during his treatment he adopts as his personal mantra, excelsior – which as many of you know in Latin translates roughly to “always upward.”
The irony, of course, is that Silver Linings Playbook is set in the City of Philadelphia, an historic, storied and remarkably open-collared patchwork of neighborhoods, cultures and families that in a few short hours will play host to one of the largest collections of positive thinkers this world has ever known – the 25,000 or so men and women from around the globe who each year make the pilgrimage to Greenbuild, the annual conference and expo of the U.S. Green Building Council, and who for four days network, debate, discuss, celebrate and champion the noble cause of sustainable building.
And, believe me, I do not use that word noble lightly. In fact, the nobility of the USGBC’s mission – sustainable building, sustainable growth and a sustainable harmony with Earth’s resources – is the very reason I’m writing this today. But more on that in a moment.
First let me tell you something remarkable that is happening in our battle to bring sustainability to all Americans and make it a part of mainstream thinking in this country. For the first time since I helped found the USGBC back in 1993, we’re finally winning. We have pulled ahead.
Now, for the first time ever, research indicates that more people support the notion of sustainable building than don’t.
What this means, of course, is that we’ve expanded beyond our core of believers, and beyond our base of those who support our cause because they believe in their hearts that sustainability is morally and even intellectually the right thing to do.
What this means is that we have proven sustainability is more than prudent environmentally. We have proven is prudent financially and that it makes as much sense for a corporation’s bottom line as it does for the planet.
What’s more, it means people are finally starting to listen.
That’s why among this year’s attendees at Greenbuild will be a record number of first-timers, including men and women from corporate America and businesses around the world who are coming to learn about how they can save money and operate more efficiently and more profitably by embracing the principles of sustainability.
These people may not share many all the beliefs of our core of supporters, but they for the first time in their lives are embracing sustainability. That is the most compelling sign that we are finally, and at long last, winning. And that is the common ground on which we plan to build the future success and chart the future growth of USGBC.
But now, I want to go back to those core believers I mentioned a few moments ago – those amazing optimistic men and women who believed all along that, regardless of whether or not it was profitable or financially prudent, sustainability was the right thing to do – and that’s why they chose to support it, and us.
What I love about these people, and why they will always have a very special place in my heart, is that they always kept their eye focused on the silver lining, even as the dark storm clouds were hovering above us. They believed – no, they knew – we could accomplish what we set out to do, despite the fact there were times when all it seemed we had left was hope.
But it was their incredible optimism and their constant willingness to always look upward that helped sustain USGBC through those dark and uncertain first few years, when none of us were sure this contraption we’d made would ever get off the ground, much less fly.
But fly it did. And now – on the strength of so much hope and so much optimism – it’s soaring.
And I guess that’s what I will say to this core of believers when I stand up before them on Thursday in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and the birthplace of Silver Linings Playbook.
I will tell them all thanks. I will tell them that USGBC couldn’t have done it without their indomitable spirit over the years. And I will tell them that as a result of all their infectious optimism and that everlasting hope of theirs – a hope they were always willing to lend to me so freely – at least one USGBC lifer and lifelong believer has adopted as his new mantra a word that he will never be able to say again without first thinking of them.