Rick Fedrizzi

I have to be honest, I found myself getting choked up as we flew in to New Orleans this week and I looked down at this amazing city in this part of the country that remains like no other. As I looked out the plane’s window, I recalled how just ten years ago at Greenbuild in Atlanta, a small group of USGBC volunteers—the crisis and the aftermath of Katrina still playing out in real time—got together, recruited some key New Orleans residents, and pieced together a road map from which the city could rebuild in a prudent and sustainable manner. And that’s in many instances exactly what occurred. And to have played even a tiny part in what this city is today—and, of course, the fact that the USGBC so believed in this place and the spirit of its people that we brought Greenbuild back here without a second thought—moved me beyond words.

Following today’s summit meetings, including the Greenbuild 2014 Materials and Human Health Summit, Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak completely blew away a crowd of about 700 with his glibness, candor and wit. Addressing the crowd without any notes or a podium, and clearly speaking straight from the heart, Dr. Lushniak worked the room and did a masterful job of weaving public health and green building into, if not a single, then at least a shared mission. Among my favorite moments:

  • Lushniak, who appears to be in terrific shape, bicycles regularly and who is the picture of non-stop motion, kicked things off by asking everyone to stand up, stretch and move about. It was a light moment, but it crystalized his theory about how we can become a healthier nation: namely, move more, walk regularly and stay active. He then said to the smokers in the room: “I have a single word for you: stop.” And then finished his opening by deputizing everyone in the room and cautioning them, “We’re among unhealthy people.”
  • A Chicago boy, born and raised, Lushniak talked about what a soft spot he has in his heart for New Orleans, because 65 years ago his parents immigrated from Hungary and entered this country through the Port of New Orleans—and in the process, according to the doctor, “changed my life forever.”
  • He made some fun out of the fact that as a speaker to a bunch of sustainability professionals, he was sequestered in the “green room.”
  • My favorite quote, part 1: “If my job is public health, how dare I ignore the 8-10 hours a day people spend in their work environment.”
  • My favorite quote, part 2: “Health is (our country’s) complete physical, mental and social well being and not necessarily the absence of disease.”
  • My favorite quote, part 3: “The very first earth day was a bunch of people in the park beating a drum. Guess what? 40 years later, that beating made a difference.”
  • Finally, he told attendees he wishes the health movement in the U.S.—he calls it the Blue Movement—was more like the movement he aligned with at the beginning of his talk. Said Lushniak, “My job is to build a healthy nation. And because of that, I want the blue movement to be more like the green movement.”