Trends and Tips from Three Green Business Thought Leaders

The annual State of the Green Business 2011 Forum was held at Mission Bay on the UCSF campus last week. After attending many green business conferences over the past two years, I have been feeling some conference fatigue. But knowing Joel Makower and his great team, I knew that the Forum would deliver. And I was not disappointed.

As usual, the State of Green Business 2011 Report,’s annual effort to take the pulse on key sustainable business trends, was unveiled and summarized (see Joel Makower’s post summarizing the key points here).

State of Green Business“Companies are thinking bigger and longer term about sustainability -- a sea change from their otherwise notoriously incremental, short-term mindset. And even during these challenging economic times, many have doubled down on their sustainability activities and commitments,” summarized Makower. has done a great job of covering the key speakers on the day I attended (Feb. 3). My thoughts below focus on an evaluation of the new event format and a summary of the key trends and tips highlighted by three of my favorite speakers.

A More Interactive Conference Experience

The event has matured from a one-day event in a big auditorium, where the information flow was mainly one way, to a new two-day format that provided ample time for smaller workshops and group discussion. The new format, and perhaps the steeper price, attracted a smaller, yet high-level set of attendees. At many conferences, I find the most valuable conversations happen during the breaks and I end up feeling disappointed by the sessions, where information flow is mostly one-way.

The new format offered many opportunities for dialogue. The breaks, workshops, lunch, guru sessions (where we had the opportunity to meet in a small group with a thought leader of our choice) and the evening reception were full of lively sustainability conversations. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to hear directly from company sustainability directors and consultants working in the trenches at sessions and have the small group guru sessions where we could dive in deep into a specific issue.

Kudos to the organizers for offering a zero-waste lunch! No piles of garbage after lunch at this event.

Since UCSF is a client, I was disappointed that its sustainability accomplishments were not highlighted as part of the program. Maybe next year?

Young Alexis Ringwald Makes a Big Splash

I arrived late to the morning plenary to a delightful presentation from Alexis Ringwald, director of business development for Serious Materials. At 25, she is confident, articulate, engaging and funny! I loved the creative, down-to-earth message she delivered during her presentation.

Part of her comments focused on the story of how she helped to develop an energy efficiency platform that provides real-time energy use data and empowers people to make changes.