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11 hot offstage moments at GreenBiz 18

Peek at these (mostly) behind-the-scenes memories from four days of sustainability knowledge-sharing and celebrating last week in Phoenix.

In its 10th year, the annual GreenBiz conference returned to the desert landscape of Phoenix for a week of strategic thinking, knowledge-sharing and pulse-taking of the business sustainability sphere.

More than 1,000 executives and professionals from corporations, nonprofits and universities met over four days to discuss today's trends, challenges and sustainability opportunities. 

The mainstage sessions (which remain available to view here) inspired conversation and action, but the event's offstage moments generated palpable energy. From biomimicry hikes through Arizona's beautiful landscape to an outdoor "silent disco" to behind-the-scenes zero-waste operations, here are highlights of the art and soul from the conference.

Waste not, want not

In one case, GreenBiz 18 was defined more by what it lacked than what it provided: the litter that is normally ubiquitous during and after a corporate event. Waste Management (WM) and Terracycle worked with GreenBiz to send zero waste to landfill.

This video explains the effort that goes into leaving no trace, from training staff to optimize the hotel's recycling systems, to urging attendees to sort waste into proper bins, to matching unused food with communities in need. The payoff? Increased engagement from participants.

WM led a zero-waste tour to provide insight into the collaboration needed to create a zero-waste event, dumpster diving included.

Biomimicry hike and restoration planting  

American Forests gave busy professionals the chance to get their hands dirty by planting trees, cacti and other native desert vegetation in Phoenix's scenic North Mountain Park. Wrapping up with a tour of the park, the event connected the health of fragile ecosystems with the environmental challenges they face as a result of climate change.

A three-mile-long hike through the Sonoran Desert offered a chance for reflection in nature. Led by biomimicry design professionals Joe Zazzera and Michelle Fehler, the tour discussed how the natural principles that govern life in the Sonoran (such as the majestic Saguaro cactus that houses other species) can offer surprising solutions to today's most pressing design and business challenges.

Sunset cocktails  

An elegant evening cocktail party hosted by Dow Chemical gave attendees a chance to debrief  and mingle — and ended early enough for sunrise yoga the next morning.

Silent disco

The dance craze sweeping the party circuit came to the lawn of the JW Marriott Desert Ridge hotel: At a "silent disco," participants tune in to music on wireless headphones from one of two DJ-led stations, which broadcast different tunes synced to the same beats per minute.

Those wearing headphones can groove together, even to different tunes. This got people moving — and discussions flowing — late into the night at the GreenBiz 18 After Dark party Tuesday.

Hall of fame

The GreenBiz 18 exhibit hall offered eye candy during networking breaks and pauses in the plenary sessions. International Paper showed off a cardboard-furniture booth, and a giant wall from Goodera near the United Nations Global Compact booth showcased the "periodic table" of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Interactive exhibits, such as the booth set up by startup Cupanion, rewarded thirsty conference-goers for taking sustainable actions such as ditching their plastic water bottles. People could rack up points in the gamified Cupanion app for refilling a branded bottle.

The "Us-sie"

In what is now a GreenBiz tradition, attendees were encouraged to skip the "selfie" and instead take an "Us-sie," paying homage to the collaboration and partnerships needed to advance industries towards a sustainable economy.

Corporate executives and students alike made new connections and put their best faces forward.


Electric vehicles (EVs) are driving the future of mobility, and people could get a taste of the comfort and design of next-generation EVs with test rides facilitated by GM. 

Cue visions of driving into the Phoenix sunset, without releasing any harmful emissions.

Leaders emerge

Some of the most dynamic people onstage were the GreenBiz Emerging Leaders, 10 young professionals breaking down barriers in the sustainability field relating to race, gender and socioeconomic status. These future leaders came armed with ideas to treat water in developing nations, create green job opportunities for underrepresented communities and more.

A scholarship from PricewaterhouseCoopers covered full conference attendance, travel and hotel stay for each. Check out the Emerging Leaders from our GreenBiz 17 and VERGE 17 events.

GreenBiz 30 Under 30 honorees

As we gear up to find the third wave of the global GreenBiz 30 Under 30 young sustainability leaders across corporate, government and non-profit sectors, many previous honorees have become part of the GreenBiz family, fostering one another's professional growth.

Coaching corner

Certified leadership coach Shannon Houde, who pens our Dear Shannon column, held 15-minute career coaching sessions offering one-on-one insight about achieving impact and honing leadership skills in challenging times. 

Sustainability ABC's

The closing plenary performance brought to the stage local performers, activists and spoken-word artists Leah Marche, Truth B Told and Suzanne Sosnowski, who performed the "The ABC's of Sustainability," in which the letters "Y" and "U" together help to write the manual for a sustainable future.

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