Electrifying moments from VERGE 17

Kathryn Cooper Photography
Van Jones greets the VERGE 17 Emerging Leaders.

Gathering the brightest minds in the corporate, tech, government, nonprofit and art sectors to accelerate sustainability solutions is the core mission of our VERGE event series.

Making deep connections in an interconnected world was the heart of the conference. Last week, around 2,000 attendees converged for VERGE 17 in Santa Clara, California, to learn, share and be inspired to create a better future.

The GreenBiz editorial team writers covered these stories from the conference, which focused on global trends in city and regional resilience, regional transportation and mobility, the circular economy and the next-generation renewable electric grid and how businesses and governments are dealing with them in real time.  

Among the memorable moments: the vibrant conversations; the pride of the VERGE Emerging Leaders honored onstage; and the beats of DJ Spooky late into the night during the VERGE After Dark party. Here are some highlights of the week in review.

The microgrid lights up

Kathryn Cooper Photography

Good energy abounded, including the electricity that powered the VERGE Accelerate show floor at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The 100-percent renewably powered microgrid — a trademark of GreenBiz conferences — was built to support its entire operations using equipment both from start-ups and leading renewable providers. It comprised an 18-panel, 3.4 KW solar array, 1KW wind turbines, a 100KW biomass gasifier and other exciting technologies. Tours taught attendees about such technology that's available right now for practical, large-scale use. 

Emerging leaders shine

Kathryn Cooper Photography

Ten scholarships to attend the conference went to VERGE 17 Emerging Leaders, young sustainability professionals seeking to create a more equitable, healthy and thriving world.  

GreenBiz received nearly 120 applications from students and early professionals from across the country and beyond, and chose the honorees based on financial need, diversity and community engagement. With help from United Airlines, the honorees' attendance, travel and hotel stays were covered.

They formed the second cohort of Emerging Leaders. Their roles included food supply chain management, clean energy financing, water resources management and next-generation business development.

Painting true colors

Kathryn Cooper Photography

The ArtIsMobilUs wall, which everyone was encouraged to paint, represented the tapestry of sustainability visions. The mobile art gallery and "roving arts incubator" is dedicated to bringing art to people everywhere with the slogan "Anybody can paint."

The platform for exhibition, arts education, collaboration and engagement invited the VERGE community to express what it values, to leave a mark and to enjoy a moment of relaxation during a busy week.

Leading with heart

Kathryn Cooper Photography

Van Jones, left, talks with Joel Makower, GreenBiz executive editor.

"Green jobs, not jails," was the message that Van Jones, president of the social justice accelerator Dream Corps, reiterated at VERGE 17.

A political contributor, author and special advisor to the Obama White House, Jones yoked the importance of equality to the goal of true social sustainability and pointed out how these issues beg attention today more than ever, being closely linked to the consequences of climate change.

For example, inmates in federal correctional facilities facing hurricanes Harvey and Irma were overlooked for evacuation. What if we empowered underserved populations by providing them access to sustainability jobs, instead of disenfranchisement? And how did Prince (yes, the artist) inspire Jones? Tune into the VERGE virtual archives to watch Jones' talk with GreenBiz co-founder Joel Makower.

Spinning into the night

Kathryn Cooper Photography

Wrapping up the Tuesday night of the conference, DJ Spooky spun classic and modern dance beats that got everyone moving during the VERGE 17 After Dark party. The conference space lobby became an intimate venue for relaxing, connecting and conversing.

VERGE Director of Engagement Shana Rappaport also debuted the Sea Stars' music video for their song "No Oil," kicking off the party with a heartfelt salvo.

Attaching strings

DJ Spooky (R)

Earlier Tuesday, internationally renowned musician, author and artist Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, married his musical and academic sides during a special presentation about the role of art in solving climate change.

Following a journey to Antarctica, DJ Spooky composed music to overlay over footage of the endangered ice — performed at the deck and accompanied by the strings of Cello Joe — and demonstrated his "remix" of data and sound taken from the continent.

Facebook Live lounging

Kathryn Cooper Photography

 It's no secret that Facebook is committed to clean energy: The social network aims to buy enough renewables to match half its power usage by 2018 and eventually transition to 100 percent.

Facebook brought its communication platform to VERGE 17 to help the cause. In the Facebook Live Lounge, speakers dived deeper into conversations about their work for the clean economy. The interviews, streamed live, remain available to see on the GreenBiz Facebook page.

Accelerating sustainability

Kathryn Cooper Photography

A perennial fan favorite, the Accelerate Showcase elevates early-stage entrepreneurs with sustainability solutions that they are ready to bring to market and gives them a chance to pitch to an audience of nearly 2,000 business leaders, government officials and investors (not to mention the global virtual audience).

The 14 finalists, including CurbMyClutter, Renewal Mill and Lilac Solutions, get global exposure and access to potential investors and partners around the world. Check them out here.

After a well-deserved rest, here are the upcoming GreenBiz events: