Editor's note: This interview is with Rick Fedrizzi, the U.S. Green Building Council’s founding chairman and president, on living eco-friendly and on this year's Greenbuild Expo, to be held in Boston. The interview originally appeared in Design New England magazine.
By Rebecca J. Bell
The number of registered attendees at the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild Expo has more than sextupled since its 2002 inaugural conference in Austin, Texas. And for good reason: Greenbuild is the top showcase for cutting-edge eco-friendly practices and products. And it’s not just architects and builders who are signing up; everyone from students to interior designers to Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (this year’s keynote speaker) is getting behind Greenbuild, which opens in Boston on November 19. We asked Rick Fedrizzi, the U.S. Green Building Council’s founding chairman and current CEO and president, how he hopes to change America’s landscape — starting with this year’s Greenbuild.
When you came on as CEO in 2004, what were your goals for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)?
The first thing I did was ensure that we had a strong chapter base, which now has 74 chapters across the United States and the Caribbean. I call them the front door of the USGBC: In Boston, it’s called the Green Building Roundtable. And those 74 legs give a very firm foundation to the organization. They support local advocacy, government, and lobbying issues, and they do fund-raising and educational strategies.
What was the inspiration behind the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system?
LEED was a program we identified very early. I can explain LEED in the very simplest terms: if you had a box of crackers, on the side of the box it would tell you the nutritional content. And you would have the ability as a consumer to select that box or not, based on your health, based on your values, based on a number of different criteria. But in all the buildings that surround us, we’ve never had meaningful criteria to judge whether or not we should be in that building. Much like the nutrition label on the side of a box of crackers has been third-
party-approved by the FDA, we do the same thing on buildings.
Do you think LEED has changed people’s everyday behavior?
LEED is a way of thinking. It focuses people to think in terms of supporting their communities -- buying their food locally, not using their car if they don’t have to. It gives people this whole different view to the world, but in a meaningful way that shows them that in a building, or in communities, you don’t have to give up anything. You’re enhancing life, you’re not taking away from life. This isn’t pure conservation, this is a new way of living for the future.
Given Greenbuild’s mission, USGBC must be working overtime to cut the expo’s carbon footprint.
Essentially, we try to minimize energy, water, waste. We don’t use bottled water, we compost all of the food that is served on-site that is not eaten, we’re in the [90 percent] range for recycling all paper content at the event. Transportation is usually done via biofuel vehicles and buses. We work very closely with the city ahead of time to set up every conceivable opportunity to reduce waste. And then whatever is left over as a variable, we have sponsors who buy carbon credits.
This year’s theme is “Revolutionary Green.” What does that mean to you?
For centuries, we’ve had political revolutions, intellectual revolutions, artistic revolutions, most recently we had the information age revolution, and all of these things have brought us as a society to where we are today. We are deep in the middle of a green revolution. It’s about green building, renewable energy, organic farming, everything that’s out there. The American Solar Energy Society says that by the year 2030 we’ll have 40 million green-collar jobs. These are jobs built on the future, jobs we’ve never had before. We really believe as an organization that these are going to bring cities back to life, that this is going to return economic development and job creation to the United States, and ultimately, we’re going to revitalize the country as a result. And I think it’s appropriate that this starts in Boston, where our Founding Fathers revitalized the focus on the future for this country.
The Fedrizzi File: How green is he?
Hybrid or electric car?
On to my second Prius
Purchase carbon offsets?
When I travel
It’s 80 years old with an organic garden
Gas and electric with 50 percent dedicated to renewable wind energy
Yes to both
Green goal for 2009?
Convince my mother to recycle
The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo runs November 19 through 21. Tickets are $25 to $75 per day; registration for the entire conference is $225 to $700, with discounts for students, USGBC members, and early registrants. More information is available at greenbuildexpo.com, 800-795-1747.
About the green blog
Helping Boston live a greener, more environmentally friendly life.
Christopher Reidy covers business for the Globe.
Doug Struck covers environmental issues from Boston.
Glenn Yoder produces Boston.com's Lifestyle pages.
Eric Bauer is site architect of Boston.com.
Bennie DiNardo is the Boston Globe's deputy managing editor/multimedia.
Dara Olmsted is a local sustainability professional focusing on green living.