Purpose, Equity, and the Value of Gathering: Lessons from Greenbuild 2022

By Rich Freeh

Posted November 30, 2022

Earlier this month, I was happy to be back at the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild conference for the first time as Green Building United’s Executive Director. It was a whirlwind of learning, but I’ve had a few weeks to think back on the experience and I wanted to share a few takeaways and how we can apply them here at Green Building United: 

Excitement for in-person gathering

For many attendees, myself included, this conference (which attracted thousands of attendees) was the biggest event we’ve attended since 2019. It was a joy to see old friends and meet new colleagues, and this enthusiasm was palpable before and after sessions, in conference room hallways, and during lunches and happy hours. We’ve seen that same enthusiasm here locally with our in-person Sustainability Symposium and Groundbreaker Awards this year, and we have even more planned in the year ahead. 

 

Justice at the forefront

This year’s Greenbuild highlighted amazing leaders from across the sustainability world seeking to center equity in their work. Jacqueline Patterson with the Chisholm Legacy Project shared insights from her career and a charge to ensure communities of color are in the room for conferences like Greenbuild going forward. Leaders at the local and state level in New York discussed their work to electrify New York City’s public housing. And federal agencies shared the early returns on the Justice 40 initiative, aiming to deliver at least 40% of the investment from new federal funding to frontline communities. Green Building United will seek to further our equity commitments and center justice in our programming as part of our forthcoming strategic plan.  

 

Resolve to move forward

We’ve spent 2022 in a whiplash of successes and setbacks, but we know the math: we need to deliver significant emissions cuts at a global level to keep global temperature rise at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and we need to ensure that the benefits of that clean energy transition are accruing to those communities who have felt the brunt of centuries of a fossil fuel economy. Greenbuild brought the legendary Jane Fonda to the conference to keynote a session on seizing this moment to build on the successes, push past setbacks, and chart a course for a green and livable future for all.  

 

Learning from these inspiring leaders has me fired up for the year ahead at Green Building United. We are going to further our work to advocate for sustainable and healthy buildings throughout our region, taking the energy and passion from these sessions as a guiding light. With a renewed focus on equity and justice, more in-person events, and a new strategic plan on the horizon, we are poised for a great year ahead. 

If you want to support the work Green Building United is doing at this critical juncture, consider joining our end-of-year giving campaign here.  

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