Rick Fedrizzi, the U.S. Green Building Council’s founding chairman and
president, on living eco-friendly and this year’s Greenbuild Expo
Written by REBECCA J. BELL
HOW GREEN IS
hybrid or electric car?
On to my second Prius
offsets? When I travel
It’s 80 years old with an
home heating? Gas and
electric with 50 percent
dedicated to renewable
Yes to both
green goal for 2009?
Convince my mother
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)
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
Do you think LEED has changed people’s everyday
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 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,