The Opportunity Green Conference in Los Angeles: Sustainability Driven by Capitalism, Health Wristbands, and More

© Myra Vides
Actor/Activist Don Cheadle, Ambassador UN Environment Program, receives the Eco-Maverick Award presented by Opportunity Green's Karen Solomon and Sherry Simpson Dean.

Environmentalism and capitalism may seem to be at cross purposes but to make “greening” sustainable, that intersection is reaching a tipping point. That was the premise among a gathering of entrepreneurs, start-ups and multinational corporations that came together for the 5th annual Opportunity Green conference November 10-11 in Los Angeles.

Adrian Grenier and Don Cheadle took awards for their green efforts, and Vermont's Governor Peter Shumlin Green Governor of the Year, set the tone, seeing a robust economy linked to a green agenda, from local cheesemakers to manufacturing windmills. Gov. Shumlin was quoted throughout the two-day event: “They are good at marketing what is bad and we are bad at marketing what is good.”

The governor suggested coming up with a new vocabulary for “green” and “sustainability” as it goes mainstream—which he believes is inevitable. He wasn’t just preaching to the converted who attended, the audience included the State Department who is greening U.S. embassies around the world, new appointees from municipalities scrambling to meet environmental duties, the unemployed seeking to reinvent themselves, new green businesses, as well as reps of pioneering companies like carpet manufacturer Interface and clothing company Patagonia.

courtesy of Jawbone and fuseproject/Promo image
The "smart" Up wristband by Jawbone designed to monitor health -- including your movement, REM sleep, and what you eat -- was presented by designer Yves Behar of Fuseproject.

Green Products Need to be Priced the Same
In addressing how to take green to the next level, collaboration was at the center of every discussion. The theme of the conference was “accelerate” so the issue of “getting to scale” was explored.

Yves Behar of Fuseproject's dazzling presentation showed how to get to scale through style—“look for what you want that everyone wants.”

One of Fuseproject's smart and simple solutions: fold t-shirts in half to use half the biodegradable plastic wrap (since every product shipped from Asia needs to be wrapped). Then there's the firm's hip and unapologetic condom dispenser for the NYC Department of Health, which took distribution from nine million to 39 million.

© RCruger
Dell's biodegradable mushroom packing foam by Ecovative Design was one of many collaborative highlights at Opportunity Green.

At the Opportunity Green session titled, "Sustainability is Not a Fad," IBM claimed the green agenda is driven by employees while Clorox saw the profitability as the bottom line with Green Works, Burt’s Bees and Brita contributing 40% of the corporation’s growth.

Dell’s Oliver Campbell believes the customer drives the green agenda. The electronics company has collaborated successfully with Ecovative Design to replace synthetic foam cushions with biodegradable packaging created from mushroom roots.

© RCruger
Mathematician Sean Gourley of Quid shows the data map to find the "Technology Genome."

The dramatic surge of green technologies was illustrated by Sean Gourley of Quid which maps data to shows patterns. By tracking thousands of entities around the world over the last decade, the green sector shows rapid growth; from a spattering of green technologies in 2001 to an interconnected system today. including wind turbines, biofuels, car sharing, energy storage and dozens more.

Fossil Fuels Will be Obsolete
Hannah Jones, Nike's VP of Sustainability and Innovation, gave a stirring close, suggesting the green movement could have the impact that the iPod had with CD collections and the insulin pump had for diabetes.

Across every industry, companies that want a competitive edge, she explained, will use clean tech. To face the climate crisis we must accelerate the pace to tip the scale. It’s not about just planting trees anymore, but hunting for new partners, she maintains. “We have days not decades.”

More from Opportunity Green
Gensler's Gervais Thompkin at Opportunity Green on Rethinking the Modern Workspace
Yves Behar on Integrative Sustainable Design
Radical Product Transparency Via Carbon Mapping

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Dematerialization | Ecological Economics | Global Warming Solutions