Energetic Sustainable Symposium in San Francisco

What do get when you mix four of the Bay Area’s top green stars, a LEED certified location, lunch and corporate sponsor wanting to spread its green wings? The spirited Sustainable Symposium sponsored by Ace here in glorious San Francisco. The symposium, in short, brought some energetic and often useful ideas from the knowledgeable and spry panel (not to mention moderator and Chicago Ace Hardware store owner Lou Manfredini) and created solid dialogue in what could have been one of another “How to green this and that discussion.”

Held at the LEED certified Bentley Reserve (always a good start) the panel consisted of organic architect, writer, teacher, and the always amusing Eric Corey Freed, stylishly ecofab Zem Joaquin, the reserved but passionate Matt Golden and writer Sophie Uliano. The symposium focused mostly about green building (we weren’t exactly surprised with Ace as the sponsor) but contained various snippets of other sustainable elements as well.

One of the initial items that caused some debate circulated around water and specifically the tankless hot water heater. We love a good debate – especially about tankless water heaters. It’s not that anyone was so much against them but rather, like photovoltaic panels, there might be alternatives to address first when spending money to build or improve the sustainability of a house. Golden mentioned that people should concentrate on more cost effective, less glamorous problems (zero-VOC caulk anyone?) rather than luxe items such as tankless water heaters.

The talk moved toward the marketing or in some cases greenwashing of not only building materials but products. Manfredini called it a “gray movement” rather than “green” for obvious reasons. With all the confusion or outright greenwashing (or would it be graywashing) Freed thinks that it’s about time that someone create an FDA for products to place “ingredients” on labels. Maybe it’s time for companies to adapt the Pharos Project.

Much of the later part of the discussion circled around Clorox and their new best selling line Green Works and greenwashing. In the case Freed paraphrased the words of T.S. Elliot when referring to Clorox (and other companies) “Doing the right thing for the wrong reason”. We agree with Golden’s philosophy is that it comes down to intent. Is Clorox as a whole really looking to go green or just to make a quick green buck?

Even upon exiting the symposium, attendees received a reusable Ace schwag bag full of Fresh Wave odor spray and crystals, energy smart light bulb, a linen spiral notebook and a clothespin showing how much CO2 could saved if households air dried their clothes (250,000 tons of CO2 could saved if every household air dried one load of laundry). One thing that seemed out of place though – we don’t expect organic meals at every conference but they could at least have offered a veggie plate for the poor starving vegetarian/vegan attendees.

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