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3 Lessons from the Tri-State Sustainability Symposium 2015
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3 Lessons from the Tri-State Sustainability Symposium 2015

Despite March 6th’s untimely snowy forecast, DVGBC’s Tri-State Sustainability Symposium saw hundreds of devoted attendees spill through Temple University’s gates.

Although this day-long event (which sees industry leaders under one roof) was in its fifth year, this girl was a first-timer, eager to engage and learn panelists’ best practices.

Tri-State Sustainability Symposium: 2015 Highlights

Temple University Tri-State Symposium 2015

The conference kicked-off with an address from Anthony E. Malkin, chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust and Judy Wicks, local entrepreneur, activist, and author.

After achieving  a sustainable mindset, we had serious decision-making of 20+ different panel discussions from industry innovators, spanning 7 sustainability themes. Think: Building, Water, Community, Energy, Chief Sustainability Leaders, etc.

I saw myself circling three options per breakout sessions: How to chose between Disclosure Mandates and Codes, Art and Sustainability and Socially Responsible Investing! Luckily, I had two colleagues by my side, representing Team MilkCrate. We each tackled a different session to cover all our bases. (Sly tactic, eh?)

SESSION 1: “Consumer Companies and Consultants: Big Ideas and Big Movement”

Moderated by Brenna Walraven, president and CEO of Corporate Sustainably Strategies, this first session explored the barriers, successes and trends industry leaders face as corporate chief sustainability officers.

Rachel Sowards, practice area manager at Paladino and Company shared that successes relating to sustainability needn’t always center around strict policymaking and implementation. As she said metaphorically:

“Sometimes its about picking up a dirty mattress. Sometimes, it’s about taking initiative, taking on the role of sustainability “ambassador” and sharing what you’ve learned with your peers.”

This leads right into another important point made: embracing data and monitoring behavior is crucial. The panelists, which also included Tom Carpenter of Waste Management, Beth Heider of Skanska USA and David Stangis of Campbell Soup, all agreed that the key to success, once resources are used to invest in data, is being as transparent as possible with the facts and figures.

A Takeaway Tweet:

SESSION 2: “Painting a Greener Future: Art and Sustainability in Philadelphia”

A nice change of pace was found at the art and sustainability panel discussion, featuring Robert Blackson, director of Temple Contemporary at Temple University, Billy Dufala, co-founder of RAIR and owner of the Dufala Brothers, Beth Miller, executive director of the Community Design Collaborative and Kaitlin Pomerantz, artist and teacher.

Led by Fern Gookin, director of Sustainability at Revolution Recovery and co-founder at RAIR, the discussion circled around unconventional, natural material procurement, the importance of reuse and recycling in terms of production and ultimately, the role artists play in spreading awareness about issues relating to sustainability.

“Artists are creative problem solvers,” Blackson stated, implying that an artist’s work has the ability to shed light and spark conversation on a certain topic.

The artists had the opportunity to share past and future projects they were involved with or spearheading – and all were great examples of how art has a place in solving sustainability issues and educating its viewers. The Community Design Collaborative has focused on conceptual designs for open spaces, particularly on school sites; RAIR was commissioned to custom paint dumpster trucks for Revolution Recovery and Pomerantz only finds inspiration from found, natural materials. Pomerantz continued, stating that art has the innate ability to get people excited to react or solve problems themselves.

The deepest part of the discussion stemmed around education, specifically programming focusing on arts and sustainability, with panelists agreeing that it needs to be a priority in Philadelphia. Sustainability and art has obvious prevalence on the West Coast, yet the group was drawn to this city in order to help bolster and promote its importance—to be a part of the change.

A Takeaway tweet:

Lunchtime keynote speakers saw excellent explorations of corporate office design and small business, respectively.

Emily Allen, LEED AP ID + C, an interior designer with Dekker/Perich/Sabatini shared staggering renderings of innovative office design at its best, while Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association spoke to the importance of sustainable return on investment (ROI). Create a sustainable business, do it right, and everyone will benefit- it’s that simple.

SESSION 3: “Everybody’s Doing It: Why Millennials Own Tech and Sustainability”

To round out the day, I supported my girl, Morgan Berman (CEO of MilkCrate), at the millennials, tech and sustainability session. She was joined by Drew Foulkes, community manager at City CoHo and Michelle Feldman, director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) and outreach chair for Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP).

tri-State Sustainability symposium 2015 milkcrate city coho Keep Philadelphia beautiful

Marissa Rosen (Triple Pundit_ led the dialogue, which centered around techniques for engaging the millennial generation, but ultimately spurred into discussion on misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding this particular age group. Although the turn pivoted from a chat on sustainability, it ended up coming full circle.

Berman discussed the future of her sustainability app; Foulkes shared how he’s helping to create a vibrant, interactive co-working space at 2401 Walnut St.; and Feldman explained how KPB and YIP help build community and active citizenship.

Stereotypically, the millennial generation is deemed not engaged and misuse technology – often for selfish reasons. However, all panelists eloquently refuted the statement. (They were in agreement that they’d like to see local voting numbers amongst the age group increase.)

Feldman discussed Litterati, a social awareness campaign on Instagram. Litterati actively creates a “digital landfill,” shedding light on the trash problem in the area, with hundreds having generated content in order to create a community of change.

Berman pointed out that although technology creates that anti-social feel, her app creates a community – bringing together consumers, sustainable businesses and the nonprofit/civic organizations.

In the end, the young group is a hardworking, dedicated, adaptable set of individuals. Quite frankly, I was proud to see them represent a new generation of sustainability leaders.

A TAKEAWAY TWEET:

Did you attend #TriStateSS this year? Tell us about the panels you visited!

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Caitlin Honan was raised in a small town in South Jersey, but gave up her 10-minute drive to the beach to study journalism and digital art in Philadelphia. She’s always felt a need to advocate for the environment -- and as a member of Students for Environmental Action at La Salle University and as an editorial intern with Grid magazine she was able to truly pair her passion with her work. Now, her background in hyperlocal journalism (Press of Atlantic City, hibu community magazines) is helping her promote MilkCrate, a sustainability app, by way of social media, blog posts and more. View all posts by Caitlin Honan

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