Dispatches from Greenbuild 2013 – Women in Green Power Breakfast

The second annual National Women in Green Power Breakfast took place Thursday morning at the Marriott Philadelphia. ┬áThis year’s event, which focused on the intersection of human health and the built environment, was moderated by Judith Webb, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Development at USGBC. The panel included sustainability icon and native Philadelphian Judy Wicks, owner and founder of White Dog Cafe; Jennifer Berthelot-Jelovic of SustainAble Production LLC; Ariane Laxo of USGBC; Alexandra Liftman, Global Environmental Executive of Bank of America; and Gail Vittori of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. The tone of the event was open and conversational, with comments, suggestions, and observations from smaller table discussions guiding the panelists’ exploration of the topics.


One major theme of the discussion, in light of upcoming changes in the Materials and Resources category of LEED v4, was building materials transparency and disclosure. Many participants compared the health benefits of nutrition labeling for food to what they would like to see for building materials. They pointed out that the changes to LEED can be a driver for manufacture transparency, thus leading to more informed consumer decisions and healthier built environments.


From an economic perspective, Liftman referenced a study that found women are over 20% more likely than men to express interest in preferentially investing in organizations with commitments to sustainability. However, she argued, men are just as likely as women to value environmental sustainability. Liftman ventured that this disconnect may stem from the tendency of women to lead more interconnected, multitasking lifestyles, where work life, home life, personal values, and professional goals all influence and feed into one another. This positions women to see the connections between investing and purchasing power and real-life impacts.


At her keynote speech later that night, Secretary Hillary Clinton praised the USGBC for bringing women to the forefront through programs such as the Women in Green Power Breakfast. She reinforced the idea that, globally, women are often uniquely positioned to appreciate the effects of environmental degradation on the health of their families because of their roles as caregivers, water carriers, and food providers. This inspires women to bring a practical approach to sustainability, a perspective that is indispensable to building healthier communities.


Event Recap by Rebecca Ferdman, Project Assistant