The first annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference in Contra Costa on October 27th drew an enthusiastic audience to learn about and discuss the opportunities and challenges in creating a sustainable society from a business perspective. Representation ranged from business/organization owners and directors to activists and students from DVC and Los Medanos College. Check out photos from the event.

  • Mark Westwind framed the vision for the SEC noting the increasing demand for sustainable products and services and making a case for adopting the Cradle-to-Cradle principles for sustainable design in every aspect of product design, manufacturing, use and recycling. To the Three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Westwind added Rethink, Redesign and Respect.  
  • Gary Craft of Craft Consulting pointed out that despite visible enthusiasm for sustainability, adoption of sustainable products from solar panels to electric cars still ranks in the Innovators and Early Adopters stages (under 16%) of the product adoption curve. This suggests huge emerging markets as sustainability moves into the Early Majority stage (34%). Craft noted that the numerous initiatives launched after the Green Economy report of 2008 have a mixed record of success. He encouraged the assembled group to help pump energy and support into those initiatives that are struggling.
  • Jody London, Contra Costa's new Sustainability Coordinator, outlined the county's ambitious Climate Action Plan and the Plan's SB 32 goals of a 40% reduction from 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050. She noted that 45% of the CO2 emissions in our county come from on-road transportation - a priority target for immediate action primarily by decreasing the pick-up and transportation of waste. 
  • Oscar Dominguez, Director of the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center, shared several small business start-up success stories and noted the wide range of services available to small business owners. 
  • Manuel Alonso, Executive Director of Earth Team, shared the great work that Earth Team interns are doing in helping reduce car emissions and marine debris and creating awareness about sustainability among their peers. 
  • The team of Peter Cairns from Golden Gate Power, Kelly Knutsen from the Cal. Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) and Ben Bradford from Intech Energy outlined a variety of practical solutions for business owners to overcome hurdles in going solar and lowering energy costs.   8095747101?profile=original
  • In the spirit of bringing thought leaders to Contra Costa, this year's Conference keynote speaker Ilaria Mazzoleni presented key concepts of "bio-inspired design" and shared cutting edge models based on biomimicry ... e.g. how animal fur can guide the design of building skins that are better at heating and cooling. 
  • Heather and Ryan Hopkins, principals of Hopkins Properties and graduates in Sustainable Design, shared their work in sustainable design particularly in using fungal mycelium (mushrooms) to grow building materials. Amazing! 
  • Oren Wool, Executive Director of Sustainable North Bay drove home the point that we need to live within the resources of one planet (and we're not) and presented the One Planet Scorecard as a tool for guiding lifestyle changes.
  • Diana Chavez talked about how Working Solutions is leveraging microloans to create opportunities and stimulate job creation in low-income communities. WS has invested over $10 million in over 400 loans that have resulted in over 1,000 new jobs. 
  • Pete Tormey, attorney, provided an excellent overview of various business structures including the B Corp noting that the B Corp framework offers a viable alternative to the "no profit" non-profit business model.  
  • Darien Louie of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance led an outstanding panel discussion with attorney William Acevedo of Wendel Rosen, Mike Hannigan, President of Give Something Back Office Supplies, and Pello Walker, co-owner of Daily Digital Imaging on topics ranging from the challenges of marketing a green business to the levels of commitment needed to maintain a high standard of green business operations. 
The post-conference reception featured a selection of local beers from Calicraft Brewing Company and wine from Wreckless Blenders Wines
All in all, the Conference was a big success with over 90 attendees. Everyone is excited to make this an annual affair!

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