The event - entitled "A Green Jobs Conference: Making Money While Protecting Your Environment" - brought together five speakers on Wednesday, April 25 to discuss how businesses can respond to growing public awareness of environmentalism.
The conference was the second recent environment-themed summit to be held in Jersey City. In January, the city and developer Exeter Property Company hosted "Sustainable Jersey City," a forum for city officials and residents to discuss sustainability and its role in the city's development.
The concept of sustainability is broad, but at its core it suggests that the way humans live now should not negatively impact the way we will live in the future. "Sustainability" in a business setting often involves practices such as a reduction of energy use, conservation of water and materials, and otherwise mitigating a company's impact on the environment.
John L. Cusack of the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, which cosponsored the recent Green Jobs conference, told the attendees that businesses in all fields will be affected by the "green" movement.
"Sustainability is important, it's financially relevant, [and] it's going to affect your business, whether you're a for-profit business or a not-for-profit business," he said.
Two speakers at the Green Jobs conference represented companies that have already begun to embrace sustainability.
Angeline Kung, who spearheads the environmental policy efforts of Goldman, Sachs & Co., said that major companies like hers are increasingly seeking to reduce their impact on the environment. She noted Wal-Mart's recent decision to use low-energy LEDs (light-emitting diodes) in all of their new stores' freezers.
The Jersey City office building of Goldman Sachs was one of the first buildings in New Jersey certified by the U.S. Green Building Council under their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, a nationally recognized standard for eco-friendly construction. Kung said Goldman Sachs will continue to build under LEED guidelines.
"All new construction will also achieve LEED certification," Kung said.
Josh Dorfman, founder of furniture company Vivavi and host of the radio program "The Lazy Environmentalist," told conference attendees that he sees a "change in the conversation" from just talking about environmental problems to talking about solutions.
Among the solutions Dorfman has pursued through his company is the use of sustainable materials in its products, such as recycled plastics and non-toxic finishes.
Dorfman noted that several small businesses in the region have been created to address specific environmental concerns. TerraCycle, based in Trenton, packages its organic plant food in old 20-ounce soda bottles, and Philadelphia-based RecycleBank offers recyclers money back in the form of vouchers at participating companies.
Other speakers at the conference included Carol Ann Brodie, Ph.D., of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and Rabbi Lawrence Troster of the interfaith environmental group GreenFaith.
Also at the conference, three SPC students - Laura Gubitosa, Steven Marusic and Guido Cedeño - were recognized for their personal writing on environmental issues.
Christopher Zinsli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.