Greenbuild 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference, was held in Phoenix, Ariz., in November. I attended the event and enjoyed participating in the workshops, listening to Al Gore’s keynote speech, and connecting with like-minded individuals. Although the conference ended a few months back, Kimberly-Clark Professional recently released the results of a survey of 169 Greenbuild attendees.

Each survey participant was asked what their businesses were doing to be more environmentally responsible and about 75 percent responded that their organizations were focusing on reducing consumption, especially consumption of water and energy.

A similar answer was also seen quite frequently when the survey participants were asked which building practices would have the greatest positive environmental impact. Sixty-three percent of the respondents answered that “finding more ways to reduce overall consumption” would have the most beneficial impact on the environment. Only 25 percent felt that increasing recycling rates and the use of recycled materials would have the greatest positive impact.

Part of the reason why recycling wasn’t rated as high as reducing consumption was that many respondents stated that their businesses already had comprehensive recycling programs in place. Now these companies are focusing on reducing consumption — if you consume less, then you have less to recycle. Recycling is still important but it is evident that there is a trend towards consuming less, in general.

Other survey results show that 78 percent consider trees a renewable resource for paper products, 67 percent expect to pay a small premium for environmentally responsible products while 31 percent expect to pay the same amount for environmentally responsible products, 64 percent worked for companies that were pursuing or had already earned green building certification, and 21 percent of respondents were considering a green building certification.

After answering the questions about their company’s current sustainability practices, respondents were then asked to look to the future. Not surprisingly nearly one-third of survey participants stated that water was the top future concern. Climate change came in a close second with 26 percent of the responses followed by landfill availability and air quality concerns.

Since this was a green building conference and attendees were already focused on the importance of corporate sustainability, it was interesting to see that nearly one-quarter of respondents were only considering a green building certification. Perhaps the workshops and other events offered during Greenbuild 2009 helped changed their minds.

Photo: edkohler