SoCal’s leading sustainable business conference, Opportunity Green, held its third annual event at UCLA this weekend. With the aim of helping business drive up profitability through sustainability, the conference brought together business leaders, sustainability experts, entrepreneurs and innovators to cover the gamut of green from sustainable design to cleantech, motor racing to marketing, lifecycle analysis to lessons in green business.

There were many memorable moments: Ogilvy Earth’s Hopenhagen campaign which could prove more impactful than Copenhagen itself; Annie Leonard’s inspiring account of how she transformed her 20-year obsession with “materials” into the internet sensation, “The Story of Stuff”; and the spirited Green Startup Competition, a frenzy of 60-second pitches and flying reusable pizza boxes, which culminated in an on-screen text/twitter race in which Ecov8, an organic packing material, emerged victorious.

But the hands-down best moment of Opportunity Green took place within the first few hours of the conference. “Running the Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption” by artist Chris Jordan is wake-up call to all of us. While statistics often don’t connect and make us feel, Jordan’s images as visual metaphors for our rampant consumerism and mindless waste certainly struck a nerve.

The image of a single paper bag, plastic cup and plastic bottle are manipulated to eye-popping effect to represent the 1.4 million paper bags used at American supermarkets everyday, the 1 million plastic cups consumed on airline flights every six hours and the 2 million plastic bottles thrown out every five minutes.

However his truly heartbreaking work of staggering genius came in the form of his short film entitled Midway: Message from the Gyre which was so profoundly moving some attendees had to leave the room. Jordan’s work gives us permission to grieve what is being lost. His hope is that this will ignite the fire of passion in us to create real change.

Sarah Backhouse hosts Hype to Habit for Causecast / Creative Citizen, she is Current Affairs Editor of Coco Eco Magazine and is a member of the IREO media committee.


Highlights from Opportunity Green
Sarah Backhouse reports on Opportunity Green, California's leading conference on sustainable business with a special feature of Chris Jordan's film on Midway Is