Climate Leadership Conference

Climate Leadership Conference recognizes the connection between business and climate

By Alaina Boukedes

The 2017 Climate Leadership Conference welcomed the nation’s top industry professionals to promote a cleaner environment and develop partnerships between businesses and agencies.

The primary focus of the conference to discuss sustainable business practices like “Carbon Cutting Solutions for the Built Environment,” which focused on adapting our current buildings.

“The build environment is approximately 40 percent of the United States total greenhouse gas emmissons,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

The organizations on the panel varied from Amazon to the University of California, Irvine, but the idea was that there are measures that can help reduce energy consumption. Traditional buildings aren’t outfitted to use as little energy as possible and produce the least amount of waste, so components like automated air conditioners and light sensors aren’t used effectively.

“We use software and sensors to deliver just the right amount of energy at just the right time and at just the right place,” said Wendell Brase of the University of California, Irvine.

Large casinos like Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, once equipped have the capability to increase their energy savings by 50 percent. Simple changes like switching to LED lights, which use less energy, to lowering the standing temperature on the thermostat can save money.

“These are a sampling of the things that you can do within the built environment that have an impact on carbon,” said Eric Dominguez, vice president of sustainability at Caesar’s Entertainment.

Global companies like Amazon find it harder to maintain a smaller carbon footprint due to their delivery centered system. They focus on keeping their consumption down at their data centers and delivery warehouses by reducing paper waste. For their larger corporate buildings they maintain a walking distance from their employee housing.

“The challenges for us is to identify opportunities that we can scale across the globe, but also address specific concern areas as it relates to energy,” said Tafazzul Khan, energy efficiency program manager at Amazon.

The panel was one of many over the course of the conference, but all emphasized the same message: that the long term effects of climate change will be detrimental unless the global economy changes the way it functions.

“Once you get into this industry you can never eat out for dinner, or go to a retail outlet or stay in a hotel room without looking at light sockets,” Dominguez said, “or thermostats or the temperature in a room because you’re always thinking about the impact it has on energy.”

Photo at top: The panel discussed environmentally friendly building practices. (Alaina Boukedes/MEDILL)