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Clinton promotes 'green' Sears Tower, Merchandise Mart in Chicago visit

by Anna-Louise Jackson
Nov 07, 2007

Former Vice President Al Gore has received numerous accolades for his environmental work. On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton was the one plugging the environment in Chicago.

Clinton and Mayor Richard M. Daley announced three joint projects between the city and the Clinton Climate Initiative that will give the Sears Tower, the Merchandise Mart and privately-owned housing a green makeover.

At a press conference, Daley said the partnership with Clinton is a nod to the city's environmental efforts of the last 10 years. Daley was optimistic about what the partnership could mean for the future of green initiatives in Chicago.

“The things that he’s doing, it’s remarkable,” Daley said.

Through the partnership, the Chicago landmarks will be retrofitted, making them more cost-effective and energy efficient. In privately owned housing, energy retrofits will help building owners save money.

These projects are part of Clinton’s message: going green can save some green. Wednesday morning, Clinton kicked off the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo at McCormick Place, urging conference attendees to spread the word about the economic benefits of sustainable design.

“This is not a big bottle of castor oil we have to drink. This is the greatest economic opportunity that our country has had to mobilize and democratize since we mobilized from World War II,” he told conference attendees.

Clinton admitted that seizing this opportunity will not be an easy task, because it requires a move away from a carbon economy. Clinton commended Gore for educating the public about global warming, which earned Gore a Nobel Peace Prize.

“The sale’s been made,” he said of Gore’s work. “But now what we have to do is figure out how to operationalize this.”

The 2007 conference, with the theme “Accelerating Green Communities,” is put on by the U.S. Green Building Council and was expected to draw more than 20,000 industry experts and community leaders through Friday.

In addition to the partnership with the City of Chicago, Clinton’s foundation will work on a retrofit program with 40 cities worldwide. He also called for a greening of America’s schools and praised the Chicago Public Schools for adopting renewable energy.

Clinton predicted that in the next 18 months there will be a race to build structures that produce energy instead of consuming it.

“We have no earthly idea where this adventure will take us," he said. “We simply are dealing with unlimited potential in a new energy market.”

Clinton was optimistic about the future of green building, but his time in Chicago wasn’t completely apolitical. Later in the day, he attended  a South Side rally for his wife and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For further information about the conference, visit