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Reporter's Notebook (Which Will Be Recycled, of Course)

By Published on .

Sustainability a Journey, Not Destination

It would be a minor miracle for any conference declaring itself "green" to escape any cynical scrutiny. By choosing ceramic coffee cups over paper, was the first Green Conference saying the energy and water used to wash those cups was less than the energy it would take to sort and recycle paper cups? How much carbon dioxide did the 500-plus attendees add to the atmosphere by flying to New York rather than using HP's version of "a video conference on steroids"? But attendees soon realized this conference was the real deal: There wasn't a plastic water bottle in sight -- well, at least not until lunchtime.

Keeping in mind that no one is perfect on this pathway to greenness (and that Mother Nature's got a wicked sense of humor), we collected a few anecdotes from the morning event.
There were fewer gift bags than attendees, and several weren't afraid to grouse. However, Live Earth founder Kevin Wall said attendees could e-mail him for tickets. Hmmm, an oversize tee from the gift bag or a sold-out concert? Decisions, decisions.
David Zaslav, president-CEO, Discovery Communications, said he talked to a pair of consumers at Whole Foods who drove 45 minutes to get there -- because they wanted something organic or "locally grown."
The Discovery Channel's Josh Bernstein camps without a tent, sleeping bag or toilet paper: "It's important to understand where we came from before industrialization." Mr. Wall, meanwhile, flies coach and uses solar power to heat his pool.
"Skiing is not essential to life," said David Perry, senior VP-mountain division, Aspen Skiing Co. That didn't stop the company from launching a "Save the Snow" marketing campaign, even if it did have a pretty good snow year.
"Who would have thought that satisfying a Cherry Garcia craving could make a difference?" asked Marjorie Schussel, national manager-corporate communications, Toyota North America.
According to Rob Michalak, director-social mission and public relations, when "the boys" started the company 25 years ago, this was all a pipe dream. "Of course, they could have been smoking a pipe, we don't know, but it could be where the munchies came in."

Greenwashing gotcha:

As one attendee was about to throw out his badge and chain, his friend said: "Wait. If this conference is walking the talk, there will be a way for us to recycle them." We're happy to say there was a box for badges on the way out.
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