Thursday, February 9, 2012

Self-Reliance Becomes a Movement

Rick Fedrizzi
President, CEO & Founding Chairman
U.S. Green Building Council

Read Rick's entry on Huff Post Green.

By now, most of you know the cautionary tale of the old railroad barons, those filthy rich guys who, nearly a century ago, made the tragic mistake of thinking they were in the business of trains. Can you imagine how things might have gone differently for those complacent and ridiculously misguided yahoos had they realized they were actually in the people-moving business?

That's why I continue to get frustrated when people try to put narrow, self-important labels on our green building movement. Unlike the train business of 100 years ago, our movement is not self-defining. It is not limited in scope. And it is not linear.
Despite what you read to the contrary, our movement is not just about energy efficiency or improved bottom (and top) lines. Nor is it just about those horribly overused and hopelessly devalued phrases such as climate change, or conservation, or resource management. Hell, in the strictest sense, it is not even just about natural resources.

Every one of those phrases and a thousand others try to put our movement into a neat little box: A box that's way too limiting, way too narrowly defined, and way too small in scope. Not to mention way too politically polarizing.

What the green building movement really is is a people-protecting movement. A life-enhancing movement. That's something so much bigger, something this country once had in spades. It's a collective spirit we've somehow let slip through our fingers as we've continued to grow, to urbanize, and to compartmentalize our problems and their small solutions. America desperately needs to rekindle that spirit again.

That rekindling -- that's what the green building movement is about: Green building the "noun," to be sure. But maybe more importantly, the collaborative, people-centric act of green building as a "VERB."

A few generations ago, before we discovered such things as credit cards and floating debt, our parents, grandparents and those who came before us were remarkably resourceful people who worked with their hands, who helped their neighbors, and who didn't believe in wasting anything of value.

They were people who taught themselves and their children to do a little bit of everything because that's what it took to get by, and because that's what allowed them to use their hard-earned money on the more important things in life. Like a future.

Green building is not just about conserving resources, or recycling, or achieving Platinum certification. Rather, it's the universal ideals of independence and interdependence, of self-reliance and self-less collaboration that are at the core of our movement, and that have attracted such incredible support. From all professions and walks of life, from men and women all across the political spectrum, from the young and the old, from places up and down the economic food chain: People want to be part of our movement.

Because the things we are fighting for and believe in are not fueled by politics, nor are they vulnerable to political rhetoric. They are the things that will make this country stronger and better, and they lay the groundwork for a present that nurtures us and a future that honors the generations yet to come. That's the movement we should all be signed up for.


  1. Please check Baguio City, Philippines. We have a similar situation. This problem is global. Corporate greed wants to cut hundreds of trees to make way for a parking lot.

  2. Please check the 182 movement here in Baguio City, Philippines. We are against SMDC's plan to cut 43 alnus trees and earthball 139 fully-grown pine trees to put up a 7-storey parking lot and kiosk. The area is one of the remaining forested areas in the central business district. SM's dastardly act is like piercing the lungs of the city.

  3. 50 years ago, we abandoned our farm to pursue our studies in the Big City. The farm is located in the Philippines' rainforest where the people were marginalized by loggers who terrorized them, Avatar style, for their trees. Now, after 50 years, they are still at it.The politicians obviously weren't able to help them, can this Green Building Movement help them?

  4. Dear Mr.Fedrizzi:

    Your article is enlightening. Thank you for reminding that the green building movement is a people-centered movement.

    I now live in Honolulu, Hawaii. I think that residents here get that USGBC is not only about getting "platinum certification." We have fine examples of LEED certified buildings that manifest the points that you have covered.

    The situation is not the same in my birthplace, Baguio in the Philippines. (Chicago's Daniel Burnham was the original master planner of the City). Today, the largest mall developer in the Philippines is touting a partnership with USGBC and is insisting on a redevelopment project that will likely end up being a bad example of LEED implementation. Why? The developer/owner of SM Baguio has a "green" project that is myopic (my term) in design. The owners and designers failed to recognize the reason behind why thousands of residents and lovers of Baguio City are now petitioning, protesting, and praying that 182 trees not be uprooted/removed/earthballed/cut.

    Is it possible at all for you as a USGBC leader to save Baguio City from the current SM's redevelopment plan? USGBC needs to introduce LEED and the green building movement through a design that responds to the shared sensibilities of the community and visitors of the City.

    Thank You.

  5. There is a good reason why Greenpeace is against SM Baguio City's proposed LEED-gold certified structure.

  6. Dear USGBC,

    A formal complaint against SM City Baguio has been filed at the Baguio City Regional Trial Court today. Copy of the complaint may be accessed here:

    The document summarizes why we are opposing SM's supposedly 'green' development project.

    Thank you.

  7. Dear Mr. Fedrizzi,
    In press releases, SM Baguio said it has partnered with USGBC which was denied by Jennevine Kwan in an email sent to a one Baguio resident who inquired from her. As a backgrounder, the SM mall owners will have to "kill" (earthball and transplant a forest of around 200 fully grown trees) to give way to its expansion and construction of a "Green Building." For me, the question that I want to be answered by you is that how could a Green Building provide the same benefits that people get from a natural forest?