MA in Sustainability graduate student, Nicole Schiro, shares her experiences from the 2015 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo held in Washington, D.C.


As a lifetime learner, I’m always listening. As a future sustainability practitioner, I tend to absorb and gather lenses to aid the work ahead of me. The Sustainability Program at WFU is extremely lucky; we were one of very few students out of 10,000 participants at Greenbuild this year. The conference opened with the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, the CEO of USGBC, Rick Fedrizzi, and filmmaker James Cameron. I attended sessions focusing on Net Zero in the Free Market, a Government Connect & Learn event, Women in Green: Expanding Diversity, Federal Role in Prevention and Resiliency, Biophilic Design, LEED in Developing Countries, Carbon-Neutrality by 2030, Recovery to Resiliency, and Changing our Relationship to Water. Sessions included stakeholders from private industry, architects and all levels of Government (as a side note, it was an amazing networking opportunity to sit with the Army Corp of Engineers).

Our Fall 2015 classes argued that we need to see human systems as part of natural systems. Greenbuild took it even further, arguing that we should make buildings and spaces alive too. The conference highlighted the user experience in the built environment. I learned that many businesses seek talent acquisition and a well-designed, sustainable building is incentive for talent to stay, even if the talent does not know the building is sustainable. A representative from Cliff Bar highlighted an organization’s journey and the story told to make a comfortable work environment; whether this happens in a building or in a community, my role in sustainability work comes down to the story I can tell that improves the user experience and promotes change. The Women in Green breakout session encouraged co-power, not empower, when working in a community; we work together to solve our community’s problems not through a top-down directive. Communities are vast systems of Expert Citizens (those who live in the community are experts on the community) that we must utilize to facilitate change in our communities.

The conference reminded me not to lose my love for nature or the smell of trees, grass and the outdoors. The final takeaway is really focusing on message consistency, how much we communicate, and to whom as well as the what. Greenbuild 2015 increased my capacity to see problems from different lenses, which I look forward to using as my thesis research lies ahead.




Nicole is a graduate of UCLA and prior to enrolling at Wake Forest she worked as a high school science teacher in California. Her current research focuses on market message identification to promote inter-generational concern and modern action. She is interested in using her teaching skills to focus communication of sustainable practices to less targeted socioeconomic classes.