Summary of Innovation Summit

In case you might have missed it, Planet Forward's highly anticipated Innovation Summit took place this past Tuesday, April 17th 2012 at GW's Foggy Bottom Campus.  Many came to hear discussions and debates by multiple experts in their respective fields as well as watch videos on what people like you are doing to turn their innovations into action.  Here is a quick recap of all the events and discussions that took place!

In the first panel entitled, “There’s an App for that: Can IT save the planet?”, the experts discussed the influence of technology on sustainable practices and processes.  The main focus centered on effective ways to not only gain consumer support through technology but to also generate easy and “interesting” data for the consumer to absorb and understand.  Aneesh Chopra spoke of his Green Button Initiative while Alex Laskey added on about Opower’s success in sharing energy data.  Laskey explained that “about 20-30% of energy is wasted and serves no utility in the home”—all three of the panelists agreed that this number could be easily reduced just by informing the consumer about their energy consumption. To read more about what Laskey had to say, check out this article from InTheCapital.  Mayor Shattuck, the Executive Chairman of Exelon, also added that sustainability efforts are behavioral and based on the consumer and the public as a whole.

In the second panel, Vice President of GE ecomagination Mark Vachon discussed the importance of businesses leading the way in innovation and sustainable practices with Planet Forward founder, Frank Sesno.  Vachon said that businesses play a key role in sustainable innovation and believes that, “being sustainably responsible as a company will help also help the company grow fiscally”.  On our live chat @mobilizegreen chimed in to add that, “if businesses  aren’t innovating #sustainability then they aren’t relevant”.


In the third panel experts including  Deborah Wince-Smith and Debra Rowe along with the moderator Doug Guthrie took the stage to discuss jobs in this new clean tech economy.  Wince-Smith,  President of the Council of Competitiveness set the tone with her statement, “sustainability is a core businesses driver for global competitiveness” and Rowe followed up adding that, “we need policy, public support, and a new paradigm for management if green jobs are going to take root”.  One of the followers on Planet Forward’s live chat, Robin Cox, agreed and stated, “The global comparison of GDP per unit of Energy Use is another staggering reality check on our competitiveness with respect to energy....US is slightly lower than all high income countries”.

In the second to last panel, all three mayors along with President of GW, Steven Knapp and GW professor Melissa Keeley sat down to debate what cities are doing and need to do in order to adapt to climate change in order for the city to survive.  All three mayors noted that sustainability makes sense on multiple levels, especially fiscally.  During the Twitter chat between Mayor Tommy Battle and WWF, Battle declared that going sustainable is a “dollar and cents issue…If I can get more energy for less dollars, sustainability makes sense. #gwmoving”.  Mayor Mallory and Mayor Gray also noted that their cities are doing more in the solar sector as well as adding green roofs to infrastructure.



The last panel finally hit on the subject of "Renewables: Boom or Bust?" New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin moderated the conversation between experts including Vice admiral Dennis McGinn, Reed Hundt and Robert Hefner.  Alternatives such as natural gas were discussed heavily and supported by both Hefner and McGinn with McGinn who said, “We talk about intermittent energy, when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine, natural gas could be a solution.”  Government was certainly a topic of discussion especially amongst those following along on the live chat.  Mbelloitt33 tweeted to Hundt:


Although the focus of each topic varied, the theme was the same: sustainability is a do or die situation.  In order to progress whether it be as a city, a school or anything for that matter, we need to start to adapting to changes and innovating for the future.  So, we ask you once again, what innovation are you turning into action?

To see full videos of the summit, go here>>

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.