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October 02, 2009

Keeping It Green After Graduation

Jacqueline Chu ’99
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Dr. Rohit Aggarwala ’00 spoke to the Sustainable Business Committee about his experience creating a “green” plan for New York City.

Last month a new alumni group, the Sustainable Business Committee (SBC), held its first event to launch Making Green from Green, an eight-part series that will run through June 2010. The SBC, which is part of the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York, was formed to help alumni and the extended community stay current with emerging green trends and put their careers on a sustainable path.

The launch event featured keynote speakers Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface and author of the new book Confessions of a Radical Industrialist and Dr. Rohit Aggarwala ’00, director for New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability.

Anderson, who has been called “America’s Greenest CEO” by Fortune magazine, described Interface’s journey to zero waste, which began in 1994. Since then, Interface reduced net greenhouse gas emissions by 82 percent and water usage by 75 percent, and increased their use of renewable energy to 27 percent of the total. Sales increased by two-thirds, profits doubled, and total costs declined, with $400 million in avoided costs. Anderson challenged what he called a “false choice between the economy and the environment” and concluded that “if we, a petro-intensive company can do it, anybody can. And if anybody can, it follows that everybody can.”

Aggarwala led the creation of “PlaNYC A Greener, Greater New York,” a comprehensive plan to green New York City. The City, according to Rohit, did not start out with a desire to be green, but came to environmentalism out of necessity, as a by-product of long-term planning. The City is expected grow from 8.4 million to 9.1 million people by 2030. In a city where every square foot is spoken for, he said, sustainability becomes a strategic need. Aggarwala described how the bottoms-up market demand for sustainability is changing the City. It lost two court cases where it sought to require taxis to convert to hybrid technologies. However, despite no regulation, 21 percent of all taxis in the City are hybrids, and 50 percent of those entering the fleet are hybrids, most of which are owner operated.

The next Making Green from Green event will be held on October 20. It will include a building tour by the architects and builders of the LEED Platinum Queens Botanical Garden Visitor & Administration Building. To register for the event, click here. Participants who attend six events will receive a certificate of attendance. For more information on SBC or the Certificate Program, email sustainablebusiness@cbsacny.org