This is a real goldmine, dig it and dig it deep. Some highlights according to my frontal lobes:
Saul Griffith juiced things up with a bit of attitude ("Design will not save the world--go volunteer at a soup kitchen, you pretentious fuck"), and was brilliant as usual, giving a variation on his Game Plan presentation, but with less math because the audience members were all designers. However, he used two real equations in his talk, to prove a central point that's often overlooked in green design circles: "Designers, you'd better start getting comfortable with numbers and analysis. Or get comfortable working with engineers." You can say I'm biased because I'm a scientist-turned-designer, but it's my objective opinion that green design requires some degree of quantitative analytical understanding of environmental impacts. You don't need to be Leonardo DaVinci, but you need to have some concept whether or not 1800 watts is a ridiculous amount of power to use for drying your hair. You don't need to be able to do the calculations yourself (though it helps), but you need to be able to talk to an engineer and know bad numbers from good numbers. Designers can't be content styling boxes which have been thrown over the wall by the engineers -- you can't get revolutionary design that way, you can't lead industries that way. Designers need to know what to ask for, what numbers aren't good enough, and know where engineers are just being stubborn vs. what would break the laws of physics. Good engineers are also designers, understanding that the performance specs are not just strength-to-weight ratios and material costs, but having a clue of the larger context, the user and society and the environment are also part of the performance spec. As Griffith said, "the planet is the client." Or at least one of the clients.
Emily Pilloton of Project H was great to see, simply because of the sheer momentum with which she's rocketed into the sustainable development world. In one year, she's gone from $400 and living in her parents' house to having over 100 designers around the world working on projects. Her main points were that it's okay to not know what you're doing, just start doing something. The more you do, and the more people you get involved, the more impact you'll make, and it can take off like a rocket.
Dawn Danby emphasized opening up the green design community -- as she said, "don't be an egotist, be a synthesist." We need to get rid of our specialness and open dialogue up, both because it gets more people involved and because it gives us more leverage with clients and industry. Getting down off our high horses is what lets us get more influence with clients to get them interested in green design. You may call it dilution, but look at Wal-Mart: it has caused more industry change than a score of nonprofits, because of its sheer size.[b] Another great point Danby had was that [b]we shouldn't worry so much about designing things from scratch -- we must retrofit and hack the world into sustainability. Consider that the IPCC has recommended we reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent in the next 40 years -- that means remaking almost all material culture. All products, all buildings, all power plants, 80 percent of the world we've built. We can't just throw away what we've got now. Most of it will have to be redone, retrofitted, remodeled -- hacked.