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Up Front With 2015 SQA Keynote Speaker Eric Corey Freed:

The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, the City of Santa Monica, and Sustainable Works will come together for the Sustainable Quality Awards (SQA) on Thursday, April 16, with a presentation from keynote speaker Eric Corey Freed, noted “organic” architect.

Each year, the SQA recognizes Santa Monica businesses that have successfully incorporated sustainable practices into their operations.

The SQA are intended to educate and inspire local businesses to adopt sustainable practices and support Santa Monica as a sustainable community. The SQA has recognized more than 125 businesses since the program launched in 1995.

Freed is Vice President of the International Living Future Institute, a global hub for visionary programs, including the Living Building Challenge and Living Product Challenge.

Freed brings more than 20 years of experience using sustainability to improve the design and operational savings for thousands of buildings around the country.

What inspired you to become so involved in the environment and the green movement?

It wasn’t inspiration, it was stubbornness!

As an Architecture student, I started asking questions about the reasons why we build the way we do and use the materials we do even though they are bad. No one had a reasonable answer. So I started looking for my own and stumbled upon this small subculture of weirdo architects doing amazing things. This was the 1980’s, so we didn’t yet use the term “Green Building.”

For me, this was always a very logical thing. It is logical to produce your worn energy, it is logical to avoid all known toxins, it is logical to orient to the Sun. I’m not a hippie, and I’m not doing this for the environment. I do this for our own selfish survival and because I want to be the best designer I can be.

What will you speak about during our address?

I will share some insight into how silly our traditional building methods are and compare how Nature builds versus how Mankind builds. It is a larger call to action that builds on the vision and leadership the City of Santa Monica has already demonstrated.

What sort of tips can you offer for people in their everyday life to help the environment?

The best thing I can suggest to to ask the right questions. For everything you buy (especially everything you put into a building), I like to ask:

1. Where did this material come from?

2. What are the by-products of its’ manufacturer?

3. How is the material delivered and installed?

4. How is the material maintained & operated?

5. How healthy are the materials?

6. What do we do with them once we are done with these materials?

Now this can be exhausting, I know! So instead, just pick one thing you want to change. Maybe it’s your food and how you eat, maybe it’s your energy use, or perhaps it’s to reduce your water use. Just focus on that one area and start asking questions. You won’t like some of the answers you receive, but this will lead you to some solutions.

There are the usual simple things everyone should do:

— Turn down your hot water heater (so you don’t need to use the cold water mix at all)

— Bring reusable bags to the store to buy groceries

— Drive less, walk more

— Turn down your thermostat

But you’ve heard these things for years. People don’t want to change! So instead, let’s show them how we can make better choices. I don’t eat organic food cause it’s good for the planet, or even that it’s healthier for me. I eat it cause it tastes better.

Why do you think it’s important for Santa Monica as a whole to be involved in green causes?

Whether you realize it or not, the rest of the country looks to California, and especially San Francisco and Santa Monica, for inspiration. This city has long served as inspiration for other cities around the country. But the real reason for the City to be involved in green issues is a larger one.

You are a coastal city, in a drought stricken region, in an earthquake zone, with limited access to your own food supply. This city, like many others in the U.S., is at risk. I’m sorry if this is new information for you, but it’s true. For this city to thrive past the year 2050, you need a long term strategy around energy, food and water that is fundamentally different than the system we use today. This is not a feel good moment, this is a call to action.

Anything else you would like to mention?

Despite what I’ve said, I find myself more optimistic than ever before. I can see the problems, and the solutions to those problems, so clearly now. You have incredibly smart and forward-thinking people here in the City and I am so excited for the future you are creating.

The SQA program will start at 11 am on Thursday, April 16, at Le Meridien Delfina Hotel, 530 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. For last minute tickets or more information, visit smsqa.com or call 310.393.9825.

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