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What it Means to Be Green: The Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque

What do you think of when you hear the word sustainable?  Nowadays we toss around the word “green” so frequently because the word itself has become hip, chic or très moderne, yet it’s actually somewhat difficult to define what being “green” totally encompasses in its true and purest essence.  Sustainability is one of the core components of being “green” – direct definition (from www.merriam-webster.com):” a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.”  It’s using, and re-using, our resources to make environmentally sound methods for production of practically anything that will help us improve quality of life and earth.

The best of the best in terms of sustainability in vehicles was realized by GM with the recent release of the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt, being the most environmentally conservative electic vehicle on the market, is of big interest to people who strive for sustainability.  Hence the Volt is seemingly a perfect fit for the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference that was held in Dubuque, IA which Runde Chevrolet (via their Business Central status) was proud and honored to be a part of.

The conference showcased various inventions and methods that promote sustainability of local businesses. Cathy Brandt, Director of Sales & Business Development for Sustainable City Network, Inc. was gracious enough to give us some insight and history about the conference and it’s goals.

Hello Cathy, can you tell us more about the Conference?
It’s the Growing Sustainable Communities Conference . The city of Dubuque has done it for the past 3 years and this year Sustainable City Network and the City of Dubuque did it together. The ultimate goal was to have people have one place to meet and network with other municipal professionals, business leaders, community members, as well as vendors and they can learn something about sustainability and take it back to their community to use.

Most people are familiar with the environmental benefits of sustainability, but what has been resounding with people recently is that it is also economically effective. If it’s not economically sustainable then it’s not going to work. This conference showed businesses different ways to conserve resources, money, man hours and to help a promote positive light within other businesses. These ideas were brought through by showing what other communities are doing and how people can adapt it to their own communities and businesses.

How many people attended and where were they from?
Over 300 people attended representing 11 States and 48 cities ranging from California to New York. Even 2 people from Australia!

How were the topics picked for the conference?
We looked at the 25 most read articles on our Sustainable City Website, which features expert opinions and information about sustainability throughout the nation, and used the topics of those articles as an outline for the presentations in the conference. Vehicles and transportation are always a big topic, especially now with electric vehicles. So with the help of Runde’s sponsorship, we were able to add the Chevrolet Volt to the conference. Rich Gunther, Fleet Management for General Motors, did a presentation about the sustainable vehicles GM offers.

It’s interesting that despite the fact that we are a national website, we learned a lot more about what we have in our own backyard. Such as Runde’s being a Business Central Dealer and that Crescent Electric is a distributor of the charging stations for electric vehicles. There’s really a lot of big things happening in this area with sustainability, that people probably aren’t aware of, that spreads out much further than most people would think.

What was the reaction with the Chevy Volt?
There were people constantly looking at the Volt and asking questions. You guys allowed people to open the doors and sit inside of it which really took the experience to a whole new level.

Can you tell me more about the website?
The founder of Sustainable City Network, Tom Woodward, has been in communications with the City of Dubuque and found that there is a lot of sustainable information out there but it takes a long time to filter through and research it properly. So what the website provides is a central location of well-organized, vetted information that is provided by either an experienced municipality or information from accredited industry experts and leaders so you know their information is accurate.

Runde's Sales Person, Brian Pinch, explains the Volt's features.

Brian Pinch, from our Chevrolet Store in East Dubuque, Illinois has been officially trained on the Volt and offered valuable information to the attendees and showed people around the Volt. He loved the experience and had some great things to say about it.

How was the conference, Brian?
The conference was great, it encompassed so many things, from the food we eat to how we do our business. It’s such a great event because it’s more than just green society,  it’s keeping it green and building infrastructure so that it operates that way naturally. The Chevy Volt is a product of that idea. A lot of people had some misconceptions of the Volt and that’s why we were there — to  inform people about how it works and show its sustainability.

How many people came up and talked to you about the Volt?
I talked to around 75 people or more. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in it. It was pretty exciting to see the enthusiasm.

Brian Pinch

What was the most common question people asked?
Most of the questions were asked out of curiosity and regardless of the question, we were able to provide them answers and let them experience the vehicle first hand. Many people were confused about the Range Extension. Several thought that the vehicle runs on gas as soon as the charged electricity runs out, but it actually uses the fuel to run a generator that will charge the battery to extend the charge of the Volt. When it’s in this mode it runs at a lower RPM so you aren’t leaving as big of a carbon blueprint. The Volts carbon footprint is the smallest of any vehicle we’ve seen to date.

What do you think was the most surprising thing people thought about the Volt?
Just how “car-like” it is and how impressive the appearance and comfort the vehicle offered. They were blown away by how far they could drive the vehicle on such a small amount of money. When they learned that it was a 94mpg car, I got a lot of “Wow’s”.

What’s your favorite feature of the Volt?
Everything, I wish I could own one. It’s an impressive feat of engineering.

What did you learn at the conference?
A lot about waste management through the landfill system and the scientific parts of the harmful and gaseous substances we breathe in every day. It made me wish I could be involved in that type of research myself. The conversion they can do from the waste we put into the ground regarding turning it around into something positive is very inspiring.

For more information and articles from sustainability experts and forums about sustainability on a local and national scale, please check out the Sustainable City Network Website.

Chevy Volt on the Dubuque River Walk

The Chevy Volt on the Dubuque River Walk

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