Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Heinz, McDonough encourage sustainability

Express Staff Writer

Teresa Heinz

Even Teresa Heinz wonders what it would be like to be emperor for a day.

If she were emperor, the philanthropist and environmental leader would encourage sustainable development in Wood River Valley. Specifically, she would address transportation problems, housing discrepancies and the quality of life for year-round valley residents.

"Anything we do here can be translated into other communities," said Heinz, a part time Ketchum resident. Heinz has created models for environmental practices through multiple philanthropic ventures.

Heinz may not be emperor, but she did persuade friend and nationally recognized green architect William "Bill" McDonough to join her as the keynote speakers of the Sun Valley Sustainability Conference Friday, Sept. 29, at the Sun Valley Inn.

"It really should be called a life conference because at the end of the day, what are we sustaining? It's life as we know it on this planet," said Steve Curwood, the moderator of the McDonough and Heinz keynote address. Curwood is the executive producer and host of "Living on Earth," an environmental news program that airs on National Public Radio.

Experts like Curwood, Heinz and McDonough converged for the three-day event, held Sept. 27 to 29, to discuss "green" building, public policy, land-use planning and business practices at the Sun Valley Resort.

The address took a conversational approach with Curwood, an environmental journalist, facilitating the discussion.

"Sustainability is about making the world better," McDonough said. Recognized by Time magazine in 1999 as a "Hero for the Planet," McDonough has pushed the envelope designing environment-friendly buildings and encouraging sustainability across the world.

He said it's time to shift away from what he calls "the strategy of tragedy," a strategy that has led to polluted rivers and depletion of resources. Instead, he encouraged the audience to capitalize on waste, that is the sun's solar power, to produce food and energy. "You have five times as much energy as you need to operate," he said.

Heinz also offered direction for the community. She encouraged residents to become active and find common ground. Specifically, she encouraged developers and government officials to agree on a base level of sustainable standards. "It's all of us, and that is very important for community. It's how you build community," she said.

Her philanthropic work includes environmental initiatives such as redesigning the future of Pittsburgh based on environmentally friendly practices. She helped form a Pittsburgh-based citizen group called the "River Life Task Force" to clean the Pennsylvania city's polluted rivers.

"What we were able to do at the end of the day was become a whole local group," Heinz said.

Her desire to see valley residents take an active interest in their community stems from her own memories and romantic notions of the valley.

"(Sun Valley) has a sense of place ... a place where you can feel native in, a place where you belong," Heinz said. Her family, including her husband, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., shares the affection for the area, she said.

Like Heinz, the moderator suggested the community as a whole could improve the environment.

"We don't have to win every game. We just have to win enough," Curwood said.

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