Huston Eubank, director of the World Green Building Council, answers questions
What work do you do?
I’m executive director of the World Green Building Council.
What does your organization do?
The World Green Building Council is a union of green building councils from around the world who are working to encourage development of green-building rating systems and accelerate the transformation of the global property industry toward sustainability. Our current members are GBCs in the U.S., Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan. We are currently reviewing the United Arab Emirates’ membership application, and expect the United Kingdom, Brazil, and New Zealand to join us in the next few months. We are working with many other countries, notably including China, that want to form their own councils.
Building “green” leaves a lighter footprint on the environment, and will save everyone money and resources in the long run while we work toward achieving true sustainability. It takes care and knowledge to build “green,” and a different way of looking at things, but there are many green architects and engineers and developers and manufacturers around the world who are looking for the opportunity to create sustainable buildings, communities, and cities.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
It was long and winding indeed. After about 20 years of practicing architecture mixed with other things, I took a job with Gensler in Los Angeles in 1991. There I worked on the Sony Pictures (formerly MGM) lot with environmental consultant John Picard; that was pretty much my catharsis. In 1996, I took a job in Portland, Ore., running a pretty comprehensive commercial green-building program for Portland General Electric. Unfortunately, Enron bought PGE (yes, I have an Enron business card), and that was the end of my program. After a fabulous year working in San Francisco with David Gottfried, founder of both the U.S. and World GBCs, at the start of 1999 I joined Bill Browning and Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colo. For the first time in my life, I finally felt like a round peg in a round hole. But 18 months ago, I decided that the opportunity to focus on developing the WGBC was more important. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it full-time at RMI, so I quit to devote myself to this effort. I think I made a good decision.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I’m a gypsy. I was born in South Carolina for some strange reason, but moved to California three weeks later. And I haven’t stopped moving since. Currently, I’m officially living in New Hampshire and “visiting” my new wife in Montreal for extended periods, while going through the Canadian immigration process. Fortunately, my job is completely virtual, so I can go anywhere.
What’s your environmental vice?
I eat meat, and I love to travel.
How do you spend your free time (if you have any)?
I love offshore sailing but have never done enough of it. I would love to sail around the world some day. Meanwhile, I take long walks in the woods and travel to beautiful places that fill me with wonder. I’m also a lap swimmer, and I like to take in foreign films.
Read any good books lately?
Seems like hundreds: in the past year, I’ve read (and recommend) A Short History Of Progress, Collapse, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, 1421, The Tipping Point, The Story of B, Sailing Alone Around the World, Massive Change, Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks, and The Art of the Start, and I’m re-reading Spaceship Earth.
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I’m a Pollyanna, which I think is probably the opposite of an environmental stereotype.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
The most realistic would be a very stiff carbon tax, based on the true environmental costs of our carbon blowout party.
Who are your favorite musical artists?
What’s your favorite movie?
A few recent favorites include Where the Green Ants Dream, Microcosmos (an interesting perspective), Travelers and Magicians (a film from Bhutan about serendipity and life), and Genghis Blues. There are so many good films, and, unfortunately, they seldom come from Hollywood. Of course, An Inconvenient Truth is a brilliant exception.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen lately?
The image of Earth taken by the Cassini space probe outbound to Jupiter, from many million miles from Earth. I came across it several months ago on a NASA website, and then saw it again in Al Gore’s movie. When you see Earth from that perspective — just a microscopic blue dot in the void — it makes all our political and military and religious issues here on the surface of the planet seem highly irrelevant!
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
I’m currently reading Thomas Berry’s The Great Work, so I think we all need to get back in touch with nature somehow — deeply. Like go sit in a meadow and contemplate it for a month. But then, I’m speaking to the choir, aren’t I? How about just go enjoy the sunset, and think very hard about our (relatively) unique position in space. And then talk to everybody about it.