Standing next to 30-pound sacks of organic soil on the 49th floor of 7 World Trade Center, Dominic Vigliotti talked excitedly how his Long Island company is selling tons of compost for roof gardens.
Ten feet away, Ken Hillman of Green Street Construction showed floor tiles made of recycled glass, and a piece of carpet woven entirely from wool. “It’s sustainable and it grows back every year,” Hillman noted. “Instead of wearing a sweater, we can make a carpet.”
Vigliotti and Hillman were among the dozens of exhibitors who came to the Building Green Expo in Lower Manhattan as part of April’s Earth Day celebrations to network with other green industry entrepreneurs, make new connections – and draw new customers.
With nearly $80 billion in the federal economic stimulus package going toward green projects throughout the country, the marriage of environmentalism and commerce is getting its biggest governmental push yet.
‘A Real Drive’
The money is starting to flow to local governments like New York City, which will spend at least $16 million in federal funds to help green the city with loans and job training.
“There’s a real drive for all of the government agencies to work together,” said Allison Leighton, a project manager at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is responsible for distributing federal stimulus money throughout the state.
Meanwhile, a bill before the City Council would require property owners to upgrade the energy efficiency of lighting systems in commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) is confident the legislation will pass by the end of the year, a spokesman said.
That’s good news for companies like Brooklyn-based LED Waves, whose small, heatless lights use 90 percent less energy than a regular bulb.
“We’re lucky to be in an industry that even in a recession is growing,” said Mical Anselmo, the company’s 26-year-old “LED Specialist.”
Despite a dismal economy, some of the company reps at the Building Green Expo were optimistic about a “green recovery,” as President Obama’s special economic adviser, Van Jones, has put it.
“Even though construction is down, we’re seeing products that have to do with energy efficiency and sustainability lifting – they’re gaining market share versus the standard, non-sustainable products,” said Colby Swanson, a manager at BASF, the German chemical giant and world’s largest supplier of chemicals to construction companies.
Catering to Green Tastes
Chef Chris Siversen started Bridgewaters To Go, a Manhattan-based catering company, last year with plans to serve organic meals in recyclable packaging.
“A lot of the inquiries that we’re getting are from major companies looking to go green, and by hiring us they’re green in one phone call,” said Siversen, who catered the Expo.
Jodi Smits Anderson, a state employee, was initially skeptical when she grabbed one of Siversen’s tomato mozzarella sandwiches. “A lot of green catering is a marketing ploy,” she said.
But she was happy with her sandwich: “This one was really good and healthy.”