Credit: Wanda Lau

Chances are, even if you aren’t here in Philadelphia, you knew the second that Hillary Clinton took the stage to deliver last night’s opening keynote at Greenbuild. The moment she appeared at Temple University’s Licouras Center, the ambient light levels in the arena shot up—not by the impressive array of theatrical lighting on display, but rather because of the number of smartphones that immediately sprung to life, snapping photos, tweeting, and capturing video. All of which was immediately delivered to hundreds of social networks. Maybe even yours.

In a speech that detailed the U.S. Green Building Council's impact over the past 20 years as well as her own work to promote sustainability—from her efforts as a new First Lady to reduce the carbon footprint of the white house in 1993 to her involvement as Secretary of State with ensuring that all future U.S. embassies will be built to a minimum LEED Silver standard—Clinton made one thing clear: The work that has already been done to advance the green movement is impressive, but there is more work to do.

“The work has proven itself,” she said. “We know what to do. We just have to be better organized and focused…to do more.”

Wanda Lau

To that end, the former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State encouraged the audience of some 10,000 people to “take what you know works and explain it to anyone who will listen to you.” Clinton noted that sustainability is not just about green buildings, but also about economic security, health and well-being, and “about building the kind of future we want to leave for our children.” In an interview with USGBC president and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, Clinton said that the next step for the movement is really to open the discussion and convince the rest of the world that sustainable design is important. “You’re right, number one, and that always helps,” she said, adding that the crowd likely contained “prophets and proselytizers” who could spread their message of sustainability.

Clinton's focus on educating and engaging communities is a thread that has been running through the halls over the past few days—whether in casual discussion, on the show floor, or in education sessions. (The ticker in the main atrium of the convention center currently reads that Greenbuild attendees have earned a combined 28,741 credit hours, so there have been more than a few of those sessions.)

In his own remarks last night, Fedrizzi offered the call to arms of “Join us,” so expect that focus to continue throughout the year.

“You don’t live in what I like to call ‘an evidence free zone.’ You actually have facts to present to people," Clinton said. "The hope is that as you do so, that you will be a force for change in the broader world, not just in the green buildings world.”

Only one heckler was present among the largely reverent crowd—and that person shouted for Clinton to run for President in 2016. “Well, there are some hecklers I would never say anything bad about,” she responded with a grin.

Credit: Wanda Lau