Past Inspire Speakers Series Events and Lectures

Over the past two seasons of the Inspire Speakers Series, each lecture has presented motivational local and national experts. These experienced and inspiring speakers offered sustainable insights and green-minded ideas on how to address a variety of topics that applied to schools, businesses and communities in Western Pennsylvania.  Take a look at some of the speakers from the 2012-2014 lecture seasons below or check out this season’s upcoming events.

Steve_AshkinStephen Ashkin

Steve is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and a leader of the Green Cleaning Movement where he is often thought of as the “Father of Green Cleaning.”  Currently he serves as President of The Ashkin Group, Executive Director of the Green Cleaning Network, co-founder of Green Cleaning University and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, LLC – all of which play important roles in his efforts to move the global cleaning industry from green to sustainable.  Steve has been working in the cleaning industry since 1981 where he has held key technical and management positions for leading commercial and consumer products companies, and has worked on the issue of “green” cleaning since 1990.


George BandyGeorge Bandy, Jr.

George Bandy, Jr., is the vice-president of Interface, a carpet design and manufacturing company, and a longstanding champion of sustainability! One of the sustainability industry’s most sought-after, dynamic, and inspirational speakers, George Bandy Jr. looks at opportunities to advance environmental, economic and socially responsible solutions for customers and sets the standard for other businesses following a path and mission of sustainability.  George is also the current Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council.


Bob BerkebileBob Berkebile

A true pioneer in regenerative design, Bob Berkebile’s goal is to integrate social, environmental, and economic vitality.  This green building legend helped develop both LEED and the Living Building Challenge (LBC), and also created the first building to achieve both LEED Platinum and LBC certifications.  Bob was a founding member of the U.S. Green Building Council and the AIA’s Committee on the Environment.  As principal of BNIM Architects, Bob’s work with regenerative design and Urban Acupuncture have gained him much recognition, including a Heinz Award.


mark_buehrerMark Buehrer

Mark is the founder and director of 2020 ENGINEERING located in Bellingham, Washington. He is a registered professional civil engineer, author, and inventor with broad experience in engineering design, construction and project management.  Mark conceived and developed the concept of Wholistic Engineering, which provides an integrated “problem solving” approach that considers all issues and possible conditions related to the development of a project. Mark has provided Master Planning, Engineering Design and/or Construction Management assistance on dozens of LEED, LID and other sustainable type projects in many parts of the U.S.A.  Mark has served on the Cascadia Region Green Building Council as a technical development member on the “Site Team” and “Water Team” for the development of The Living Building User’s Guide, the continued development of The Living Building Challenge standard and as an instructor of the Living Building Leader certification sessions.


Majora CarterMajora Carter

Majora Carter is an internationally renowned urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer, and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She is responsible for the creation & successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies, and job training & placement systems. After establishing several local and national organizations to carry on that work, she built on this foundation with innovative ventures and insights into urban economic developments designed to help move Americans out of poverty. Her long list of awards and honorary degrees include accolades from groups as diverse as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, Goldman Sachs, as well as a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Her 2006 TEDtalk was one of the first 6 videos to launch their groundbreaking website.


erica_cochranErica Cochran

Erica is an Adjunct Assistant Professor and PhD Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and an Architectural Designer. Erica serves as an Instructor for multiple graduate and undergraduate courses, recently developed a new course focused on energy efficient and healthy retrofits, and is an instrumental coordinator with the CMU’s UDream program, which provides recent graduates a deeper understanding of urban design through research projects and internships. Erica has served as a studio critic at multiple universities. Her architectural experience includes over fifty educational, media & broadcast, residential, community, and transportation facilities. She is also an active member of several community service and non-profit organizations.


Patty DeMarcoPatty DeMarco

Patty DeMarco is a visiting researcher and writer at Carnegie Mellon University (focusing on institutional barriers to renewable and sustainable options), and she is well-known as the past director of Chatham University’s Rachel Carson Institute and past executive director of the Racl Chearson Homestead.  With a long history of environmental and energy analysis, environmental education, and sustainable systems development, Patty is a catalyst for change focused on positive movement toward a sustainable economy.


John Francis PhotoDr. John Francis

When John Francis was 26-years-old, he witnessed an oil tanker collision on San Francisco Bay.  He felt so disturbed (and partially responsible for his use of oil), that he decided to give up motorized vehicles – a decision which spurred so many arguments with friends and family members that he decided to stop talking.  This was the beginning of a 17-year journey that led him to be known as the Planetwalker.  During the nearly two decades that followed, John received a Master’s degree, a PhD, and founded the Planetwalk Foundation (a nonprofit environmental awareness organization) – all while spreading a silent message of sustainable living.  Ending his silence in 1990, Dr. Francis has spent his subsequent years carrying that same message across the country.  Francis is author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence and has a featured TEDTalk.

Amy GeorgeAmy George

Amy George is Sustainability and Facility Manager for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.  As the first sustainability manager at any YMCA in the country, Amy works to create healthy spaces in which to foster healthy minds and bodies throughout the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.  Amy’s work includes expanding the YMCA’s urban garden program, launching an aggressive utility monitoring system, creating a robust green building policy, and adopting the Materials Red List (which Bob Berkebile helped introduce through the Living Building Challenge).  Amy is a LEED AP and holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Systems.


Jim HartzfeldJim Hartzfeld

As former managing director at InterfaceRAISE and former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, Jim is a pioneer in the sustainability industry.  Jim worked with legendary Ray Anderson at Interface – one of the first U.S. companies to fully integrate sustainability into its culture.  Jim offers a successful example of true leadership and a “do-it-yourself” attitude towards making real change happen.  Jim’s enthusiasm, conviction, and leadership in sustainable development make him a sought after speaker throughout the world.  He has been quoted in numerous publications, including Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine.


chris_hellsternChris Hellstern 

Chris holds a Masters of Architecture degree from Texas Tech University. His thesis work focused on designing a sustainable elementary school in Seattle that allowed both students and faculty to experience the building’s many environmental features through education and practice.  One of Chris’s most well-known projects involved the design and construction administration of a pro-bono Seattle project for the Bertschi School that achieved The Living Building Challenge v2.0.  Chris serves as a Cascadia Green Building Council Branch member and a Living Building Ambassador for the International Living Future Institute. He also co-founded the Restorative Design Collective and KMD’s Sustainability Committee working to increase the company’s commitment to the environment through their work and practice.  Before his career in architecture, he spent many years in Alaska serving as a Certified Level III Alaska Naturalist leading outback kayak trips.


Natalie JeremijenkoNatalie Jeremijenko

Natalie is an artist and engineer who strives to make the sometimes abstract issue of environmental health more achievable.  She blends art, engineering, environmentalism, and biochemistry to create real-life experiments that enable social change.  Named one of the most influential women in technology 2011 and one of the inaugural top young innovators by MIT Technology Review Jeremijenko directs the Environmental Health Clinic, and is an Associate Professor in the Visual Art Department, NYU and affiliated with the Computer Science Dept and Environmental Studies program.  Previously she was on the Visual Arts faculty at UCSD, Faculty of Engineering at Yale University, a visiting professor at Royal College of Art in London, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Public Understanding of Science at Michigan State University. Her degrees are in biochemistry, engineering, neuroscience and History and Philosophy of Science.


alice_julierAlice Julier

Alice Julier is Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Food Studies at Chatham University. She writes about material life, social movements, domestic life, labor, consumption, and inequality in food systems. Her latest research examines discourses in contemporary food activism. Other work includes: “Mapping Men onto the Menu,” in Food and Foodways, “Family and Domesticity ” in A Cultural History of Food: The Modern Age; “The Political Economy of Obesity: The Fat Pay All,” in Food and Culture: A Reader; and “Hiding Race and Class in the Discourse of Commercial Food” in From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies. Her book is entitled Eating Together: Food, Friendship, and Inequality. She is the past president of Association for the Study of Food and Society and is on the board of Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society.


Vivian LoftnessVivian Loftness

Vivian is a University Professor and former Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. She is an internationally renowned researcher, author and educator with over thirty years of focus on environmental design and sustainability, advanced building systems integration, climate and regionalism in architecture, and design for performance in the workplace of the future. She has served on ten National Academy of Science (NAS) panels, the NAS Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment and has given four Congressional testimonies on sustainability. Vivian is recipient of the National Educator Honor Award from the American Institute of Architecture Students and the Sacred Tree Award from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). She received her BS and MS in Architecture from MIT and sits on the National Boards of the USGBC, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Communities by Design, Turner Sustainability, and the Global Assurance Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. She is a registered architect, a LEED Fellow, and a Fellow of the AIA.  Vivian serves on the board of directors for Green Building Alliance.


christine_mondorChristine Mondor

Christine has been active in shaping places, processes and organizations nationally and internationally for over fifteen years through her work as an architect, educator, and activist. Her diverse experience enables her to note trends and bring benefit across project types, from design of buildings and landscapes to educational efforts to sustainability planning. As strategic Principal of evolveEA and a registered architect, Christine brings creative and strategic solutions to projects as diverse as the award winning design of the “extended stay” house to developing the business case for sustainability at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. Christine has taught architecture, landscape design and sustainability concepts at Carnegie Mellon University, Slippery Rock University, and Chatham University.  She is also the president of GBA’s board of directors.


Mark MyklebyColonel Mark Mykleby

In July 2009, Admiral Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked Captain Wayne Porter (U.S. Navy) and Colonel Mark Mykleby (U.S. Marine Corps) to develop some ideas pertaining to a grand strategy for the nation in the 21st century.  By August 2009, the men wrote “A National Strategic Narrative,” a concept paper that offered sustainability as the organizing logic for an American grand strategy.  Such a central idea would establish the framework for converging and expanding U.S. domestic and foreign policy toward emerging opportunities, rather than exclusively on perceived threats and risks.  Now at New America Foundation, Mark (“Puck,” as he’s known) is working to create the strategic construct to implement the concept of sustainability as the American grand strategic imperative for the 21st century.


david_orrDavid W. Orr

David W. Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College.  He has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and Europe and has served as a Trustee for many organizations including the Rocky Mountain Institute.  He is the author of seven books and co-editor of three others. Orr is perhaps best known for his pioneering work on environmental literacy in higher education and his work in ecological design. In an influential article in the Chronicle of Higher Education 2000, Orr proposed the goal of carbon neutrality for colleges and universities and subsequently organized and funded an effort to define a carbon neutral plan for his own campus at Oberlin College. Seven years later, hundreds of colleges and universities, including Oberlin, have made that pledge.  David now leads the efforts for this carbon neutral plan, now called the Oberlin Project.


Bill PedutoMayor Bill Peduto

Mayor Peduto has served Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods for over a decade and been integral in shifting the city’s economy toward education and medical technology.  He is also known for helping to build “a  New Pittsburgh.”  From co-creator and co-chair of the City’s Comprehensive Climate Action Plan to writing the legislation to protect Pittsburgh’s unique green hillsides — Bill Peduto has championed the protection and enhancement of Pittsburgh’s new reputation as a leader in green initiatives.    Watch a video of his presentation.


Richard_PiacentiniRichard V. Piacentini

Richard V. Piacentini, executive director of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens since 1994, is responsible for the construction of the first LEED® certified visitor center in a public garden, the most energy-efficient conservatory in the world, the first-ever LEED production greenhouses, and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, a net-zero energy and water structure designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. Piacentini believes that beautiful gardens can be environmentally friendly, and, with that in mind, Phipps has transformed its operations, displays, flower shows and education programs to reduce waste, save energy and inspire the public with sustainable horticulture and landscaping. Piacentini holds a M.S. in botany from the University of Connecticut, a M.B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a B.S. in pharmacy from the University of Rhode Island. He is past president and treasurer of the American Public Gardens Association and a recipient of its Professional and Service Awards. Other accolades include a Living Building Challenge Hero Award, USGBC Individual Leadership Award, American Horticultural Society Award, and ASID and Green Building Alliance Leadership Awards.



Bill Reed

An internationally recognized proponent and practitioner of sustainability, Bill is president of the Integrative Design Collaborative – a consulting organization working to evolve green building design practice into an approach that is fully integrated with living systems. He is a principal of the regenerative planning firm Regenesis and the strategic environmental planning firm Integrative Design. His work centers on managing and creating frameworks for integrative, whole-systems design processes. Bill served as co-chair of the LEED Technical Committee from its inception in 1994 through 2003; is a member of the LEED Advanced faculty and one of the first of twelve USGBC trainers of the LEED Rating System; a founding Board Member of the US Green Building Council; and served on the national executive committee of the AIA Committee On The Environment.


Stephen_RitzStephen Ritz

Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes they have never imagined while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx, Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown over 30,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. Stephen has consistently moved attendance from 40% to 93% daily and helped fund/create 2,200 youth jobs. Stephen recently launched Green Bronx Machine to a national audience and has signed on over 5,000 local followers in several months. His January 2012 TEDxTALK trended Twitter nationally and received a standing ovation.


Mike SchillerMike Schiller

A native Pittsburgher and successful entrepreneur, Mike Schiller assumed his position at Green Building Alliance in February 2011.  Having founded three for-profit companies, one nonprofit organization, and one charter school—all of which are currently thriving—Mike brings a great deal of passion and enthusiasm to his work.  Locally, he is most well known for having established both Venture Outdoors, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation in Western Pennsylvania, and Confluence Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of mutual fund back-office software applications.  Immediately prior to coming to GBA, he worked for alternative energy start-ups and spent time writing, teaching, and reviewing business plans other new companies.  Mike also currently teaches occasionally for the Wilderness Medicine Institute (Wyoming), instructing others through first aid and first responder courses.

Stacy_SmedleyStacy Smedley

Stacy has a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Washington, and 10 years in the architecture profession. Her resume includes the first LEED for Homes Platinum certified project in Washington State as well as the first project built to Living Building Version 2.0 standards, an elementary school science building in Seattle. As an Associate at KMD Architects, Stacy helped found the firm’s internal Sustainability Steering Committee and continues to affect change within the firm, to increase their commitment to sustainable practices on all of their projects and initiatives. Her inspiration stems from watching her rural childhood family plot of land be encroached upon and eventually turned into a suburban subdivision of asphalt cul-de-sacs and poorly constructed cookie-cutter homes. She told her mom when she was 8 years old that one day she would design buildings that didn’t cut down trees, and that is what she continues to work for today.


david sobelDavid Sobel

David Sobel is the “father of place-based education” and shares insight into ways that we can all find inspiration from place and by keeping our “feet in the clouds.”  David is core faculty at Antioch University, a renowned speaker, and author of several books, including Childhood and Nature.  David has a Master of Education in Environmental Education and Child Development and a B.A. in English.  By helping to establish the reciprocal relationships between our environments, our schools and our communities, David teaches us an educational approach that enhances student achievement, revitalizes our schools and communities, and promotes human and ecological health.


Bill StricklandBill Strickland

Bill Strickland is President & CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation.  Strickland graduated from Pittsburgh’s Oliver High School in 1965 and was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh on a provisional basis. In 1969, he earned a bachelor’s degree in American history and foreign relations from the University of Pittsburgh and graduated cum laude. While attending college in 1968, Strickland founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to bring arts education and mentorship to inner city youth in his neighborhood. The MCG Youth & Arts program, as it is now called, serves public school students by offering courses in our ceramics, design, digital and photography studios.  Strickland is author of the book: Make the Impossible Possible and has a featured TEDTalk.


Jane WernerJane Werner

Jane Werner is the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and is inspired by the connection between science and art as well as the co-education of children and families. The award-winning, LEED-certified museum delights and inspires children through “real stuff” experiences for play and learning. Named one of the nation’s top ten children’s museums by Parents Magazine in 2011 and recognized nationally for its work in the community, it offers a great regional example of where kids and families can find opportunities for wonder, exploration and action.