The fifth annual Opportunity Green sustainable business conference kicked off Wednesday evening at Los Angeles Center Studios to a VIP reception. Adrian Grenier and Peter Glatzer were on hand as recipients of the 2011 Eco-Maverick Awards for founding SHFT, a site that is “curating the culture of today’s environment.” On Thursday morning green design thought leaders including Yves Behar, Gavin McIntyre, and Aron Bosworth, also took to the stage, speaking to this year’s theme “Accelerate” while presenting their best ideas alongside stories from CEOs, entrepreneurs, government officials, and other agents of social change.

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The atmosphere was one of friendly camaraderie as attendees gathered at Stage 6 for opening remarks from co-hosts Boise Thomas of the Discovery Network’s eco-lifestyle show Planet Green and Sierra Club Green Home founder Jennifer Schwab. The duo encouraged us to hold hands while they repeated the Opportunity Green Manifesto, which was printed on bamboo with eco-friendly ink and put on display at registration. This conference is not business as usual.

Today’s agenda included Global Game Changers & Cultural Icons with Don Cheadle, Jeremy Heimans, and Leslie Cordes;  Green Product Innovation and New Business Models with Ian Yolles, Andrew Williamson and Annie Lescoart; The New Art of Collaboration with Tim Kostigan, Tensie Whelan, Lewis Fix, and Sue Igoe; as well as workshops on biomimicry, branding and corporate responsibility, design thinking, and opportunities in the mobile landscape.

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Ben Packard, the Vice President of Global Responsibility at Starbucks, was there to remind us of the complexity of the value chain and to share that evolving business sustainably will require ‘painful transparency’ and systems thinking. BMW Group’s Manuel Sattig followed up with insight into project i, the German automaker’s proof of its commitment to conservation. Yves Behar continued his variation on the theme by stating that conserving resources shouldn’t be interpreted as a sacrifice in quality or quantity, instead ‘going green’ must symbolize that value has been added to a product. One way to do this is by incorporating new functionality to recycled, recyclable, and reusable materials, as Behar has done with PUMA’s Clever Little Bag, an innovative packaging solution that will reduce carbon emissions by 60% and entirely replace the PUMA shoebox by mid-2012.

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During a talk, Yves Behar, founder of fuseproject, explained that he considers designers to be an influential force behind entrepreneurs and a catalyst for positive change, and we agree. With seven billion people sharing this planet there are “few existing paradigms we can rely on”, he said. Design can no longer be thought of as a linear process–it’s marketing, advertising, strategy, branding, and software combined. Good design accelerates public acceptance of new ideas by taking a 360-degree approach and “good designers are better received than [US] foreign policy.”

Stay tuned for all of the highlights from day 2 of this fascinating green conference!

+ Opportunity Green