Sustainable Cities Conference to help advance a sustainable urban future​

The Sustainable Cities Conference, including a Land Lab Competition aimed at catalyzing innovative ideas for sustainability projects on St. Louis’ vacant lots, will be held Nov. 1-3.

Sponsored by the Washington University in St. Louis Office of Sustainability, in partnership with many campus entities and the City of St. Louis, the conference is free and open to the public, though registration is strongly encouraged at

The aim of the conference will be to explore innovative ideas and strategies that advance a sustainable urban future. Featuring thought leaders from across the country, the gathering will address many areas that contribute to urban sustainability — including buildings, urban design, landscape, food and energy.

“For the first time in human history, more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas,” says Phil Valko, WUSTL’s director of sustainability. “The ways in which humanity designs, builds and lives in cities will have a tremendous impact on resource consumption, pollution and climate change. The Sustainable Cities Conference includes a number of exciting opportunities to engage in this important discussion.”

The conference is divided into three distinct parts:

On Thursday, Nov. 1, leading environmentalist Bill McKibben will lecture at 7 p.m. in Graham Chapel on the Danforth Campus.


McKibben is a best-selling environmental author who has written on climate change, alternative energy and the need for more localized economies. He founded, a grassroots climate change initiative.

McKibben’s talk will describe the science of global warming, as well as the movement he has led to help change the world’s understanding of its peril and spur the reforms necessary to get the planet back to safety.

The kickoff for the Land Lab Competition will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, at the Contemporary Arts Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Blvd. The event will feature a talk by Ron Sims, the former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and former county executive for Seattle’s King County.

Building on public dialogue started by the Open/Closed conferences and the Pruitt Igoe Now and GOOD Ideas for Cities competitions, the inaugural Land Lab Competition seeks innovative ideas for sustainability projects on St. Louis City’s vacant lots. Teams will propose integrated strategies for transforming one of the region’s greatest challenges into an asset that advances sustainability.

The last day of the conference, Saturday, Nov. 3, will be a Sustainable Cities Symposium, featuring sessions and speakers on a variety of topics.

The symposium will be a full-day event with several featured speakers, including Jason McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute; Anna Lappe, author of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It; Paul Salopek, journalist and founder of the Out of Eden Project; and Catherine Werner, sustainability director of St. Louis City.

The Nov. 3 symposium will offer the chance to hear about the draft City of St. Louis Sustainability Plan, which will be available for public review and comment until Nov. 14.

For a full list of events and speakers for all three days, visit