William Coleman: CEO pushes environmentally conscious practices

William Coleman, president and chief executive officer of Green Building Exchange, says he is gratified by the increasing number of businesses willing to adopt environmentally conscious practices.

He personally remembers a time when anyone mentioning that idea to corporations was greeted only with skeptical looks.

“When I graduated college, there wasn’t an environmental field to go into,” says Coleman, who earned a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies in 1973 from the University of New Mexico. “Since then, I’ve seen an enormous shift in businesses willing to embrace environmental parameters.”

Coleman has spent the entirety of his professional life immersed in different environmental campaigns, from being a member of the Arkansas State Policy Advisory Committee for Environment under then-Governor Bill Clinton in the late ’70s and early ’80s, to his nearly 20 years of work at the Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto.

His latest stop is at the GBE, a community marketplace that helps educate businesses on adopting greener building practices. Located in a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in Redwood City, GBE is a permanent trade-show exhibit for nearly 60 green business vendors that hosts frequent forums on environmentally responsible building.

As a veteran in environmental studiesfor more than 30 years, Coleman has seen many changes in the field. He has a pretty quick answer for determining the key to sustaining the current green-friendly movement.

“Education is the foundation,” said Coleman. “If we can lay the groundwork for businesses willing to listen, then they can see the benefits of green practices, not just for the environment, but also for their own bottom line.”

Coleman, who resides in San Carlos with his wife and three children, says living in the Bay Area reinforces the significance of the work accomplished — and that still left to be done — in the environmental field.

“Being in this area, where there is such an abundance of natural beauty, really helps put focus on what we need to do to preserve our resources,” said Coleman, who has lived in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years. “It’s important for me to take my children up to the mountains or into the wilderness, so they can see for themselves just how lucky they are to live here.”

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