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Sustainability professional Erin Meezan to speak at Friday’s 2016 Global Opportunities Conference

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s 2016 Global Opportunities Conference: Problems to Possibilities will be held on Friday, April 8, beginning at 9 a.m. in Plemmons Student Union. The conference will explore the role that innovative business and pioneering entrepreneurs can take in addressing pressing environmental and social issues.

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Keynote speaker will be Erin Meezan, vice president of sustainability for Interface, a global leader in the design and production of carpet tiles. She will share the vision of her company, which the 2014 Sustainability Leaders Report ranked third among companies leading the way on sustainability – right after the clothing and gear company Patagonia.

For a traditional carpet company turned sustainable to make this list is testament to the vision of founder and chairman Ray Anderson, who initiated major changes in company practices as early as 1994. Since then, Interface has reduced waste to landfill by 91 percent, cut down water intake by 86 percent and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 73 percent. Currently, 50 percent of Interface’s total raw materials are recycled or bio-based and 45 percent of their energy use comes from renewable sources. Mission Zero, the company’s visionary goal, is to source 100 percent of energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. The Interface story is part of the documentary “So Right, So Smart.”

Meezan gives voice to the company’s conscience, ensuring that strategy and goals are in sync with the aggressive sustainability vision established more than 20 years ago. She leads a team that provides technical assistance and support to the company’s global business, addressing sustainability at all levels – from operations and management, to employees and customers, and in policy forums. She also keeps a finger on the pulse of the company’s transformed culture, a by-product of sustainability thinking that has been critical in driving innovation and retaining and attracting talented employees. She and her team are focused on nourishing and reinforcing the company’s culture and documenting its evolution.

Other conference speakers will be Dr. Dan Fogel, director of graduate sustainability studies at Wake Forest University, and Dr. Jeremy Ferrell, assistant professor of sustainable technology at Appalachian State, on “Nature’s Price” and “Turning Waste into Resource in Latin America.” Students will present stories of innovative and sustainable thinking abroad drawn from their experiences in Cambodia, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Taiwan and South Korea.

The Global Opportunities Conference is presented by Appalachian’s Walker College of Business with additional support provided by the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), University College, the Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Department, and James E. Holshouser Distinguished Professor of Ethics.

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