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Opportunity Green conference covers energy investment, Chinese competition ... and eco-friendly bento boxes

Green companies and profitable companies don’t have to be mutually exclusive categories, panelists said Thursday at the fourth annual Opportunity Green conference in downtown Los Angeles. 

Roughly 650 participants are registered for the event, which continues Friday at Los Angeles Center Studios. Television shows such as "Mad Men" and "Project Runway" have filmed at the location.

Exhibitors displayed lounge chairs made of recyclable nylon and steel, eco-friendly paper products and sleek bento boxes made of “safe” plastic free of dangerous chemicals near a large dragon-shaped installation composed of plastic bottles. 

Attendees sat in on sessions about the smart grid industry and “The Business Case for Sustainability.”

In a panel about “What’s Hot in the Greentech Market,” speakers touched on the controversial Proposition 23, the balance between customer and product development, competition from countries such as China and Germany and the desire for a long-term energy standard from the government.

The green economy is a “fundamental technology shift” much like the innovation sparked by the space race and the dot-com boom, said Micah Kotch, director of operations at business incubator NYC ACRE (New York City Accelerator for a Clean Renewable Economy).

“At the end of the day, we have a small window to manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable,” he said. 

The Art Center College of Design, based in Pasadena, set up a tent to showcase several student projects, including a cycling helmet, hair dryer and iron all made from recyclable materials. Nearby, representatives from Los Angeles Trade Technical College zipped around in small alternative-fuel-powered carts designed by students.

The propane cart can exceed 60 mph while the solar machine putters around at about 20 mph. The biodiesel vehicle runs on old cooking oil from the college’s culinary school.

Flowers bloomed from the plant pots and wall-mounted “garden pouches” of Portland, Ore.-based Root Pouch, which uses recycled water bottles and other reused materials to construct its products. GreenHouse –- the San Diego microfueler company that converts organic waste into ethanol –- was there with a large poster of its initial investor, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.

On Friday, 25 start-ups will vie for a grand prize worth $26,000 total. Finalists include Newport Beach-based energy products company Green Wave Energy Corp. and Redwood Shores, Calif.-based GreenRoad Technologies Inc., which makes a system that tracks drivers' habits and fuel efficiency.

Conference organizers presented their Eco-Maverick award to "Avatar" actress Michelle Rodriguez, who told participants to “embrace the new era of capitalism” and then served as deejay for the after-party.

-- Tiffany Hsu

 
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