In November, 10 interior design, mechanical engineering and urban planning students were among more than 25,000 people who attended the Greenbuild International Conference in Chicago.

Retired Gen. Colin Powell spoke there. He has been involved in affordable housing in the South Bronx area of New York City, his childhood home. He described leadership with care and passion, telling us to always listen to your entire team and maintain an overall goal.

I could not have my photo taken with the general, but the Green Dude was available. He actually had no name and did not speak. He abides.

But UofL students are the real focus of our being at the conference.

“Greenbuild was an excellent opportunity for students to see what new technologies and strategies are being employed in the field of sustainable buildings — as well as providing good face-to-face interaction with many of the people who invented the products,” said Zach Kinitzer, a graduate student in urban planning. “The conference also provided new ideas into developing not just green buildings, but also green neighborhoods and infrastructure.”

The conference was eye-opening for Jonique Green, also an urban planning graduate student.

“It is more than just buildings,” she said. “Everything is incorporated — from the materials we use to build to the furniture we lounge on. Three of the most important things I took away from the conference were how neighborhood and city designs affect our health; how important it is to not only build with sustainable features but to also educate those around us that are not as familiar with green design; and lastly, this is to everyone’s benefit no matter what your socioeconomic background is. We all deserve — and should strive — to live, work and play as green as possible. There is a wealth of information. The important part is to not get overwhelmed and start somewhere. Whatever interests you, there is a green solution for that. I encourage everyone to attend the Greenbuild conference when presented the opportunity.”

Besides Kinitzer, Green and Cotton, other Greenbuild attendees were Janice Eberenz and Megan Enyeart, urban planning; Connor Click and Kelsey King, mechanical engineering; Rachel Schwabb, Kelly Glasscock, Sharon Mattingly and Brooke Golobow, interior design; and Russ Barnett, staff.

Student LEED groups and the conference are sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, the organization that manages the LEED rating system. The University of Louisville has received LEED Gold ratings for three buildings: the Clinical and Translational Research Building, the Duthie Center and the Center for Predictive Medicine.

UofL students have formed the first student LEED group in Kentucky. The group has a Facebook page with photos from the Greenbuild conference and the Chicago area.