U.S. Green Building Council - Missouri Gateway Chapter Blog
Welcome to the USGBC-MO Gateway Blog, a place for the Chapter to share information on green building, LEED, sustainability and other "elements of green" in and around the St. Louis area.

Comment Period Now Open for 2016 Board Nominees

Posted: August 24th, 2015

USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter has three (3) board of director seats open beginning in 2016. We collected nominations through August 17 and are pleased to announce the following nominees being considered:

  • Steve O’Rourke, NABCEP PVTS – Microgrid Energy
  • Richard Schuessler – Huntleigh McGehee
  • Thomas Taylor, LEED AP BD+C, GSAS-CGP – Vertegy

In place of elections, our Governance Committee is seeking constructive feedback from USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter members. The Committee will collect feedback and integrate it with the board eligibility requirements and a matrix of leadership needs to determine a slate to present to the board.

Chapter members can learn more about each candidate and share input via this on-line form during the comment period from Monday, August 24 through Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

For more information, including election Guidelines and Board Job Descriptions, please visit the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter website.

Getting More Out of Our Urban Landscapes

Posted: August 18th, 2015

Join the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter, the American Society of Landscape Architects – St. Louis Chapter, and the Missouri Botanical Garden for two events featuring Heather Venhaus:

Check out Heather’s article, originally published in Healthy Planet Magazine, for a preview!

Getting More Out of Our Urban Landscapes

By Heather L. Venhaus, Regenerative Environmental Design, LLC

Imagine a home or urban landscape that can ease the impacts of drought, reduce flooding, improve the water quality of creeks, rivers and lakes, cut energy costs, clean air, and capture greenhouse gases all while improving our health and happiness. Sounds awesome, right? These benefits, known as ecosystem services, are the goods and services that we all depend upon which nature provides for free. As you might imagine, ecosystem services have a tremendous monetary value, estimated at $46 trillion per year.
All landscapes whether urban, suburban, or rural have the potential to provide ecosystem services that extend both locally and globally. Unfortunately, in our quest to create more sustainable environments, the potential of residential and small urban landscapes are often overlooked. Residential landscapes make up almost half of the total green space in most cities. A single homeowner or coalition of neighbors can have significant impacts.
When considering ecosystem services, it is important to think about the connections between natural systems – soils, water, vegetation, climate, wildlife – and to look for landscape strategies that have multiple and long-term benefits. One strategy that is often overlooked is soil maintenance and stewardship. Soils and vegetation work together to provide a wide suite of ecosystem services. Plant roots provide food for soil microorganisms, which in return make nutrients available for plants and improve soil structure. Good soil structure is necessary for the movement of air and water in the soil, both of which are needed for healthy vegetation and sustainable water management. Organic matter is key to developing and maintaining good soil structure. Plants are continually adding organic matter to the soil via roots, leaves, and branches. Soil microorganisms are also a source.

Landscape practices that remove plant tissues such as bagging grass or leaves, rob the soil of a valuable resource. Selecting maintenance practices that allow organic matter to stay in place and decompose such as grasscycling or leafing shredding can easily amend this. Other practices include adding compost and mulch to the landscape on a regular basis. Landscapes that maintain healthy levels of soil organic matter can rack up multiple benefits including improved plant growth and resistance to disease, a more diverse and robust community of beneficial soil microorganisms, minimal fertilizer and pesticide requirements, an increase in the soil’s ability to hold more water thereby reducing irrigation needs, and protection from soil compaction which increases erosion. As with other ecosystem service benefits, the positive payback is not limited to the homeowner, but the entire region can receive a gain.

If you are interested in learning more and ways to improve your landscape and get involved, check out these resources:

  • Landscape for Life developed by the U.S. Botanic Garden. Teacher and student resources cover support sustainable soils, vegetation, water, landscape materials, and human health practices.
  • The St. Louis Audubon Society program, Bring Conservation Home, provides on-site assistance to small, private landowners in the greater St. Louis area for the restoration of native plant and animal habitat.
  • BiodiverseCity St. Louis, an initiative to promote, protect, and plan for biodiversity.
  • A lecture on Upcycling Our Urban Ecosystems presented by Heather Venhaus will take place on September 8, 2015 from 5:30-7:30pm.

Check out our 2014 Annual Report!

Posted: July 30th, 2015









We believe that everyone deserves to live, work and learn in a green and healthy building. Our volunteers and staff work to advance the quality of life in our region – educating about green building, advocating for healthier environments, and establishing partnerships to improve our built environment. Every year, we make progress towards the goal of transforming the built environment. And 2014 was no exception. We are excited to share our 2014 Annual Report with you!

Here are a few highlights from last year:

  • 180 volunteers contributed over 3,500 hours to our mission!
  • Wrapped up the inaugural Green Schools Quest. 24 school / mentor teams had nearly 3,000 staff & student participants and reached over 15,000 students, staff and community members! The second round of the Quest (2014-2015) paired 38 schools with 40 mentors.
  • Launched the 25 x 2o Voluntary Energy Benchmarking Campaign in partnership with the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis High Performance Building Initiative, and Missouri Interfaith Power & Light.
  • 30 Chapter Volunteers completed our 2nd LEED Community Project, giving over 550 hours to the greening of the Dennis and Judith Jones Visitor & Education Center in Forest Park.
  • Awarded 10 complimentary energy audits for congregations in partnership with Missouri Interfaith Power & Light.

Thanks to our leadership, committees, volunteers, members, sponsors and donors for making 2014 a success!

You can view or download the entire 2014 Annual Report as a PDF or as an online magazine.

Katie Belisle-Iffrig Releases Book “Going Green for the GENIUS”

Posted: July 23rd, 2015

St. Louis biologist, botanist, author, and sustainability consultant, Dr. Katie Belisle-Iffrig is the co-chair of the USGBC- MGC’s Green Schools Committee. Katie’s newly released book Going Green for the GENIUS is an informative and engaging primer on environmental and sustainability issues ranging from climate change and urban farming to the personal choices we can all make to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

You can learn more about Going Green for the GENIUS on the publisher’s website or amazon.com. Learn more about Katie in her member profile.

Explore the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s online Member Directory to learn more about all our members. Visit the Green Building Experts page to learn more about members that have been recognized for their green building advocacy, promotion, and expertise.


Mary Ostafi Featured in New York Times, Huffington Post, and St. Louis Post Dispatch

Posted: July 23rd, 2015

Mary Ostafi orig-croppedMary Ostafi, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C, left a position as Sustainability Program Manager, Washington University in St. Louis, to become Executive Director of Urban Harvest STL and Farm Manager of the FOOD ROOF, an enterprise she founded, which the New York Times and the Huffington Post featured on July 1. Four days later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Mary’s downtown, rooftop farm, which exemplifies numerous green building tenets, including urban revitalization and local resources.

Links to these articles and more are on Urban Harvest’s website here. Learn more about Mary in her USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter member profile here.

Explore the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter member directory to learn about all of our members!

Nominations open for 2016 Board Members!

Posted: July 15th, 2015

USGBC-Missouri Gateway is seeking nominations for three (3) Board Members. Nominations are due by midnight on Monday, August 17, 2015.

This year we are changing our process. Nominations will be accepted through August 17, 2015. In place of elections, an open comment period will allow members to provide feedback on nominees. The Governance Committee will use feedback along with eligibility requirements and a matrix of leadership needs to determine a slate to present to the board.

Self nominations are accepted and encouraged. Nominees must be a member in good standing with USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter and must currently serve or have previously served on a Chapter committee or as a Chapter volunteer. The online nomination form, can be found here.

For more information, please see:

Above & Beyond Volunteer Recognition

Posted: July 1st, 2015

The USGBC-Missouri Gateway is committed to recognizing volunteers who have contributed significantly to the Chapter, devoting time and talents “above and beyond” on a particular project or program.  We are thrilled to recognize Hannah Roth of Washington University  for her leadership in the development of the Chapter’s first full-day Continuing Education Blitz titled Building Materials, LEED, and Health – Oh My! Braving the new world of building material selection.

Hannah’s passion for reducing barriers to developing and using tools for materials transparency is contagious. This, combined with her dedication to engaging diverse stakeholders and national sustainability leaders, as well as developing an interactive educational format, is paving the way for a phenomenally meaningful learning experience for all in attendance. Hannah is supported in this effort by Chapter volunteers JoAnn Brookes of Kromm, Rikimaru and Johansen, Natasha Dunwoody of Christner, Caryl Kinsey Fox, and staff member Hope Gribble. Thanks, Hannah, for all of your hard work and dedication surrounding this important and timely topic!

June Above & Beyond Volunteer Recognition

Posted: July 1st, 2015

Paul-Merrill_2-150x150The USGBC-Missouri Gateway is committed to recognizing volunteers who have contributed significantly to the Chapter, devoting time and talents “above and beyond” on a particular project or program. This month we are happy to recognize Paul Todd Merrill of Clayco for his work on the Chapter’s Membership Committee.

Paul was nominated by Gordon Schweitzer, 2015-2016 Chair of the Membership Committee, for his long history of leadership and service in pursuit of the Chapter’s mission. In his nomination, Gordon stated “Paul has been an outstanding membership committee chair, growing membership to over 500 during his two year term. He has also served on the Speakers Bureau, the Development Committee, and chaired the Board of Directors in 2011. He always goes out of his way to help the Chapter succeed!”

Many thanks to Paul for his dedication and leadership!

BUILDING THE HEARTLAND Discount for Chapter Members

Posted: June 22nd, 2015

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Now in its third year, BUILDING THE HEARTLAND (formerly BuildingChicago/Greening the Heartland) is the major conference and trade expo serving architects, engineers, contractors, property owners, real estate developers, government officials and community organizations in the Midwest. This year the conference will take place August 31 – September 2 at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago, Illinois.

The conference will offer two keynote speakers and one keynote panel in addition to approximately 50 accredited learning sessions that will offer AIA CES or Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) learning units — and, in most cases, both. The program will feature four tracks: Technology, Owner/Developer/Occupant Panels, High-Performance Buildings, and Green Building Tools & Strategies.This unique, three-day event is sponsored by SGC Horizon’s Building Design+Construction magazine, AIA Chicago, and USGBC-Illinois.

Members of USGBC Chapters can register for $260 until August 1, discounted from $325. Members of the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter can contact Johanna Schweiss for the coupon code. Learn more and register here.


4th Annual Photo Contest!

Posted: June 19th, 2015



The USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter’s Marketing Committee invites you to participate in the 4th Annual Photo Contest! For the first time, photographers are invited to share images around a theme – from recycling to upcycling.

The contest is open to all residents of the Missouri Gateway Chapter territory (territory map). Submissions are due on August 15. 

First, Second and Third Prizes will include restaurant gift cards, prints of the winning photos, a free year of USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter membership, and more!

To submit your photo, check out the photo contest rules, then email it (in jpg form) to usgbcmogatewayphoto@gmail.com