Three years ago, the Portland (Ore.) Office of Sustainable Development hosted a green building conference at the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center (NCC), a renovated brick warehouse where environmentally and socially responsible businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies rent office and retail space. Sydney Mead popped in on the conference, as did many other people who work in the NCC building.

“All of us had a good laugh at the presentation on waterless urinals,” remembers Mead, program...

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