The San Diego Green 2006 conference is happening at the University of San Diego today, focusing on showcasing ways to incorporate environmentally friendly, sustainable practices into business and personal lifestyles.

The conference, which started yesterday and will wrap up tomorrow with a tour of San Diego sustainable projects, includes speakers and seminars today at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

I stopped by the conference a little earlier and had the chance to ask a few people how San Diego’s doing when it comes to these concepts.

Maria Sardina was there, representing a company called Tarkett, which has an initiative for recycling and re-using flooring. She lives in San Diego and represents the company at trade fairs like this for 13 western states.

I asked her how she thinks San Diego stacks up against the places she covers, and she said the city falls quite far behind San Francisco and many cities in Washington and Oregon.

“We have a long way to go to catch up,” she said.

But she said as San Diego and Los Angeles keep moving in the right direction – which she believes they are – the “next-layer-in” states like Montana and Utah will start waking up to these concepts, too.

Sardina said she’s noticed a new trend in builder incentives, as well – in a slowing market, builders are starting to include some “green” features, like solar panels, drip sprinkler systems, low-flow toilets and others, with hopes of making their homes stand out from the others on the market.

A few other attendees I talked to didn’t want me to use their names – it’s not easy being green, you know – but agreed San Diego has a lot of catching up to do. They were all encouraged by the number of commercial, business-oriented options for green development, but think it’s time now to focus more on residential development.

I wrote a story a few weeks ago about OB resident Charles Roberts, who has re-fitted his home with solar panels and a sun-powered hot water system.

For that story, I talked to Chuck Angyal, who was on the founding board for the United States Green Building Council. He said he considers San Diego to be “way behind the curve”:

Angyal said the city needs to act quickly to make building green more of a priority. He said San Diego’s status as a “Navy, border town” likely takes some of the focus away from implementing these policies.

“It’s not high on people’s radar,” he said. “The environment’s not a priority here. ‘Surf’s up’ is more of a priority.”

For the people in Linda Vista today, these concepts are definitely a priority. And the conference kicks off San Diego’s GreenBuilt tour, which runs Saturday and Sunday and guides people through 14 residential and commercial sites, featuring green practices like alternative energy and water systems, recycled materials, non-toxic paints and coatings and native landscaping, among others.

Click here to go to the tour’s website, and here to learn more about San Diego Green 2006 conference.

KELLY BENNETT

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