If you were anywhere near the Merchandise Mart in Chicago this past week you know that there was a lot of hoopla around the annual NeoCon event that lasted from Monday through Wednesday. I’m sure you’re asking “What the heck is NeoCon?” Ok, maybe you didn’t use the word “heck”. NeoCon is short for National Exposition of Contract Furnishings. It’s essentially a huge trade fair for contract furniture (for offices, hospitality and health industries), but it’s also a great opportunity for designers to come and learn about cool new products, take advantage of seminars on cutting-edge information, and party, party, party. Think of it as sort of a home expo on mega-steroids. I was down there Saturday while everything was getting readied, including the installation of a life-size elephant made of strips of recycled truck tires. The elephant’s name is Nomkhubulwane, ( I didn’t make that up) and it stood right at the front doors to imbue you with the idea of “green” as you entered. It was scary watching them move that behemoth into place in a sling suspended from a crane! I also spent some time on Monday and Wednesday at the event both in seminars and scoping out the various booths. Ok, now we come to the “why should I care” part. What I came away with and what I would like you to know, is that the design industry is truly working to create “green” environments. Everywhere I turned, products were touted as being green because of their manufacturing processes, recycled or reclaimed content and recyclability. From flooring to lighting, everyone is working to create design options that allow us all to have cleaner, more healthy environments. I was truly amazed by all the products out there. Honestly, some of them were a little wacky- like the Karim Rashid executive chair, some looked a little torturous, and some were just downright silly, like the Ergo ergo chair. Seriously, that’s a chair? Somehow I don’t see that flying in the button-down world of a law firm or an accounting firm- maybe in the offices of Google or a firm with mostly people under 40. But hey, the idea is that NeoCon presents designers and our ilk with an opportunity for inspiration! When you see something that’s a great product like 3Form panels you start to think of ways that it can be incorporated into a client’s project. Hmm, maybe I could use that as a backsplash in a kitchen, or wouldn’t that be cool as a bar? The bottom line is that events like NeoCon help us all be better, more creative designers who can offer our clients extraordinary soultions to their design challenges and now more than ever, those solutions are good for the planet as well as our clients!