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After Cleveland's sustainability summit: Now what?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/04/10 @ 9:13am

A new framework for organizing Cleveland's sustainability efforts was introduced at this year's SC2019 summit: It calls on the community to rally around one sustainability idea and at the end of a year have lots of progress to celebrate.

These Celebration Points kick off with a year of Energy Efficiency in 2011. While saving energy is not sexy, Cleveland Sustainability Manager Andrew Watterson said at last night's first all-group meeting since the summit, it is very much in line with the city's goals to create a green economy. Watterson mentioned repeatedly the coalition of NGOs, banks, foundations and businesses around a local energy alliance or LEA called the Greater Cleveland Energy Alliance.

In Boston and Cincinnati, LEAs formed a non-profit that coordinated the region's energy efficiency efforts and created a financing arm to help homeowners and business finance at no or low cost lighting, insulation and energy generation retrofits. In Cincy, the LEA was the reason the city won a $17 million grant from the highly competitive Energy Efficiency Community Development Block grant from the federal stimulus earlier this year.

"We noticed other cities had an umbrella group that had energy producers, small business and local government around the table," Enterprise Foundation Regional Manager and 2019 Green Building group member Mark McDermott said. After last year's summit, the group set a goal for the city to retrofit 100% of its buildings, and identified ways to do so in a report released just before the 2010 summit.

"The report calls on the city to set a specific goal around energy efficiency for all structures, to raise a whole hell of a lot of capital for the private sector to do the retrofits and to work on policy, education and (workforce) training," McDermott said.

The Greater Cleveland Energy Alliance just completed a two-day planning charrette where they worked out how to lure that capital for a regional energy retrofit program. Using a $150,000 grant from Living Cities, they are developing a business plan and answering, "what is the value add?" for an LEA in Northeast Ohio, McDermott said. The Alliance expects to follow up with recommendations and next steps in the coming month. Part of its work could be coordinating and leveraging the existing energy efficiency efforts such as COSE's Green Plus and Lighting Retrofit programs and Cleveland Housing Network's weatherization program.

The city is hoping the new Celebration Points framework will push hard to make the Energy Alliance and other big projects materialize, Watterson said. For instance, Cleveland received its own, smaller ($4.5 million) energy efficiency grant. The Retrofit subgroup of 2019 Green Building played a role, he added, as an advisor when the city hired an energy efficiency consultant to figure out a pilot program to retrofit 100 homes, one of the proposed uses for the grant.

"The Celebration Points are not about when we start, but how we accelerate those activity areas," Watterson explained.

A new layer in the 2019 process-the Celebration Committees-will be formed with Work Group leaders deciding which are the best, emerging ideas and they will make the case to the Stewardship Council who makes a final recommendation to the city on which projects or policies should be endorsed.

The Working Groups now have the Action and Resources Guide, a 200-page document that helps frame discussions about sustainability, which the consultants produced before the 2010 summit.

"I recommend looking at the postcards in the guide to help figure out and shape your projects," Watterson advised the 50 or so participants who attended from the Working Groups. "It will help you figure out what is the economic basis, because we're all about developing the economic foundation?for a 10-year, sustained change movement."

Are the Celebration Points an organizing force for regional marketing, for example, with large groups and institutions planning events around the theme year? Watterson was asked. "Yes," he said, "and the Celebration Committees might include events, campaigns, a whole menu of options. We even have businesses adopting the 'Year of' approach. The Cleveland Clinic's Sustainability Director Christina Ayers, for example, is launching an energy efficiency focus for the Clinic next year."

With dozens of new Working Groups forming at the 2010 summit, joining the dozen still-active groups (from the original 20 Working Groups that formed at the 2009 summit), a flotilla of questions came Watterson's way.

Some members of Green Dots, a new Green Building group focused on green collar jobs training, wanted to know how the 2019 initiative plans to go into the community and reach the grassroots?

Some in the audience answered that a Cleveland high school class joined the new Vital Neighborhoods group; the Bridging Social Capital group is focused on equity and wants to ensure that the 2019 groups are all considering social inclusion; and the Collaborative Campus group from last year organized an urban planning charrette with kids in Central.

One new participant noted the missed opportunity in not inviting "busloads" of Cleveland students to the Advanced Energy Expo at the end of the 2010 summit in September.

In general, though, enthusiasm was registered for 2019 as an organizing framework: As evidence, five of the more active groups that formed at the 2009 Summit provided updates on what they've done for the past year.

  • Members of the Vacant Land group are participating in the city-led effort to "reimagine" vacant land as targeted urban agriculture, stormwater and renewable energy sites, said Gene Stromberg. The city will produce its vacant land report in November-it will include site recommendations and its selection process. The group would like to define a role in the ReImagine effort.
  • The Zero Waste Group is leading a campaign to convince businesses to move toward zero waste in their operations by 2019. So far, the group is working with 31 companies who signed on, but would like to reach 1,000, said Beau Daane. In addition, Entrepreneurs for Sustainability just received $25,000 from EPA to do waste audits and help companies, E4S President Holly Harlan said. Follow their progress and learn from them at the zerowasteneo.org site.
  • After the launch of its Drink Local. Drink Tap campaign, the Sustainable Water group is working to clean up Edgewater Beach, raise awareness of Lake Erie water quality, and show people that it's possible to "kick the bottled water habit," said Erin Huber. It will lead a test beach clean up at Euclid Beach this Saturday, and is planning an event with Cleveland high schoolers to bring bottles to Tower City where the fountain will be turned off for two weeks to raise awareness of water as a scarce resource in Africa and many parts of the world.
  • After its advanced energy business showcase with NASA and Nortech, the 2019 Advanced Energy Generation group is working with the latter on a database of 500 companies in the region working in the advanced energy supply chain, said Linda Sekura. The idea is to create a stronger network and regional marketing opportunities.

* * *

Attention Work Groups: As Sustainability Manager Jenita McGowan mentioned at the meeting, the 2019 web site (at gcbl.or/2019) is being reorganized to reflect the Celebration Points and the associated work groups. The new approach is under way, and can be accessed here.

Also, you may have noticed a new feature on the 2019 site: Upcoming 2019 events. We've set it up so that the upper right corner of the 2019 homepage displays your work group meetings and important 2019 events exclusively. So, the next time you post your work group meeting, remember to select the work group from the SC2019 menu. As always, email GCBL with any questions. 

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