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Cleveland Sustainability Chief McGowan: How do we "scale up" a green city?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/29/14 @ 9:00am

The following guest blog post from Cleveland Chief of Sustainability, Jenita McGowan, is a reflection at the half-way point in Sustainable Cleveland 2019, the city's big, 10-year sustainability initiative. SC2019's goal is to transform Cleveland into a thriving green city on a blue lake by the 50th anniversary of the last fire on the Cuyahoga River. The sixth sustainability summit is coming up this September 17-18. This year's focus is on scaling up sustainability. There's one week left to register for the event.

Greening CLE<br />The annual Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summits bring hundreds of people together to review progress and design new initiatives that will make Cleveland a green city on a blue lake.

By Jenita McGowan

We are six years into Mayor Frank G. Jackson’s 10-year sustainability initiative, Sustainable Cleveland 2019. As Chief of Sustainability, my primary job is to move the program forward in alignment with the vision that, Together, we are building a thriving green city on a blue lake.

On a micro scale, many of the pieces and parts of the sustainable Cleveland we envision are already happening. We have an inspiring vision, effective tools, robust engagement and participation, and leadership at many levels. As a community, we’ve implemented many programs and policies in energy efficiency, local foods and local economy, renewable energy, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable mobility, green space, community engagement, business engagement and more. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability recently published a Report from the Community that details much of the progress made since 2009.

As we prepare for the 2014 summit, I believe we are at a crossroads, and the question we should ask ourselves at this intersection is what can we do together to replicate and scale up our successes to make them both systematic and transformational? During the Sustainability Summit on September 17-18th, we will design around specific topics that help to move the Cleveland Climate Action Plan and the Sustainable Cleveland initiative forward with that question in mind:

  • Leveraging sustainability assets, progress and strengths to advance business
  • Advancing the people-centered development potentials of the Vital Neighborhoods movement
  • Building renewable energy for jobs and economic transition
  • Benefitting from the quality of life of walkable cities with sustainable transportation
  • Understanding and building the economic and environmental dimensions of clean water
  • Preparing for resilience and readiness in the face of climate change
  • Innovating opportunities to turn waste into wealth
  • Building off of our competitive advantage in local foods through business-to-business matchmaking

It can be daunting to declare bold sustainability goals and priorities into the void of the future and to be accountable for creating change over the course of a decade. At the same time, I am inspired by the opportunity we have to work in collaboration to create a community that aligns with our values and vision for the future.

And so, I invite you, Clevelanders from all walks of life, to attend the sustainability summit so that we may work together to design and develop a more sustainable Cleveland. Perhaps I am inviting you to commit to doing something you don’t yet know how to do, to begin a journey because it is the right path to take—not because you know how it will end. I’m inviting you to make the two-day commitment to the Sustainable Cleveland Summit because this is work worth doing.

* * * *

To inform and inspire the work of the summit, we have two dynamic keynote presenters on the topics of consumerism, waste, water and multi-sector engagement around climate action. The Keynote Speakers have been generously sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation and the Cleveland Clinic. 

Keynote speaker Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, was named one of Fast Company's 1,000 Most Creative People in Business. She is an international expert on sustainability, consumer products and environmental health. With a vision for change, Leonard's documentaries transform the complex issues of consumer products into understandable challenges. 

John Cleveland, Executive Director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC), will speak about how the GRC aligns the resources of key sectors to share ideas, monitor progress and engage stakeholders in implementing Boston's Climate Action Plan. The GRC uses a data driven, action oriented approach to focus the commercial and industrial sectors to accelerate the City's greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Register online. Summit Scholarships are available to those who find the $40 registration fee a barrier to participation. To be considered as a scholarship recipient, this form must be completed. Scholarships are limited and they will be issued on the basis of your application.

For more information about Sustainable Cleveland 2019, visit www.SustainableCleveland.org.

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