Sustainability Directors Conference – Notes Summary
On November 2 and 3, 2006, Rocky Mountain Institute and the Blackstone Ranch convened 32 leaders of
local-government sustainability initiatives from around the country. The event took place in Boulder,
Colorado. This document summarizes the rich and lively discussions that took place over those two days.
The benefits of the conference were two-fold:
• Participants learned from each other, developed relationships, and found ways to work together.
• Rocky Mountain Institute identified areas in which RMI could apply its expertise and influence to
assist local communities in their efforts to define and implement a local sustainability agenda.
Participants addressed the following topics, narrowing the second-day’s conversation to the first three
• Indicators as a tool for defining and driving sustainability agendas
• Public-private partnerships for environmental improvements and economic development
• Key leverage points for critical change
• Climate change
• Marketing climate change and sustainability to the community and to local-government employees
• Institutionalizing sustainability
• Applying sustainability to both city operations and community-wide
• Multi-jurisdictional collaboration for regional, state, federal policy changes
• Important recent sustainability initiatives in each city and county
• Ideas for next steps for the group
• How participants benefited from the conference
The agenda was loosely structured to allow participants to focus their attention where they wished. RMI
began the session, after an hour of self-introductions, with the agenda’s only formal presentation which
was on whole-system thinking (WST), one of RMI’s key intellectual frameworks. WST approaches
problem-identification and solution-creation by considering all aspects of a system, rather than seeking to
optimize each component of a system in isolation.2
Reaction to the WST presentation were mixed. Some embraced it; some found it inapplicable to their
challenges. Yet as the conference proceeded, the terminology and concepts of WST returned increasingly
to the conversation. For example, participants addressed the danger of unintended consequences when all
parts of a system are not contemplated when designing a solution, and the value of engaging multiple
perspectives and areas of expertise in solutions design. Often, one participant would describe a solution
to a challenge and another would point out the WST approach in the solution. Therefore, the WST
presentation provided, at minimum, a common vocabulary with which the participants could better
communicate. Following are some WST comments from the conference:
• Where is whole-system thinking useful
o Helpful in making the case for sustainable initiatives
o Used to break down barriers
o “I am more effective because I know system thinking”
The following is a complete list of the topics considered for second-day discussion, listed in order of votes received:
indicators, most strategic opportunities, private/public partnerships, influencing state and federal policy, fees to fund office,
sustainable programs as a catalyst, most effective accomplishment, low hanging fruit, blazing failures, inventory of sustainable
programs, making sustainability politically viable, incentives for green buildings, how to create sustainable programs without
mandate, ICLEI, water quality, busting silos, budgeting for sustainability, resources needed, European models to learn from.
For a more in-depth discussion of WST, please see: http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid153.php.
o Making sure short term successes aren’t long term failures
o What is your model of the world, what is your lens and your assumptions that filter out
• Industrial Symbiosis
o Closed-loop system goal
o Matching waste with potential buyers
Entrepreneurs for Sustainability in Cleveland frames waste as potential revenue or
• Example of need for WST, offered by RMI’s Chris Page, based on water-efficiency analysis in
o A wildly successful water-efficiency analysis
o However, the client’s goal may not have been sustainability, but rather short-term water
availability for more sprawl
o The resulting sprawl returned the client to its original water problem.
The remainder of this document summarizes participant discussions. Many comments are attributed to the
local government where the participant works. Though many participant comments could be placed under
several categories, the summary below places them where they are likely to best inform another
community’s sustainability efforts. Limited RMI commentary is formatted in italics.
Topic discussions often began with a series of diverse questions — evidence that even those participants
whose governments have had many years involvement in the sustainability issue are often still struggling
to craft the best approaches to the issue. These questions also demonstrated a fundamental challenge for
local government sustainability initiatives in this relatively early point in their evolution: Ensuring that the
initiative begins by framing the right question, a fundamental aspect of WST.
The interdependence of the various sustainability issues was a recurring theme. Participants indicated an
enthusiasm for embracing complexity and interdependency, rather than defaulting to easier, simplistic and
The first day’s conversation began with climate change, a topic that touches on many issues – from land
use, transportation, cogeneration, and economic localization; to such implementation challenges as local-
government organizational alignment and marketing for behavioral change.
• How to get an inventory for a region to establish a baseline of greenhouse gas emissions?
(A recurring issue is the need for cities to recognize what they can control on their own, and where
they need regional, state, or national cooperation and/or policies to be effective.)
o Need standards for metrics.
• How important is it to have apples-to-apples comparisons of metrics?
o Need at least internal consistency.
• How to communicate?
o Focus on the spirit of the message.
o Is “sustainable” the appropriate word?
o Must satisfy a diverse constituency.
(Though such an intent can reduce a program to the lowest common denominator.)
o Start with climate change, or relate such specific initiatives as recycling to climate change.
o Offer resources to citizenry to assist their independent efforts.
• A city’s internal operations typically represent only 2-3% of a community’s overall GHG emissions.
o Though only 2-3%, the city should set an example— walk the sustainability talk — by
demonstrating that reducing GHG emissions is feasible.
• How to move community to climate change action?
o Incentives/disincentives for community.
o Recognize and develop opportunities on which community can act.
• How to prioritize?
• How to use local issues as leverage for climate change on a state or federal level?
Marketing climate change and sustainability both to the community and to local government
• Vancouver showed a video presentation on climate change that has proved effective.
• See www.onedayvancouver.ca -- a web site providing ideas for “taking small steps to reduce
energy use, at home and on the road, to make Vancouver the cleanest, greenest, healthiest city in
• Research study on communicating sustainability across Canada.
o 82% ranked sustainability as a top priority when given its definition.
o “Why aren’t you doing more?” 50% responded that there was need for government
o Most think it’s important but aren’t sure others do.
• Climate Action Plan
o Local governments don’t have enough influence, must engage the community. Must do
o Build a brand
o Example: One ton campaign
Of all test advertisements, had the highest recalls, levels of understanding
Used a comedian, witty
Didn’t translate to action
Awareness but no traction to action
o Survey results
8 of 10 surveyed were concerned
More concern over health than economics
Could identify specific actions related to climate change
A core of survey participants is already taking some action
o Marketing strategy
Should be based on such values as health, temperate climate, and connection to
Use a grassroots soft launch.
Ads focus on lifestyle benefits, don’t mention climate change.
Stay open source, set the brand up and let it go.
Spread the word and then follow up.
One Day Vancouver campaign
• at home, at school, at work campaigns
• Tying to climate change programs.
o Water department now trying to engage same strategies
• Similar social marketing studies in the US?
o Rockefeller Brothers
o PEW Climate Center
o Cleveland is starting its own study
• Additional climate change comments
o Values-based marketing works north of San Fran, with several exceptions
o Climate change should be a regional program
o How to track? Tracking engagement, follow up with specific research on action
o Open source - Who manages?
o Building a toolkit for citizenry
o Surprising results, gains momentum
o Encouraging establishment of corporate goals?
o Tools to develop climate plans
San Diego – still uses Climate Wise program.
o Look to the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) as a resource.
• Other climate change campaigns
o San Diego: 2 surveys
Perceptions vs. facts
Values vs. actions
o Seattle working on survey to piggyback on Vancouver
Disconnect between concern and specific individual action items. Trying to
make it a generic model
Community survey on values shows environment a priority by 3x over other
o San Francisco
Focusing on energy, transportation, recycling
Barriers/incentives: programs need to be less expensive, convenient, etc.
Can spend huge amounts of money on outreach for results that are a drop in the
At the end of the day need legislation, big action
Internal curriculum: Sustainability 101 for public utilities
• Continuing education credits
Question: Overall does it pay to inform about climate change, or just lifestyle &
Question: Has anyone successfully developed a program to get businesses to
sign up for green marketing benefit? (Burlington, Vermont has a program; see
o Santa Monica
Free green business consulting with tracking of progress.
Sustainable quality award.
Dissemination with logo – media, buses, television.
Goal setting, measurements, city budgets aligned with goals.
GHG/Environmental message by scientists historically has been ineffective.
Hired messaging firm.
• Survey on acceptance of issues/implementation, message matters!
Residents have little impact—commercial/industry need engagement
Residents only have “buzz” power
Focus on healthy kids, losing weight (walk/bike more)
Quit doing studies, come up with “key” messages for action
Figure out locally important issues
Question: Do we leave environment/climate outside of the conversation if that
is not resonating with people??
Made a conscious choice not to engage the environmental community because
they can’t seem to avoid focusing on the problem.
There are too many fizzled out brands.
NGOs work well on programs, not messaging.
Website contains info on climate change, but not the point of entry.
o San Diego
Asset mapping, to gain useful info AND engage public
A 50% response rate
Environmental message key to support for public policy
Offer free advertising as an incentive for green businesses
Prior to the conference, RMI staff interviewed and received responses to a questionnaire sent to all
conference invitees. Responses included a recurring theme: the challenge of institutionalizing
sustainability. One challenge is the inherent impermanence of an elected official or such high-level staff
as a city manager, who may be the driving force and champion of a city’s sustainability initiative, but who
will someday depart. Compounding this problem is that some bureaucrats view a specific sustainability
program as just another one-off program that is not part of an overarching shift that will permanently
affect city operations and policies.
Example of institutionalizing sustainability:
o A city-wide environmental-action agenda
o Educating all departments.
o Must meet metrics to justify programs – progress is checked; departments held accountable
o Embed environmental performance into department goals
• San Jose
o Celebrate what is being done, then set higher goals with metrics
o Urban Accords make the vague goals of “sustainability” concrete, with specific goals to
reach by specific times (www.urbanaccords.org).
o Every department wants in on the sustainability report.
Should be reporting about sustainable progress on each accord.
Each accord is more directly connected with departments.
A powerful framework.
o Created energy management board of the mayor’s office
o Departments overseeing various public facilities bringing projects to the table. Brought
everyone to the table to show benefits of energy efficiency efforts with existing buildings.
o Green campus initiatives have been very successful
Retrofits of top 10 buildings
Harvard takes it a step further by establishing a revolving fund
o Mayor’s initiatives
Operational efficiency task force
Capital improvements plan. To have a group looking at all projects.
All departmental directors must report to the mayor on sustainability.
o Budgeting for outcomes
o Council sets priorities and expected outcomes
o Green purchasing
o Crediting departments for what is being accomplished. Leading to funding of positions
within departments, such as to market green initiatives.
o Asked how many cities tie sustainability performance to department budgets?
Response: Denver, Santa Monica
o Asked how many cities tie sustainability performance to salary?
Builds credibility within city of commitment to sustainability
Limitations: Difficulties in assessing performance, many good and bad
sustainability-related actions and outcomes outside a department’s ability to control
o To be successful and sustained, you need five key elements:
a political champion
a business champion
some sort of regulatory devices (such as a requirement that the city fleet must use
alternative fuels for a percentage of total vehicle fuel use).
a good mix of technological innovation (such as a new, highly efficient, low-
emissions waste-to-energy power plant).
a good communication plan.
o Like systems analysis, only it is like local government analysis
• San Francisco
o Created a City Environmental Code (took 2 ½ yrs to write, create the framework, then two
more years to get it implemented and working).
Wanted to create a framework for environmental justice
o Chapter One of the code is the Precautionary Principal, which has five main tenets (see:
http://www.municode.com/Resources/gateway.asp, and contact Debbie Revel at 415-355-
3711 for information)
o Example of the code in action: Precautionary Purchasing ordinance
Went through everything purchased and then decided how to measure/prioritize
Gave access to niche markets to local businesses.
Example: Arsenic-treated wood - didn’t want it
• Traditional lumber trade associations said there were no alternatives
• City held a roundtable with local community (participatory decision
making) and lumber vendors from around the country
• Environmentally superior, cost competitive alternatives were found.
• Two key success factors to the effort, which helped to overcome the “cost
too much, take too long” arguments
o public participation
o alternative assessments
Found the term “Precautionary Principal” too volatile, so instead use, for example
“low environmental impact cleaning ordinance”
Make it simple and specific.
o Los Angeles
It is not as easy as it sounds. We have not adopted a Precautionary Principle
ordinance yet. It’s a good way to go, but not easy.
Breaking down silo/stovepipe/blinders-on mentalities in city departments
One of the specific challenges to institutionalizing sustainability within a city bureaucracy is changing the
ways that city departments interact with each other. Departments often focus only on their own activities,
losing opportunities to advance their missions, and those of their fellow departments, more effectively
When departments see themselves as their own entity, unrelated to the rest of a city’s operations, not-
uncommon funding limitations leads to the opposite of collaboration – cut-throat competition for the
The following are examples of how cities are moving to bring their departments to integrate and
• Collaboration: establishing a Green Team
o Vancouver: has a “Green Team,” now made up of heads of all city departments for
improved ability to respond, integrate.
o Albuquerque: has a Green Team.
o Santa Monica: Brings departments together, in the same room, to help each other achieve
2010 sustainability goals.
Has been empowering
Has created a feedback loop of information
Has led to a transition out of discussion of issues in silo mentality to approach them
more from a whole systems view.
o RMI (Jonathan)
For a few cities, the very act of putting data together across department lines helped
break down silos
Knowing what is in the pipeline for city investments can do so similarly (example:
a new pipe installation for a stormwater management system could be replaced by
an investment instead in bio-swales, pervious pavement, cisterns)
City has a 5-year capital projects program, made into a large map (colorful, well
done) so everyone can easily see what projects are coming down the pipeline.
Helps all players by, for instance, identifying opportunities to leverage one
department’s project to achieve multiple goals beyond that one department. I
wondering how this helped with greening.
Investments today need to avoid unintended consequences
Need to force rigor into capital project decisions to anticipate consequences
Questions: How do we integrate this approach into methods, mechanisms, tools?
How to have this broader thinking applied to capital projects?
Infrastructure team is where the sustainability program puts in effort, changes how
project is designed
We get NGO’s involved with the developers
• Cleveland by Design to coordinate all groups that a developer would need
to go to and also act as the liaison to the city.
Sustaining the financial viability of the Sustainability Office
o Began by quietly inserting small amount of funding into the mayor’s budget bill.
• San Francisco
o Added a small percentage to building permit fees, allocated specifically to the
Sustainability Office. The total adds up, but is small enough on each permit to have not
caused a problem in its enactment and implementation.
o Local community foundation helped with seed money.
o Instituted a very small permit fee – 2.5% or 5%.
o Local environmental and sustainable organizations take our work and run with it, get better
press. They can be an extension of the work we do in a cost effective way.
o Add surcharge on demolition permits
It only takes a little bit of cash to get a program started
Budgeting for sustainability
In most cities, budgeting systems are typically not set up to optimize investments from a sustainability
perspective, even though a sustainability perspective can lead to better investment decisions. Following is
an example of participant experience with this problem.
o Trend is to lease municipal facilities for 99 years.
o The city is thus locked in – a bad idea; does not leave room for new technologies to come
in for better performance.
o Dialogue with city CFO to prevent long term locking in.
o Long-term lease would prevent opportunities for innovation.
Land-use measures as a lever for institutionalizing sustainability
• Examples sought of performance-based zoning that have been implemented and are tied to
• San Jose
o Redoing general plan now, different city since last time it was done a few decades ago.
o Sustainability one of the guiding principles.
o Will help politicians make good decisions, and mitigate political pressures to do the wrong
o Has growth boundaries, except one area . . . a new master plan.
o Using discussion, study session, stakeholder event.
o Importance of transparency in land use planning.
o Have planners focused on community areas (place-based thinking), not just topics
(housing, transportation, open space); will lead to integrated, systems-style thinking.
o Last time overall land use overhaul was 1960.
o Need to ensure short term actions are consistent with long term plans.
o Actions for long term success, not short term incrementalism.
o Land use has impacts for decades after decided.
On, for instance, transportation infrastructure, alternative fuels, transit .
Initiating, Expanding Sustainability Initiatives: Internal/City vs. External/Community Programs
Key question: Is it preferable to focus internally first? When to reach out to the public?
• Los Angeles
o That model (internal and external launched simultaneously) didn’t work.
o Have focused all energy internally, because cities must walk the talk.
o LEED mandate for the city led to raising the bar for the private sector.
o Began internally focused, now working to extend the reach.
o Building public support creates a check and balance on power of city.
• Santa Monica
o Started with strong municipal focus, gave legitimacy within community and allowed for
easier securing of resources. As community developed culture of sustainability, how to
institutionalize and decentralize. Awards, resources, reporting.
o 1/3 outside, 2/3 inside. Got criticism for not enough external communication.
Inter-local government entity collaboration for regional improvements, and for state and federal
Inter-city collaboration for state-level policy action
• San Francisco
o City governments working together to push state legislation.
o Working with Santa Monica.
o California product stewardship council – of which cities are an important part of the
membership – seeking statewide legislative action.
Schools are a potential partner, but are they/can they be a key player in helping local governments
achieve sustainability goals?
• In most cases, schools use the biggest share of state tax revenues, and in most cases, school
districts are not controlled by cities
• Los Angeles
o Historically outside, now mayor and legislation seeking to give LA Mayor some control
o Schools are a part of the city structure, governed by a committee appointed by the mayor.
o Connections through Rebuild America program
o Connections through non profits.
o Not getting through to administrators
o Getting through to students & teachers
• San Francisco
o Connection to nutrition/education/health in schools.
Regional Initiatives – Cities that are outreaching to surrounding suburban cities
• San Diego
Indicators as a tool for defining, serving and driving sustainability agendas and goals
• Unattributed/General comments
o Many organizations already cataloguing lists of indicators
o ICMA developed indicators for sustainability (Does anyone have these? I could not find
these on the ICMA web site – perhaps in the members only pages?)
o Question: Do community-created indicators focus more on today’s quality of life as
opposed to future-thinking sustainability?
o Question: Do we have or can we get a compilation of conference attendees’ community
o Question: Do most cities have accountability for sustainability within departments based
Response: Most hands went up
o Achievement on compliance and sustainability indicators led to department raises
o What gets measured gets done
o Quantified objectives broken into categories
o Annual report card
o Statewide benchmarks at state level and county level for accountability
o Community wide (dozen or so) indicators to motivate action
o Used mostly as a marketing campaign
o Match understandable with actionable (i.e. who understands PPM (parts per million)?)
o Indicators into eco-footprint, which merges ecological with social, economic.
• Santa Monica
o Addressing all three components of sustainability engenders some metrics that have very
fuzzy quantification, but broad appeal for motivating action.
o Difference between output (e.g. reports completed) and outcome (impacts of actions).
o Has put benchmarks/indicator goals into sustainability plan, looking to have the plan
• San Francisco
o Importance of using easy-to-measure indicators
Enables frequent monitoring and progress watching
Get it simple, get it monthly
Don’t spend too much time keeping score, or you won’t be able to play the game
o Notes that City Stat in Baltimore as the early adopter – an early version of indicators in
that City Stat sought to capture data on departmental activities (tons of trash picked up,
number of potholes filled compared to pothole complaints, etc.).
o Important to do more than just measure
o Telling one sentence anecdotal stories to communicate to masses
o Difference between indicators and performance measures
Indicators are quantitative
Performance measures are qualitative.
o Tying all measures back to fewer, larger, easier to understand measures
o Watch politics between making departments look bad via indicators
o Question: What happens if indicator goals aren’t met? Do jobs depend on it?
• San Francisco
o Indicators identify issues to deal with, help problem solving
o Show trends and allow mid course corrections
o Careful how you phrase indicators to the public; they may not be understandable
o Outcome ineffective if people don’t understand the message
o Indicators first defined in the early 90s, successful with communicating sustainability
o Ramped up sustainability discussion
o Competition on results, departmentally, NGOs
o Refrain from discussing relationships between indicators as the discussion will likely
confuse the public.
o Sustainable Seattle hosting regional information commons – to mesh, synthesize
How indicators connect, relate and what they say about performance
o Doesn’t think government is the right organization to do indicators
Conflict of interest in self-evaluating, self-defining what should be measured
• San Diego
o Led 2 year, external-to-government, funded process of community forums
o Tried to reach as many people as possible
o People had their own ideas, indicators
Hard to measure everything people care about
Lesson was that she was too gentle with coaching, filtered too much information
rather than let the community participants struggle with the complexities of the
• San Francisco
o Entice community with a campaign that can actually be accomplished, e.g. Closing
Hunters Point Power Plant
Easy to tell when you have succeeded/failed and community knows
Pick a few indicators to track, pair with campaigns that people can see
• A problem with environmental movement is people never think they win
• If you think things never end, no end is in sight, hard to rally support
• Santa Monica
o Indicators are an organized system
o Show successes and challenges to engage community dialogue/support
o Limit policy jargon
o Use desired outcomes, why important, how results achieved
o Watch for unintended consequences
Do you aim really high to motivate (or fail badly?)
Do you aim really low to ensure “success”?
• e.g. No Child Left Behind…good idea run amok
o Framing and use of words by different groups, need them to connect by compelling a
dialogue that results in agreement on language used to select and define indicators
o Local business engagement to implement, incorporate their manpower
o Community vs. city mismatches of definitions of excellence
At 45% recycling level, business/community think this is great
City sustainability thinks 80% is achievable
Find people in business, community groups to set the next standard
o Make departments rely on each other to meet performance indicators
• Santa Monica
o Has 80-120 indicators, forces dialogue for measurements
“We need this, on this regularity, for this use”
o Result has been awareness and relationships between departments
o See: www.smepd.org/scpr
• San Francisco
o Setting goals to 0% waste led to hiring of CH2MHill $500k contract to figure out how to
achieve that 0% goal.
An absurd goal or a catalyst for figuring out how/potentiality of success
• Santa Monica
o Aggressive vs. achievable goals depend on whether or not punitive
o Trying to build community dialogue with indicators project?
Start with achievable
Build culture, have successes, then transition to aggressive to spur creativity
o Huge mistake to use indicators for punishment
o Want indicators to be rallying point, not fear mongering
o Question: Are indicators a measure of success/failure for your Sustainability Offices?
Response: 10 hands went up
o You are talking about performance measures, not indicators
Public-private partnerships for environmental solutions
Plus economic development unrelated to public-private partnerships
o Use private sector as a model for stormwater, recycling, etc. Gets staff out of their box and
exposed to innovation.
o Company: Ecomedia and Cleveland are trying to negotiate terms. Used to be Adopt a
Waterway; helps compliance with Phase 2 EPA. Places signs to designate eco-zones
sponsored by companies. Split signage fees, revenue stream for sustainability programs.
Law department has some problems with language, especially exclusivity clause.
o Exclusivity clause: the can’t sign up with any other similar program, curtailing
o The idea works well in other cities and counties (e.g. Miami), creates good funding source,
o This idea is also applicable to the “institutionalizing sustainability” discussion above, as it
pertains to finding reliable, long-term funding mechanisms for a Sustainability Office.
o Has interest in growing sustainable industries.
o What role does city government have in economic development of businesses that have
products, services, technologies related to waste reduction, energy efficiency, green
o Went from two council members interested in sustainability to five because the three
converted council members were convinced of the job creation potential, industry
development potential of sustainability.
• RMI (Michael and Jonathan)
o Caution. Strong tendency to default to get next big high tech firm. Not a bad thing, but the
chances of that happening are low in cities that are not economically healthy.
o What can you actually do?
There is a ton to do with growing existing business and creating business
opportunities in general, not specifically targeting a certain industry or company.
Find the small renewable energy or energy efficiency firms already in your town.
• Example: economic gardening [Littleton, CO] making existing businesses
successful. Specific approach is to offer, at sliding fees, services that
support existing business.
• Do this with renewable energy firms in your city’s area.
• Do everything you can do with resource efficiency – it will ensure jobs.
• Firms find out about cities that do effective economic gardening and want
to locate in those places, instead of a city needing to attract them (with
scarce funds, unsustainablte tax breaks, etc.)
o Suggestion: Form an Environmental Technology Industry business/trade association
Ask members what they need to grow, prosper
• Office space, warehouse space, industrial space
• A built-in market from government policy through procurement.
• Regulatory changes to facilitate adoption of certain technologies.
o City is at the table, but we are not running the show.
o Did a business cluster inventory.
A lot of supply chain organizations.
What can be built on
• Energy sector
• Green building
• Industrial design
• Created design district around industrial design.
• A focus on wind energy.
o Company example: Clipper wind energy – 50% of its components
come from Ohio
Why aren’t they assembling here?
Strategy: Develop local capacity.
o Developed energy task force to figure out how county can enter into renewable and
efficient energy contracts. (Pointed out a need for a city Renewable Portfolio Standard
o Industrial Symbiosis / waste = revenue
Started by RMI. Now driven by Entrepreneurs for Sustainability ( Cleveland).
o Speed matching practice in UK (like speed dating, but to connect those with waste to those
who could use the waste as a manufacturing input)
o Bridging needs through waste-product synergy (closed loop system goal)
o Working on developing clean-tech advisory committee for mayor.
o Nurturing environmental entrepreneurs.
o Convening academia, leaders in clean tech sector, venture capitalists, labor groups
o Developing a sustainable business association.
o Giving out awards is huge. See them in front windows of shops. Great PR. Can become a
o Not just green washing, but have standards for allowing the use of the mayors “brand.”
Good for both business and the mayor.
o Focusing on four sectors: academia, health care, finance, and tourism.
Green guide for health care. Physicians for social responsibility.
Tourism with the Democratic National Convention.
Created Green restaurant and hotel programs.
Still in early stages, but taking off.
o We are starting off well greening our businesses.
o But they are still buying their stuff from other places.
o Why not somebody locally make this or that product, bring it home
Good for local economy
Remove transportation (i.e. embodied) energy costs.
Analogous with waste matching.
• RMI (Michael)
o Vendor matching program in Eugene.
Started by calling 40 local businesses (pre-internet, pre-database effort!): Requested
list of ten items purchased out of state.
Assembled the list
Then called local manufacturers, service providers, asking them if they wanted to
bid to supply this stuff.
Resulted in significant aggregate shift of procurement to local businesses
o In an industrial valley, with many recyclers
o But public dollars were going to outside landfills
o Seeking to move recyclable waste disposal to local, inner-city recyclers.
o Simple idea: what about using www.craigslist.com to match waste with recyclers
o Problem is that products aren’t being made locally right now
o But there are companies that could retool to make products needed locally
o Local green businesses – certifying them.
o Several counties have LEED-similar checklist for greening.
o Vertical sustainability expert came up with sustainable partners, closed system supply
o We need jobs.
o We are going to seed a very small sector to provide grants and contracts that integrate
energy efficiency type skills in job training programs.
o Lots of money going to energy efficiency upgrades and solar installations that have hiring
preferences for local people coming from these educational programs.
o See Yes! Magazine, Winter ‘07
o We have curriculum for green construction, but not yet a program to match graduates with
o Our academic community is doing fine, but we need to place the people coming out of
o Recycling of appliances and electronics.
Organization collects all this liability-filled electronic waste
Employs homeless to break down this stuff and build it back up
Low wage jobs, but suits some people’s skill levels
Builds new/enhanced job skills
Provides increased financial independence.
Solves a waste problem
o Goodwill has set up a similar program.
o City does the calls and coordinates pickup.
o Goodwill fixes recycled products with their labor and sells them in their stores.
Growing and buying locally grown food for economic development, neighborhood revitalization
• Lawrence Township, NJ
o Buying local food in NJ, we convinced the prison system to buy local.
o They buy tons of potatoes, so local contracts going to local farmers.
o Schools are a big opportunity here.
o These people typically go to the lowest bidder; working on developing local supplier-buyer
o Active community gardeners took old abandoned sites in poorest, most distressed
o Takes inner city kids that work on suburban farms and take suburban kids to work on
urban farms to sell to local markets.
o In looking for more space in Boston, we are moving them onto green roofs in the city.
o Problem: Community gardens are against zoning regulations.
o You can only have agriculture in city if it is a minor part of a residential lot.
o Have to worry about unoccupied land – might have contamination from lead based paints,
o Bioremediation is a great opportunity here.
o Primarily private funding, we give them the land, they do fund raising.
o They have food product to sell to local markets. Easy to fundraise for these types of
• RMI (Jonathan)
o Use raised beds to plant agricultural crops for sale while underlying land is being
o We had a council-driven initiative where we are trying to figure out how to use traffic
calming islands (and for greening efforts generally – e.g. living wall technologies, which
are coming down in price).
o Close the loop and tie this to residential organic composting. Eliminate collection of
composting. Compost at block scale and use the compost for local urban gardening (what
about temporary, movable recycling centers that can move around the city?).
o Social enterprise is alive here.
o Community gardens are working well, at least according to SustainLane.
o Have a couple of champions.
o Allowing people to use land bank parcels
Formerly, city-owned parcels were not sold for community gardens, but to
developers to spur neighborhood revitalization goals – for $100.
Now community garden advocates pay $100 for the land and the minimal taxes on
Lots of open cheap land.
City Fresh Program
• Trying to educate very poor in our city.
• Program has excess food that local markets will buy and this is a revenue
• Partnering with Ohio State now.
• Has had huge success.
o We are a water restricted area.
o Sold community gardens to Planning Department as an opportunity for pervious land.
Does a lot for flood control
Solves other problems
Community learns to urban farm and benefits from the produce.
• San Francisco
o Funding farmers market in low income neighborhood.
o London study defined the many tons of CO2 embodied in imported food. So now SF
requires the city’s food vendors to change their policy to favor local food purchasing.
o Requiring hospitals to use local food.
Key leverage points for critical change
Key Areas on Which to Work – State/Federal Policy Level
The following list came from a focused conversation on areas where conference participants feel a need
for state and/or federal policy changes to make radical, as opposed to incremental, improvements toward
o Energy efficiency and renewable energy
o How to make transit funding work better
• Land Use
o How to make high density work
o Roads/Transit Oriented Development
o Performance-based zoning
Framing land use, smart growth through the lens of sustainability
• Waste – a Whole Systems review of waste
o Cradle to cradle
o Extended producer responsibility laws
o Eco-system services
o Economic development – localization (of purchasing, food production and procurement)
o Attracting industries that match water supplies in terms of intensity of each industry’s
• Housing/Jobs proximity, balance
• Social infrastructure and civic engagement
In regards to this discussion, some participants had specific insights:
o Climate protection as an overarching Federal Policy topic, under which these selected
topics can fall
o DOE and DOT don’t have any concept of energy efficiency policy. Need to collectively
act on power plants and automobiles.
o The Austin area’s Metro Planning organization wants more land and transit planning to
support this, but we need the Feds to break link between gas tax and roads, and instead
siphon into transit.
• RMI (Michael)
o This is not a partisan or big government issue; these are pragmatic solutions that both
parties should embrace.
• Los Angeles
o If we are going to talk about land use, what are we going to talk about? It is so broad.
o Something that has not come up is the issue of brownfields; would they fit under economic
Participants’ recent and impactful specific sustainability initiative
o We are buying 100% wind power for city government operations. It is 50MW of wind, $70
million dollars. We sold this by going to finance office and showing them power price
escalating. Our electric utility provider wanted to charge us for green tags, so instead we
did a RFP and got lots of responses. Trying to settle legal hurdles, hopefully have good
news to share soon.
o Was easy to require bio-diesel in vehicle fuels provider contract. Led to requirement that
all diesel used by city vehicles must be 5% bio-diesel.
o Our mayor is a density nut (pro density that is). Ecodensity initiative that will force us to
have some interesting conversations with less dense parts of the city. Both ecological
footprint and affordability implications. Will hopefully have interesting fallout.
o Also, dealing with Olympic committee and their planning. We are trying to force them to
embrace 2 initiatives.
Support water refilling stations for downtown and refilling stations to prevent
purchase of bottled water; finance the program by increasing deposits on water
purchased in bottles. Could be tied into social enterprises that already collect
Trying to create a portable bottling facility and refillable bottles. Mobile unit would
go around filling bottles instead of shipping bottles all over the place. Bottled and
branded so people keep the bottle. Interesting to see how economics sort out. Re-
localize the bottled water sector. Import-replacement example.
o Green energy program is over subscribed.
o Pushing Plug-in Hybrid program. Carbon neutral, need to de-carbonize the grid. Not going
to get it all with biomass. Need storage to balance generation and demand. Store energy in
car batteries. Started 300+ partners on this.
o In 2002, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, in partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric,
initiated a “Smart Lights” program, which targets small businesses that fall under the radar
of the local utility’s energy efficiency outreach programs and are too small to have trained
energy managers. Going block by block in local business districts, a local non-profit, the
Community Energy Services Corporation, conducts free energy audits for interested
businesses. The audit report outlines the benefits of energy efficiency improvements. The
program is designed so that the average payback period on the energy efficiency
improvements (through electric bill savings) is one year—and the program provides instant
rebates to help defray the cost of the improvements. Thus, even businesses with leases as
short as two years have sound economic reasons to make the improvements. In addition,
most energy efficiency improvements improve both the customer and employee experience
in the business. The program is so successful that businesses that initially declined to take
part are calling the cities after learning of their neighbors’ positive experiences. 2. Our
Residential Energy Ordinance. 12 items. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Fran group. Every
home that gets sold will get a home energy rating. Will create not just list of things to do,
but a home specific efficiency upgrade plan. Requires all new homes to do all cost
effective efficiency measures. Real estate industry will see this, makes efficiency
transparent to the buyer for green building. Free consultation to designers. Any transfer of
sale, even for built homes. Market will drive this once the information is available.
Working with lenders to create energy efficient mortgages, roll the efficiency measures
o Working together, the cities of Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland are creating a new
Residential Energy Ordinance, which is expected to jump-start the home energy-rating
market. Once sufficient raters (technicians) are available, the ordinance will require that
every home sold get either a home energy rating or have basic energy efficiency systems
installed. The rating will include an energy efficiency upgrade plan specific to each home.
Officials expect that homebuyers will make a better financial decision (based on the full
monthly carrying costs of the home, rather than just the mortgage payment in isolation),
thus driving the real estate industry to design and build energy efficient homes. At the
same time, the cities are working with lenders to leverage mortgages for energy efficient
houses, which allow for a) rolling the costs of implementing energy efficiency measures
into the financing and b) accounting for lower operating costs (i.e., lower utility bills) in
determining the size of the loan that a borrower can service.
o City departments incorporating an Environmental Management System. Seeking to
become ISO 14001 certified – almost halfway through.
o We make departments talk by bringing employees to one room to talk about what they did.
They share ideas.
o Police department used to leave flares on the road. Now they pick up their flares. A lot of
wonderful, easy to do things.
o Fighting 17 proposed new coal-fired power plants (coal), Mayor has 20 cities contributing
$10K each to fight power plants. Two foundations donated $250K today to fight this.
Three of the permits are being heard on the same day, in different towns.
o Next year is solar conference in Cleveland (http://www.ases.org/solar2007/index.htm). Try
to get a MW of solar.
o Trying a solar thermal utility at a waste water plant.
Challenge: Munis can’t participate in private tax incentives.
o Put solar hot water on recreation centers, meter these to heat pools, etc.
Potential new source of revenue by selling this to recreation centers.
o CA has state energy standards. Marin petitioning to state energy commission for changes
to discourage or green huge homes.
Rich people building huge homes. They are so desperate to get approval.
Any house built larger than 3,500 sq. ft. has to meet Title 24 energy standards.
• To meet Title 24 standards, they will have to install solar PV.
• Added benefit: generate local green business activity.
o Working now to institute an affordable housing fee for big homes. Big homes will have to
pay additional fees to go towards affordable housing.
o Green building program
Buildings above a certain size have to get more green points.
• Lawrence Township, NJ (this example may be from Pam Mount’s Orchard business, not the
o Started farmers against hunger. Transportation problem at heart. Have trucks and drivers
that aid in delivery of produce to churches and food banks. Reforming food banks so that
they have refrigerators and have to deliver food quickly. Otherwise food would go to
waste. If produce doesn’t meet grocery store specs, it typically goes to compost; now it
goes to underprivileged, under-fed people. Federal government is allowing grocery stores
to give up extra produce to the same programs.
o Incentives to green developers a few months ago. If a developer is asking for a rezoning,
the year-long permit process is reduced to 6 month, which has made large developments
(ten so far) go green. Get processing priority over other cases. For neighborhood-sized
developments, using Florida’s own State Green Building Council green building
coalition’s and standards.
• San Jose
o Wastewater treatment plant. Many unsustainable practices. Held a party at its 50th
anniversary celebration. Over 1,000 people came. Showing off the plant changed the
morale of the workers, improving problems with labor. Helped labor issues. Infrastructure
built in early 70s, needs to be replaced. Now community saw plant, hope this will help
raise money. Now, master planning effort. Part of the party allowed community input for
sustainable development of plant. Biosolids that went to the landfill now go to more
productive uses. Looking into the plant’s discharges into south bay. 1,700 acres of land,
worth $2.5 billion dollars in the San Jose real estate market. Solar energy came up across
the board. How can this look like something other than a WWTP 50 years out. Make it
more natural, green. Constructed wetland is at the top of the list. Use all these acres.
• Highland Park, NJ
o While installing rain gardens downtown to bioremediate water, found original granite
blocks laid in city. Using them in streetscape instead of pavers.
o View the reuse of the granite blocks as historic preservation.
o Afraid as a newcomer to write lots of ordinances. Started getting phone calls. One was
from developer. Wanted to redevelop 25 acre site, downtown, one of the old breweries.
City wants it to be LEED-ND pilot project. Developer wants to avoid getting entangled in
city bureaucracy. Developer will control 100% stormwater by using streets internal to the
development as waterways. Developer is all about legacy. Sets nice example.
• Anchorage (as reported by RMI – Jonathon)
o Message to skeptics about the environment: “In my job, I create jobs, reduce waste, save
o Specific innovative program: Taking used cooking oil that used to go to Seattle to be a pet-
food input (which rising fuel prices have now made uneconomical to do as a disposal
strategy), and making bio-fuels out of it. Now there is too much demand for vegetable oil
o LEED-ND – city would like to be a pilot. How to certify existing ND developments. Might
create buzz, a feather in the cap, nice marketing tool.
o Looking to rebuild airport eventually – wants the rebuild to be green
• Kansas City
o Mayor Kay Barnes launched the Million Lights initiative, whose goal is to swap out one
million incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). The City had more
than 14,000 CFLs donated from Burns & McDonnell (an international engineering,
architecture, and consulting firm based in Kansas City) and a consortium of the KC
Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 124 for distribution to low-income households.
Ace Hardware and Hy-Vee grocery stores are offering discounts that, when combined with
Kansas City Power & Light -provided rebates, bring the price of the CFLs down to 99
cents apiece. The program is so successful that the retailers are having difficulty keeping
CFLs in stock.
o Very aggressive stormwater runoff program.
o Business sector: There had been no stormwater utility fee, no connection between water
use and stormwater fee. With fee in place, businesses can now get 50% fee mark off for
quality issues, another 50% to keep all the stormwater within business site’s footprint.
o Very difficult for churches, providing them with help and funding.
• Santa Monica
o “Solar Santa Monica” program: seeks to make the city carbon neutral through an array of
distributed energy solutions. The City recently completed a rooftop survey of all
buildings—public and private—within City limits to determine the square footage
available for solar panels. Santa Monica will start with 50 installations that will be used to
demonstrate how bundling efficiency and solar energy can shorten payback periods.
o Developing a sustainable economic development program
Questions: What does it look like? Developing a strategy for city within a
megalopolis: what does this mean for a region?
Coordination with business and economic development.
o New position: Sustainable Community Liaison.
• Los Angeles
o Initiative to plant one million trees in three years.
o Expedited permit process for green buildings.
o Airport expanding to 75 million passengers a year. Planning a green development for the
o Plan to green the port’s emissions (the Port is the entry point for 40% of all US goods)
o LA Department of Water and Power to be 20% renewable by 2010.
o Second largest green municipal car fleet in the nation (after New York).
o Launching rooftop garden initiative, ordinance changes to facilitate
o Energy and water are huge issues for Tucson.
o City has adopted LEED standards.
o Zoo will be the first Platinum LEED zoo building; putting in new learning center, promote
o Promoting water conservation for restoration and landscaping and neighborhood scale
water budgets, getting credit for regional restoration projects. Part of the pool goes to
neighborhood landscaping remodels for xeriscaping/lower water usage designs and plants.
o Had a requirement to set aside 1% of a project’s funding for capital improvement
investments. Yet the city code did not deem eligible investments that would reduce
greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
o Requirement now changed from 1% to 3%, and GHG reduction investments now qualify
as a capital improvement.
o Climate action plan being put together.
o Energy efficiency and landfill gas has been done.
o Carbon neutral city fleet – 2,500 vehicles
o Funding for urban forest program.
o Slogans onto fleet vehicles improves public awareness on climate change.
o Green building initiative. Will have GB in zoning.
o Small turbine on southeast expressway to expose people to this technology.
o Small powered trash compactor. Bought 2, in three months they were a hit with workers
and community. Now bought 50. Cost $4000 apiece. Expensive. They are in parks right
o Climate action plan. Leading Seattle climate partnership, agreement to private sector
employers (some public too). Do own carbon footprints and action plans. In exchange,
technical assistance program for energy efficiency and renewables, waste reductions,
o Goal is to have 100 members by end of next year; have 26 now. Might spin it off to house
it in nonprofit next year.
o Dept of Planning and Development – Green Factor program: regulatory requirement that
neighborhood business districts leave 30% of sites green. Different items qualify for
points. LEED-like in that way. Leave lot with trees, or green roofs, green walls. Flexible
point based, but a requirement.
• San Diego
o First municipal landfill to achieve ISO 14001.
o The city’s operations could actually be net zero in CO2, but that would only be 3% of the
overall, community-wide emissions.
o Sustainability Director just got two days learning from 31 sustainability colleagues.
Ideas for Next Steps for the group, once this conference ends
Ideas from the conference can be framed in two categories:
Capacity building within cities and counties: Ideas to help cities and counties improve their effectiveness
in developing, implementing, and achieving their sustainability goals.
Alliance building among cities and counties: Ideas to help cities and counties work together to affect
changes in regional, state, and federal bureaucracies and policies, where such changes will
remove barriers and create incentives to allow cities and counties to be more effective in
achieving their sustainability goals.
Maintaining the group
Some ideas apply to both categories, including a universally expressed desire to maintain and possibly
expand the group for future virtual and real get-togethers. Specifically, the group suggested the
following, with noted caveats:
• Another meeting of this type, possibly on an annual basis.
o Such meetings would have to have specific, clearly defined and tangible benefits for
attendees given the flood of meeting requests many participants receive.
o Some worried that the value of the meeting would be diluted if too many additional people
o Should a next meeting include elected officials, or keep it staff-level only; or separate
meeting for local elected officials? There seemed be a consensus for staff-only gatherings.
o Santa Monica: we need to do this exact same thing again, dialogue!
• Specific comments from cities
o San Francisco: we are all in the same boat. The utility is to meet! To inspire and have
many way communication.
o Vancouver: the value of getting together: good to compare, see what others are doing,
keeps “green cities” accountable, honest, pushing forward.
o Austin: when innovation is shared, risk of individual work is reduced; leverage is increased
because precedent has been set.
o Cleveland: next meeting maybe with breakout sessions on specific issue areas; helpful to
hear how cities are implementing programs with limited staff.
• Formalizing the group (e.g. into an association)
o Marin: wants a formal sustainability directors group.
o Boston: we need to be staffed in some way in order for this group to be sustained.
o Cleveland: sees the group becoming more formalized
• RMI can serve as a message carrier and information disseminator.
• Technology could be used to facilitate continued communication, innovation sharing.
o Email list serve.
o Portland: Suggested Wikipedia as a medium (an online encyclopedia where multiple
authors provide information on topics, thus benefiting from “group think”; access to
contributing to and viewing the content can be restricted).
o Santa Monica: RMI could facilitate a robust online dialogue or Wikipedia-type effort, but
there would need to be a budget; a basic structure could be free or very low cost to launch
o Many participants are already on many list serves; some are helpful, some are not.
Participants fear online-resource overload.
Already underway: Some informal collaboration for internal improvement efforts is taking place. For
• Emails have been sent to all participants from each other asking for:
o Job descriptions
o Job candidates
o Ordinances that successfully argued for the creation of a City Manager- or Mayor’s Office-
located Office of Sustainability
• Pair cities that have particular problems with those that have found solutions.
• Apply systems thinking to different situations and then compare notes.
• Learning face-to-face what innovative programs that others have done makes it easier to take that
program home and implement it; better than reading about the idea on paper.
• Milwaukee: Need skills, for example, budgeting and crafting indicators to be useful to mayors.
Collaboration for regional, state, federal barrier removal
• US Conference of Mayors (USCM)
o At the USCM annual winter meeting in Washington, DC (January 24-26, 2007), a
committee of (40?) mayors will discuss climate change and sustainability issues.
Committee chaired by Seattle, and Carmel, Indiana.
Proposal: Create a document that proposes a specific climate change/sustainability
policy agenda for this USCM committee.
Subgroup of conference participants to draft the document, contact their US mayors
(San Diego, Chicago….).
• Identify five to ten specific policy levers.
• One strategy might be to provide a short list of policy levers, but select just
one on which to act immediately, for example a specific piece of legislation.
Each Boulder-conference participant can feed the document to their respective
Steve Nicholas offered to coordinate the work.
o Seattle: Most promising pathway for collective action is the USCM’s and individual cities’
commitments to the Kyoto protocol.
Invest in this to make it work (we will be implementing anyways).
o Question posed: Can climate change unify sustainability efforts within and among cities?
Transit, land use planning, energy, waste management, buying locally – these and
other sustainability topics all touch on climate change to varying degrees.
o Boston: US Conference of Mayors hasn’t been pushing legislation, only best management
o Boston: How might this group interact with such other organizations as ICLEI, ICMA,
NACO, USCM, and League of Cities?
• Regional groups of sustainability directors, or groups based on similar city characteristics.
• San Francisco: We may be redefining what a state means, for example, a collection of cities that
represent the state instead of the reverse. We want the state to empower us to do our work better,
Already underway: Some group members are already collaborating:
• Minneapolis, Denver and Boulder are all Xcel Energy customers, so will share ideas on how to
move Xcel to more sustainable practices.
• The seven California cities in attendance are eager to advance their previous level of collaboration
(some worked together on successful passage of climate change legislation).
• Oakland and Austin may work together on an initiative to integrate plug-in hybrid cars and the
Additional ideas, many discussed at the Saturday morning 4 November debriefing breakfast with
Richardson, Strong, Kinsley, Page, and Kevles.
• Convene utility company representatives
• Convene finance people
• Convene a New Jersey regional or statewide counterpart to the Boulder session, funded by Dodge.
• A session for the cities and staff in cities that are just beginning sustainability efforts.
• Convene counties
o Alameda County in California’s Bay Area emailed the following:
“I’m also very interested in your thoughts how we might go about developing a
similar gathering with a focus on counties. The counties we’ve spoken with are
very interested in a forum to share our unique challenges and opportunities.”
(Emily Sadigh, County of Alameda, General Services Agency)
o Boulder County, Colorado emailed the following
“Counties as a whole are pretty far behind cities when it comes to a focus on
sustainability but there are beginning to be more counties with some kind of focus
on climate change, energy or sustainability. I'm interested in figuring out some
venues for bringing some of these counties together, and figuring out a way to
catalyze more county action.” (Will Toor, County Commissioner, and Conference
o Counties, as well as cities, are part of ICLEI’s “Cities for Climate” Protection campaign
At least 28 counties
Chittenden County, VT Dane County, WI
County of Schenectady, NY Delta County, MI,
County of Suffolk, NY Washtenaw County, MI
County of Tompkins, NY Ramsey County, MN
County of Westchester, NY Hennepin County, MN
Arlington County, VA Multnomah County, OR
Alachua County, FL King County, WA
Broward County, FL Spokane County, WA
Hillsborough County, FL Alameda County, CA
Miami-Dade County, FL Marin County, CA
Orange County, FL, San Francisco (city &
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY county), CA
Montgomery County MD, Sonoma County, CA
Prince George's County, MD Santa Clara County, CA
Orange County, NC
o Funding source ideas and convening opportunities for counties
Conference partial-funding opportunity through the Johnson Foundation - provides
their Wingspread facility, planning support, complete a/v support, meals, ground
transportation from the Milwaukee Airport, and partial housing subsidies
The National Association of Counties (NACO) Annual Conference for 2007 is July
13-17 in Richmond, VA
Alameda County is hosting the California Association of Counties annual meeting
in November 2007
• Determine where to take the whole-systems thinking concepts?
• Determine where to go with the group as a group:
o Range from an informal network to the establishment of a formal membership
• California would like funding to convene a statewide policy-setting meeting (for travel costs).
• Meetings not only for solutions setting, but also to increase capacity to create new solutions,
integrated solutions, within a particular [e.g. whole-system] framework.
• Capacity building: case studies as a learning methodology; Socratic method.
o Kevles has begun a tentative effort to look for whole-systems case studies that pertain to
sustainability, especially in the public sector, but not exclusively.
o Political-management capacity building.
• Systems thinking training for USCM members?
• Helping cities find dedicated sources of funding for their programs, offices, staff.
• Look to local universities as sources of assistance for cities.
• Establish an ongoing information and support service for sustainability directors, which in effect
serves the function of a professional association.
o Establish the RMI service
Explore fee-based approach
Seek grants to seed the effort
o Pursue such activities as the following based on the Boulder conference.
Help establish city sustainability offices where none exist.
Find technical support for city sustainability in nearby universities and colleges.
Maintain a website that contains practical resources (e.g. ordinances) for
implementing and institutionalizing sustainability, including (but not limited to):
• Long-term funding mechanisms for particular city sustainability programs,
• Savings-generating city programs that would pay for sustainability positions
• Job descriptions for sustainability positions
• Salary surveys for sustainability positions
• Budgeting procedures for lifecycle-cost analysis
• Sustainability-tailored performance evaluation and compensation practices
o Write case studies of sustainability solutions, emphasizing whole-system aspects
o Support additional cities’ efforts to engage their respective electric utilities
o Develop a training curriculum on managing for city sustainability
o Develop a training curriculum on financing for city sustainability
o Develop a system-thinking training for city staff and electeds (early version has already
been conducted six times by RMI.)
What participants got out of attending the conference, comments on conference structure
• Unattributed/General Comments
o Applying systems thinking approach to different situations and then comparing notes
o If I can take back ideas that have been implemented in another city then I can implement it
almost for sure; better to hear about a program in person than seeing the idea on paper.
o Mentoring very important
o If there is one thing I can “cannibalize,” then I think the conference is a success.
o Leveraging social marketing research will jump start my social marketing research
• San Fran
o We are all in the same boat, the utility is to meet! To inspire and have many way
o Re-inspired and re-invigorated.
o Good to compare, see what others are doing, keeps “green cities” accountable.
o If people can get one thing out of this meeting and take it home then it will be successful.
o Note: Everyone raised hands to show they will take home at least one thing!
o The conference helped me feel secure that my instincts are on the right track
o Feel like I have this as a support group that I can go to.
• San Diego
o We don’t get opportunities to meet like this often, so thank-you
o We all go to meetings sort of like this, they are usually dog and pony shows (where
participants are constantly one-upping each other), that didn’t happen here at all. Michael
did a tremendous job corralling this group. And this group did a great job not giving
o Gratified that there wasn’t a structured program
o Ideas, 15 pages of notes
Communicating with people in person.
Could have benefited from a little bit more structure, felt like we were skipping
around a lot. A little more structure around process would have allowed us to get
o Liked the conversation.
o Good to see how other cities have been able to implement even with small staff.
o Feels like I got a plan.
o The more I engage in my work everyday I get dumbed down. I feel like I need this retreat,
remembering all the books and knowledge I love so much.
o I have training needs, but I don’t know how to fill them yet.
o I need skills, e.g. a package that allows me to walk into a budget meeting and speak
effectively for sustainability.
Comment summaries from specific topic discussions
Public outreach, promoting successes
• Unattributed/general comments
o Challenge: how to communicate, create a vision?
• San Francisco
o How to link money spent on outreach to measuring how effective outreach strategies have
been in reaching your goals
o Have 200 parishes in our city that will show the Al Gore movie in their church. That is a
strategy for how we get the federal policies to change.
o I am big on celebrating local success, but how do we talk about it? Do we focus on
successes, even the “obvious” ones? Or is it just people doing what needs to be done
anyhow? How you package it is really important.
• Santa Monica
o NIMBY'ism is a simple problem of definition, communication; e.g. it's not that people
don’t want pumping stations, it’s that they don’t want the current design of pumping
systems in their neighborhoods (noisy, ugly)
o How do you organize the right level of public participation so it is beneficial?
• RMI (Michael)
o It seems that most of what we hear about what’s happening in the world is what’s
happening in Washington, DC,
o But what you don’t hear about is what is happening in other cities
o This history that you are making is invisible to others.
o I would like us to figure out how to get the word out about this invisible movement. The
press needs to understand that.
• Unattributed/general comments
o Need to connect the New Urbanists and traffic engineers
o Public transit: commuter acceptance problem, e.g. time between trains, knowing how much
time until the next train
• Denver – roads won’t grow, by policy
• San Diego -- $$$ go to communities that grow roads (perverse incentive!)
• Portland – won’t grow roads, by policy
o Regional players need to be engaged
o Stakeholder analysis while assessing leverage points
• Boston – pressure to reduce traffic congestion can be dealt with in different, more positive ways
• San Francisco
o Transit first policy has budgeting, agenda priority
• San Francisco
o Incentives for energy efficiency first, then renewables in power purchasing
o Energy dispatch into the grid, a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
requirement that public utilities invest in energy efficiency before being permitted to add
supply to the grid through the construction of new power plants (need to confirm)
o This type of big, long-term policy prevents short term thinking
Waste generation, recycling, disposal
o Change the question: why is the city charged for dealing with waste
o Need to make corporations responsible for their own waste
o Need to get right people around the table to get it right
o Great thinking/innovation out there; need to integrate it all
o Extended producer responsibility, what triggers that epiphany
Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, imagery of floating waste barges
o Short term solutions are burying the long term problem
o Built household hazardous waste facility…wrong move?
Provided ease for propagation of a problem
o Recycle Bank: for profit corporation that will run your recycle program
o Provide big, scannable bins, PR campaign, will pay households for recycling with coupons
o Guaranteed results; the company captures the savings with their margins
o Historically, no trash fees
• Los Angeles
o Dealing with short term and long term division
o Mayor promised to close main landfill by 2015
o How to meet this seemingly unrealistic target, 75% recycling goal
o Generated action to get to long term solution
o Would cost $25 million in fees to export trash to other places
• New York City
o Mayor Bloomberg’s cessation and renewal of container recycling – compelled recycling
program to prove its cost-effectiveness
• RMI (Chris Page)
o Private sector best for innovation, worst for long term results
o How to match these synergistic traits
• Santa Monica
o City leveraging power to design sustainability into the system
o Instead of merely using sustainability to deal with outputs
o Need to attack the root causes
Development, implementation of specific programs
• Unattributed/general comments
o Main message was that we needed to get at least one elected official to take the big step
o Requirements vs. Voluntary—we don’t have time for voluntary anymore
o Bring innovative design to what is usually reduction analysis
• San Diego
o Assumption I made is that if you give people enough information they will make the right
decision. I am rethinking that. Mandates should be looked at.
o Need to identify what you can control and then apply system thinking.
o Another part is how do you affect change.
o Bringing in outside people to talk to specific issues can help overcome directly conflicting
o Need to bring everyone to the table to discuss all options for an issue, look far forward.
o Helpful as private sector is usually ahead in many areas.
o Need to remember to ask the right questions and include the right people.
o Social infrastructure and civic engagement. There is no coordination between groups that
provide social services; you need to be able to lay over a map of the social services
infrastructure over the city so people don’t become compartmentalized and individualistic.
• Santa Monica
o Question: In regards to shaping/improving projects and programs not initiated in
sustainability offices, what is the function of making sure we have a seat at the table?
o Answer: We should shape the dialogue, the development of the project/program as if we
are designers, not regulators, not just be happy that we are at the table
• We have an opportunity to see ourselves in this new light, and have others see us in
this new light
• San Francisco
o Question: how to get a seat at the table?
o Answer: Have allies in departments throughout the city
o Need departments and internal champions to take ownership and spread the workload
instead of growing sustainability team.
Sourcing capital for investments in sustainable projects
o Investment (pension investment) as a leverage point. Individual cities and as a group.
o Pension as financing arm
• Part of Olympics planning; could we create a legacy fund for buildings?
• Did a business case analysis to engage pension funds
• Clear message that there is a need and market for that sort of a tool
• Need to recognize the key moves before you go forward