Rosana Francescato's blog

How Mosaic Brings Solar to the 75%

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From the roof of my condo complex in a sunny part of San Francisco, I can see solar panels on at least a few houses on each surrounding block.

 

Are We at the Solar Tipping Point?

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Many claims are being made these days that we’re at the tipping point for solar.

Green Education, Green Jobs, and You

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What's the value of a green education in getting a green job? Here's your chance to find out!

 

The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Project Management Institute has been holding a series of 3-hour interactive Green Project Management seminars on topics like sustainability at major corporations, case studies on green projects, and even fusion energy. For more, see the PMI SF Bay Area green blog.

 

Our November seminar, on Saturday the 19th, will cover the importance of green education in getting a green job. It’s crucial for project managers to be familiar with current legislation and how it affects the overall supply chain. As we move toward stricter standards and globalization of products and services, we must be informed about how products are harvested, manufactured, and distributed throughout the globe. Kelle McMahon, CEO of the Green Science Academy, will show us how the landscape of the job market has changed, making project management skills even more valuable -- in fact, vital -- in today’s job market. She will explain how the skills she developed as a project manager helped her build a company that supports the triple bottom line: people, planet, and sustainable profits. Moreover, she will explore how you can transfer your skills to a job in a green industry, as well as showing how green education will differentiate you from other professionals in the marketplace. If you’re thinking of moving into a green job, this workshop will be perfect for you.

 

To register, go to the PMI registration page

 

Seminar Series - Details

The Green Project Management Seminar Series is co-sponsored by Keller Graduate School and the Project Management Institute San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. The seminars are held on the third Saturday of each month from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon PDT, at Keller Graduate School’s Daly City location. For details and registration information, click here.

Learn About Green Project Management at Saturday Seminars

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The business world is starting to see the benefits of sustainability in all aspects of operations. More and more companies are finding that being sustainable not only helps their bottom line but also improves their brand reputation and their employees’ health and satisfaction. In fact, a recent MIT Sloan report notes that most businesses are anticipating “a world where sustainability is becoming a mainstream, if not required, part of the business strategy.”

 

Project management is already concerned with reducing costs, increasing value, and protecting scarce resources — all practices that fit nicely with being green. So it’s no surprise that businesses and project managers are incorporating green practices and considerations into many projects, not just those in a sustainable industry. All projects affect the environment somehow, and a project manager can help mitigate that by considering the environmental effects of a project and of the deliverables resulting from the project.

 

Seminar series

To delve into this more, the Project Management Institute SF Bay Area chapter and Keller Graduate School are co-sponsoring a series of 3-hour interactive seminars presenting case studies and interactive discussions about fascinating projects involving sustainability. Some examine projects for which a sustainable goal was the main deliverable, while others focus on projects that incorporated sustainable practices into aspects of project planning and execution. All the seminars provide stimulating insights into the benefits of sustainable projects and processes.

 

Our first seminar, in July 2011, provided a fascinating look at Walmart's journey to sustainability. Walmart went from corporate social responsibility pariah to a leader in green business, seemingly overnight. What happened to cause this shift? Is it real? What can it teach us about creating change in the companies where we work? As Bay Area sustainability strategist Mikhail Davis showed in his presentation, Walmart made a major commitment to achieve this transformation. In the process, the world's largest retailer reinvented itself and established a uniquely influential position in the green economy.

 

Green project management case study, Saturday Aug 20

At our second seminar, project manager Pete Marsh will recount the challenges of managing a $1.6M project to build a telecommunications site, with an off-grid PV hybrid electrical system, in a state park on a remote island. The complexities included dual customers, myriad stakeholders, challenging logistics (how many projects have to clear goats from a grass strip runway?!), and a complex environmental assessment. At this seminar, an in-depth retrospective of the project will be followed by hands-on breakouts to crowdsource ideas for what could have been done better.

 

Seminar info

The seminars are held at the Keller Graduate School’s Daly City location from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon PDT on the third Saturday of each month. For more details and to register, visit the PMI SF Bay Area Chapter website.

The Power of One

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At the July EcoTuesday gathering in San Francisco, Sue Amar, Sustainability Officer at salesforce.com, referenced what Malcolm Gladwell calls the "law of the few" (aka the 80/20 principle), according to which 20% of the people will bring about 80% of the changes in the world. She's a prime example of this herself, having single-handedly started a robust sustainability program at salesforce.com.

 

While many companies have recently embraced sustainability, Sue explained how salesforce.com, with their commitment to the cloud, goes beyond the usual efforts to green the supply chain, travel, facilities, and other such areas. But beware: You may think you're already using the cloud, but not all clouds are created equal! The salesforce.com sustainability site delineates the differences:

  • On-premises cloud: Onsite hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • Private (or "false") cloud: A cloud that's housed in a data center, uses virtualization technology, or is hosted -- and still requires hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • 100% cloud: A cloud that uses "multitenant architecture" to allow sharing and economies of scale -- using a small number of servers that are optimized to do as much as possible. This cloud has the benefit of being 64% more efficient than the private cloud and 95% more efficient than an on-premises cloud.

 

This kind of focus has made salesforce.com a leader in sustainability among high-tech companies. Their commitment to sustainability has been solidified and advanced by one employee, Sue, who started their sustainability program as a volunteer (in addition to doing her regular job) and now leads the effort full-time.

A section of the audience at EcoTuesday

 

EcoTuesday itself is another excellent example of the power of one or two people. Just a few years ago, the organization didn't exist, and now, thanks to its two founders, Nikki Pava and Oren Jaffe, it's spread to cities throughout the U.S and is providing a wonderful and inspiring venue to learn about what people like Sue Amar are doing.

 

This latest EcoTuesday gathering has inspired me to look into how I can help promote sustainability at my own workplace. Although Adobe is already strong in this area, I know there's always more that can be done.

 

Every EcoTuesday evening I've attended has been similarly inspiring. I've met others working on sustainability and learned about all kinds of green resources and ideas.

 

Over a year ago, Erica Mackie spoke at EcoTuesday about GRID Alternatives, a local nonprofit she co-founded that provides solar to low-income families. Since then, I've volunteered at their Solarthon and convinced my employer to sponsor them. Not only that -- a good friend of mine learned about the organization from me and is now working for them. If I hadn't heard about GRID at EcoTuesday, perhaps she wouldn't have thought to apply for the job, and they'd be out a great employee. But wait -- there's more! GRID was started by just two people who wanted to make a difference and saw a need that they could fill. They started small, but 10 years later, they're growing by leaps and bounds. They've installed solar systems for over 1,000 families, preventing over 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

I'm participating in the Solarthon again this year and encourage you to sign up, too! If you can't participate but still want to help, here's a good way to get a bang for your buck and for one person (you!) to do a lot. By sponsoring me, you can help empower low-income families while also helping improve the environment, the economy, public health, and global politics -- which helps all of us!

All of this shows what the vision of a couple people can create. Though we all rely on others and we need to work together to achieve our sustainability goals, each one of us can do a lot. Any of us who worry that we can't make a meaningful difference should look at what people like Nikki Pava, Erica Mackie, and Sue Amar have done. That should be enough to restore our faith in the power of one.

Green Initiatives At Adobe

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Erica Priggen showing a clip from The Story of Bottled Water

I was delighted to be able to host last month's EcoTuesday meeting at the San Francisco office of Adobe Systems, where I work as a Program Manager. The evening's featured speaker was Erica Priggen, Executive Producer at Free Range Studios. This organization has a knack for conveying powerful messages in a concise, engaging, and entertaining manner and is responsible for such hits as the award-winning The Story of Stuff. At the EcoTuesday gathering, we got to see a sampling of their work.

Though the focus of the evening wasn't the venue, it quickly became apparent how appropriate this location was for an EcoTuesday meeting. Before the featured speaker, we had a short introduction to Adobe's sustainability initiatives by Meera Ramanathan, Global Sustainability Manager with Cushman and Wakefield, Adobe's facilities management firm. The few minutes she spoke weren't enough to detail all that Adobe is doing in this area, but they were enough to make me feel good about where I work. Some examples:

  • Erica Priggen and part of the audience, with the backdrop of Adobe's LEED-certified building

    Adobe was the world's first business to receive 4 platinum-level LEED certifications, including one for the building in which this meeting was held; 601 Townsend, built in 1905, received the first platinum LEED for an existing building in San Francisco and is the oldest LEED-certified platinum building in the world. The company is now at 11 LEED certifications overall -- 9 of those at the platinum level, 2 at gold.

  • Adobe has reduced use of electricity by 35%, natural gas by 41%, domestic water by 22%, and irrigation water by 76%, in addition to recycling or composting up to 95% of solid waste -- for a total reduction in pollution from all sources by 26%.
  • The San Jose headquarters has installed both wind spires and Bloom Energy fuel cell energy servers, known as "Bloom boxes." These Bloom boxes are expected to provide about 30% of the site's power over time.
  • Electric car chargers have already been installed at some Adobe locations.
  • Janitorial products used at Adobe satisfy the American Society for Testing and Materials Cleaning Stewardship for Community Building Standards and meet the Green Seal Cleaning Products Standards.
  • As many companies are finding now, following green practices can cut costs. Significant savings have been realized by measures such as retrofitting air-conditioning systems, installing digital electric meters that closely monitor electricity use, and cutting water use.
  • Adobe has adopted standards for maintaining recycled content levels in products and purchases; 60% of all office product purchases contain recycled content, and all materials installed in Adobe buildings must meet strict green specifications.
  • Employees receive vouchers for transit services, railways, and buses.
  • Water bottles have been replaced with reusable bottles and glasses, with water provided from filtered coolers.
The EcoTuesday introduction circle

Maybe I sound like I'm bragging, but I have to admit I'm impressed by all that Adobe is doing, especially given that what I've listed here is just part of the story. Adobe is clearly a leader in sustainability when it comes to corporate America. That's good news, but even better is the fact that we're not alone. Other large companies, even such unlikely ones as Walmart, have made huge strides in this area, as they find that "the bottom line of green is black" and that by adopting sustainable practices, they can realize intangible but significant benefits in addition to dollar savings. It's our job as employees to encourage companies to continue along this path -- and it's our job as inhabitants of the earth to spread the word everywhere we can about the benefits of going green.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the position, views, or opinions of Adobe.

Making Connections at EcoTuesday

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I always learn something new at EcoTuesday. I've learned how to dispose properly of electronics, how to find candles that don't pollute, where to buy sustainable seafood in San Francisco, and much more. Even if I'm tired after a long day of work and don't feel like going out, I'm always inspired and energized by the end of the evening. It's great to meet so many people who are trying to promote sustainability in all kinds of ways.

 

One of the most inspiring organizations I've learned about at EcoTuesday is one that I hadn't heard of until last spring. Erica Mackie, co-founder of GRID Alternatives, explained how GRID provides solar power to low-income families, both empowering them (pun intended!) and helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. I'm interested in solar myself and am on the long road of trying to get panels for my condo development. But GRID goes beyond this in also helping low-income communities. When Mackie mentioned that their annual fundraiser and volunteer event was coming up, I was intrigued.

 

SolarthonSo I signed up, set up my fundraising page, and e-mailed almost everyone I knew to tell them about the GRID Alternatives 2010 Bay Area Solarthon. It was easy to ask for contributions for such a worthy cause. And the Solarthon turned out to be both fun and instructive, as I met lots of great people and participated in installing a solar system for a family.

 

A friend of mine who's a green architect was inspired by my experience to nominate GRID for the Green Building Super Heroes awards given by the U.S. Green Building Council. And eventually we got to attend the awards ceremony -- a great evening in a beautiful venue, the California Academy of Sciences. But for me, the highlight was when GRID won the Outstanding Community Organization award. I had no doubt they deserved it, but with so many outstanding nominees, it's an especially remarkable achievement. GRID stands out because they cover so many areas at once: they're helping low-income families, training them and others to be future solar workers, and helping to promote clean energy -- which itself helps solve many of our most serious problems. So GRID provides a lot of bang for the buck. Congratulations to GRID on this recognition!

 

I plan to continue volunteering with GRID, and I'm working with my employer to get them to become a corporate sponsor. I hope that others will take note of their success and start similar organizations around the country. It's this kind of work that can give us, as we say in the corporate world, high ROI.

 

If I hadn't attended that EcoTuesday gathering last spring, I might still not know about GRID, and they might not have been nominated for the award they so thoroughly deserve. And this is only one story of what can happen at EcoTuesday. Just a few years ago, EcoTuesday didn't exist, and now it's providing a way for so many people to connect in meaningful ways. This shows what the vision of a couple people can create. Whoever thinks they're powerless to make a meaningful difference should look at what Nikki Pava and Oren Jaffe have done. It's often a simple idea like this that can have a broad effect -- as is true of both GRID Alternatives and EcoTuesday.


Green Going Mainstream at the San Francisco Green Festival

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It would be interesting to see which other U.S. cities could draw as big a crowd as the one at the 9th annual San Francisco Green Festival last weekend. The expansive Concourse Exhibition center was packed with the usual suspects and more: the generous smattering of hippies in dreadlocks and flowing organic cotton fashions was only part of the varied crowd, which seemed to encompass all the demographics you'd normally find around town.

 

While this festival is partly a showcase and marketplace for just about any green product you can think of -- from jewelry, clothing, and towels to food and drinks to the latest electric cars -- and may therefore seem less serious than the more businesslike green conferences in the Bay Area, it serves an important function in getting so many people involved and engaged. There's a lot to be said for making green more mainstream. And in between shopping, you can also choose among talks on a wide range of subjects. The ones I attended exemplified the energy and message of the festival, and the theme of personal and global engagement.

 

There's an urgency to environmentalism today that can't be denied. As Bill McKibben of 350.org reminded his audience, climate change is happening faster than we'd thought -- and while we have the technology to solve many of our problems, the political will isn't as easy to come by. John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked, pointed out that this is the first time in history that the whole world is confronting the same crisis. But it's also the first time that we're all communicating with one another, in a way that wasn't possible even a few years ago. As an illustration of this, 350.org has more than once virtually gathered people from all around the world -- their Global Day of Action was called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," and this year their Global Work Party drew people to 7,347 events in 188 countries.

 

We all have tremendous power to make changes. If you don't believe that, just look at the many examples of people who have helped change the world. Rallies organized by 350.org's predecessor in 2007 helped convince political leaders to set a goal of cutting carbon 80% by 2050. In Florida, as Perkins recounted, the head of an environmental agency had the courage to take a stand against a coal-powered plant, and the people stood behind her. The coal company got the message and is now the largest wind and solar company in the U.S. While they used to spend millions against CO2 taxes, now they fight for them -- because the people spoke.

 

So what can you do? It depends what your passion is; it's up to all of us to get involved in any way we can and do whatever makes the most sense for us. Connect with others who are trying to do the same things; volunteer to install solar panels; join organizations that force corporations and governments to change. It took just a few people to convince the administration to put solar panels back on the White House; imagine what we can do with many more of us. If we all engage in activities like this and make our voices heard, change will happen. And events like the Green Festival, which bring so many green-minded people together, can help facilitate that and inspire us all to keep pursuing our goals.

Mixed Results in California's 2010 Elections

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For some, knowing that California's Proposition 23 was largely funded by two Texas oil companies (along with the Koch brothers) might have been enough of a reason to vote against it. Similarly, Proposition 26 got major funding from big oil and tobacco companies. But what does the recent defeat of Prop 23, and the passing of Prop 26, actually mean? And why was one defeated and the other similar one approved, by the same voters?

 

Prop 23 would have suspended AB32, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006, which requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. AB32 is expected to have benefits in these areas -- some of which we've experienced already:

  • Jobs and economic growth: Although the proponents of Prop 23 called it a "jobs initiative," it would have probably led to a loss of jobs in California. Before Prop 23 was defeated, a group of 118 economists signed an open letter stating their belief that AB32 will stimulate California's economy along with having many other beneficial effects. In fact, AB32 and similar policies have already attracted business to California and encouraged the creation of hundreds, maybe thousands, of clean-energy jobs. Because of such policies, California has the most vital clean energy economy in the United States. Venture capitalists are more likely to invest here with AB32 in place; according to State Senator Mark Leno, AB32 attracted $11 million in venture capital to the state even before being implemented. Companies like Sungevity have made California their home, rather than other solar-friendly places such as Germany, in part because of AB32, which creates a climate that encourages clean-tech business.
  • Environment and health: As the 118 economists put it in their letter, "policies that reduce global warming pollution are likely to provide immediate benefits to the health and welfare of residents by reducing local pollutants." So all Californians will benefit from AB32, not just those employed in the clean-energy industry.
  • National security: Promoting clean energy in California, the 8th-largest economy in the world, reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Doing so greatly enhances our national security -- which is a major factor that led George Shultz to become co-chair of the No on 23 campaign.

Perhaps you don't live in California. Why should you care what happens here? Because California has a history of being a leader in innovation and clean energy, and what we do here will spread elsewhere. Supporters of Prop 23, almost all from other states, knew this when they backed the measure, and that's why they targeted California. The Republicans' nationwide gains at the polls last week will make it harder to enact climate-protecting legislation at the federal level, so it's all the more crucial for states to take the lead.

 

Proponents of Prop 23 were clever, though misleading, in calling it a "jobs initiative." In an equally clever move, opponents rebranded it the "Dirty Energy" proposition. This is a wonderful example of how we can reframe a message to get people to think differently about an issue: no one likes the sound of "dirty energy." The No on 23 campaign also bombarded the media and social networking sites with creative, forceful ads, some of which you can see here.

 

The same effort, unfortunately, didn't go into defeating Prop 26, branded the "Stop Hidden Taxes" initiative, which many of us heard about as an afterthought long after we'd gotten the scoop on Prop 23. Prop 26, now approved by California voters, reclassifies some environmental fees as taxes requiring approval by a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature. And we all know how popular taxes are.

 

It's not clear how the passing of Prop 26 will affect AB32, though some fear that it will make it harder to impose fees intended to implement AB32. There are reasons to hope that won't be the case; Prop 26 applies only to laws enacted after January 1, and AB32 has been in place since 2006. It could still affect fees levied in the future to support AB32. And even if it doesn't erode AB32, if allowed to stand Prop 26 will have serious consequences, as detailed in a study by the UCLA School of Law. In addition to adversely affecting transportation, law enforcement, and public health, Prop 26 is an attack on the environment. That's because it makes it much harder to impose fees on polluters, now a major source of funding for health and environmental programs. And that leaves taxpayers to pay for the harmful effects of industries like oil companies.

 

But another challenge remains for Prop 26, and that's its basic legitimacy. It's likely the proposition could face challenges in court -- both because it's badly written, leaving interpretations up to the courts, and because it contradicts Prop 23, which had such a resounding defeat. Still, we'll have to wait and see what happens with Prop 26.

 

Why did Prop 26 succeed while the similar Prop 23 failed? Anyone who's faced a long California ballot knows how confusingly written most of the propositions are, so it's likely that voters didn't realize they were making contradictory votes. The best antidote to such confusion seems to be good advertising, but Prop 23 got the lion's share of publicity while Prop 26 was left to prevail silently.

 

This shows the power of not only good publicity but also strong bipartisan collaboration. Perhaps what put the No on Prop 23 campaign over the edge, and enabled the clever strategies used, was the huge collaborative effort among progressives and conservatives, activists and energy companies, Republicans and Democrats. Many of us do have common goals, and the success of Prop 23 shows that if we collaborate on those goals, even when we're dealing with big oil companies and their deep pockets, we can win.

 

While last week's election results were mixed, in both California and the rest of the country, defeating Prop 23 was a major win for environmentalists, and it will have far-reaching effects that extend throughout our country and even beyond. The election of Jerry Brown as governor will help promote environmental efforts. In this election, California won the right to continue leading the world in clean-energy innovation. Let's all do our part to ensure it remains this way. As Bill McKibben of 350.org noted at the San Francisco Green Festival this past weekend, it's up to all of us to get involved in any way we can. His organization, in addition to hosting worldwide days of action, helped convince the administration to put solar panels back on the White House -- showing that grassroots efforts can make a difference. If we all engage in activities like this and make our voices heard, change will happen. It happened with Prop 23, and we can make it happen again.

Green Building Super Heroes

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Last Friday night I felt proud to live in California, my adopted home for the past 25 years. As I sat in the California Academy of Sciences listening to George Shultz, former Secretary of State, emphasize how important it is for California to remain a leader in clean energy, I was excited to be surrounded by so many people who are trying to make that a reality. The occasion was the Green Building Super Heroes Awards Gala, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.

ShultzI wouldn't have expected a conservative like Shultz to be part of this, but like many others, he's been a staunch opponent of Proposition 23, about to be decided on by California voters. For Shultz, clean energy is #1 a national security issue. President Eisenhower said it was a bad idea to import more than 20% of our oil, and ignoring his advice has led to all kinds of problems with countries and groups for whom our dependence on foreign oil is a weapon to use against us. But national security is only one of the reasons we need clean energy -- #2, Shultz said, is that inexpensive, secure energy is essential for our economy. A large amount of venture capital has poured in to California and helped to expand the green energy economy here, and we need to keep that from grinding to a halt. Coming in at #3 is the climate; Shultz, unlike some conservatives, acknowledges that temperatures are rising and that we can do something about that. Out-of-staters, he suggested, alluding to funding from the Lone Star State, are putting money into Prop 23 because they don't want what we're doing in California to spread. But he believes we can be a leader for the rest of the country, and that's why we must not only defeat Prop 23 but defeat it in a big way. The 90-year-old Shultz ended his talk by leading the audience in an energetic, rousing round of "No on 23!"

 

Though I might put the reasons that clean energy is essential in a different order, I agree with Shultz that promoting it will help us deal with several serious issues at once. That's one of the things that draws me to this area -- it's what cognitive linguist George Lakoff calls a strategic initiative, one that allows you to solve many problems by focusing on one issue.

 

Given the current situation with the Giants, in addition to Prop 23 funding, it was only fitting that the next person up to speak, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, began with the equally rousing "Beat Texas!" Then it was on to the business at hand, describing the finalists and presenting the award for Outstanding Community Organization. I know there had been many nominations, so even getting to the finalists was quite an achievement -- and I have to admit that all three looked like wonderfully deserving organizations. But I had my own favorite, GRID Alternatives. I participated in their Solarthon this year and was impressed with their model of providing solar power to low-income families, a seemingly simple action that helps solve many problems at once. Yes, another strategic initiative. So I was thrilled that GRID won the award!

 

Next up was an award for Outstanding Existing Building Project Green Team, an important area since we have so many existing buildings that need to become more sustainable. This time even the judges couldn't decide on one winner and instead picked two: The Energy Foundation offices and the Transamerica Pyramid building. I had no idea that the famous Pyramid now generates up to 70% of its power, among other remarkable achievements. And the Energy Foundation offices, with their wonderful use of natural light, looked dreamy -- I wonder if they have any job openings ...

 

There were other speeches and awards, including a Green Groundbreaker Award to Martha Johnson, Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, which was accepted by the keynote speaker, Stephen Leeds, that agency's Senior Sustainability Officer. If you don't think of a government agency as a bastion of sustainability, you'd think differently after hearing about the GSA's achievements and involvement in that area. The David Gottfried Special Achievement Award went to Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr of Architecture for Humanity, who are helping promote sustainability in parts of the world where it's an immediate necessity, not the luxury some might think it is in California (though of course, we know better!).

 

All of these organizations -- private, nonprofit, and governmental -- are doing crucial work to make our world more sustainable through improving our built environments. And the people attending the awards ceremony all work hard at these endeavors. A comment I heard more than once throughout the evening was how great it was to take some time away from that hard work to celebrate these achievements and find renewed purpose and inspiration. How fitting for this all to take place at the California Academy of Sciences, an organization devoted to preserving nature and educating people about it. And yet another reason to feel proud of California. No on 23!! Beat Texas!!


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