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14th Annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference 2019 was well attended and quite succesful. Photo: CK
14th Annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference 2019 was well attended and quite succesful. Photo: CK

North Bay Annual Sustainable

Successful In Making Strides Towards
Regional Sustainability and Resilience

Apr 6, 2019


By Ceylan Karasapan Crow

Solar Works was a co-sponsor of the 14th Annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference, and I was able to attend this amazing symposium as their web consultant. On April 5th, leaders from business, government, and community-based organizations gathered at Sonoma State University. Solar Works and Sonoma County Go Local Cooperative shared an exhibitor table in the main event hall, where we heard inspiring speakers and talked with participants about solar energy and a healthy local economy.

The conference theme was resilience. Break-out sessions focused on ecology, economy, social equity and policy. Two practical take-aways: Prepare for crisis, a lesson re-learned from recent devastating fires and floods; and reduce our collective carbon footprint by taking individual and community action. A great way to go is with Solar-powered electricity!

An amazing gathering of business, government and nonprofit leaders driving sustainability. 

Regional Resilience was the theme of the conference.

An amazing cadre of educational, business, government, and community leaders spoke at this the 14th Annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference. Sonoma State University did a good job of gathering leaders from the North Bay Counties to speak about pathways to economic, social and environmental resilience. The sustainable assessment for the North Bay region was covered from almost every angle possible.

Discussions centered around solutions to how to build an inclusive, equitable economy that meets our community’s economic, social, and housing needs. As well as what Sonoma State University is doing to become a leader in resilience and climate education. SSU President Judy K. Sakaki signed the President's Climate Leadership Commitment, a roadmap for mitigating and adapting to a changing climate.

It was impossible to be able to attend all sessions, since sessions were often presented in tandem in adjacent conference rooms. You can get the gist of the discussions from the final schedule and session descriptions:  And you can find out about all the speakers here: .

I can specifically speak to two sessions I was able to fully engage in:

1. "Creating A Sustainable, Circular North Bay Economy"


Panelists on 'Creating A Sustainable Circular North Bay Economy'.

Panelists were from right to left in photo:

Gil Friend, founder of Natural Logic, and Chief Sustainability Officer of the City of Palo Alto CA.
Justin Strachan, of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) 
Ted Walsh, CEO  Solar Craft 
Ann Hancock the Executive Director and co-founder of the  Center for Climate Protection
with Chris Yalonis as moderator.

Gil Friend opened his presentation with the question; “how can we think ourselves out of the mess we are in, when the way we think is a mess”. Friend sees the overall picture as one of making connections:  “Climate, immigration, trade, innovation, wealth gap, AI, biodiversity, racism, acidification, mental health, urbanization, power, supply chains, exploitation of human beings and nature…all are connected, through similar blocks, similar blindness, and something that illuminates it all. Underlying our dilemmas is the problem of how we think.”  One move to begin to change our thinking was the suggestion to refer to Climate Change as Climate CRISIS. We dont need to be nice he said.

The Climate crisis is multi layered, and was addresses as such.

The main objective of the conference which from the show of hands to the question "who in here made connections and networked? seems to have been accomplished. The aim of the conference was to get leaders, business owners and individual participants to meet each other and forge networks interested in solving sustainability issues from a myriad of disciplinary backgrounds. I myself made a connection by reaching out to Gil Friend for more information. His perspective on the subject was especially far reaching and comprehensive and he seemed to have some innovative, out of the box solutions for building resilience into sustainable enterprise. According to his bio at    Tomorrow magazine called him "One of the country’s leading environmental management consultants — a real expert who combines theoretical sophistication with hands-on, in-the-trenches know-how".

Ann Hancock talked about assembly bills and the importance of voters / the public / us contacting our representatives and supporting new legislation and demanding change.

Ted Walsh CEO of  Solar Craft gave an example of an unsustainable commute pattern stemming from the high cost of housing in the North Bay. Walsh touched on how many of his blue collar workers are now commuting to Marin where Solar Craft operates, from places as far as Sacramento. This demonstrated how day to day factors have to be considered when speaking about sustainability. It is not just about renewable energy, but also affordable housing and social services as well as social constructs. There was a suggestion made that “low income “ housing be called :"social housing" to remove the stigma from those living in and seeking such housing.

2. "The Closing Plenary Conversation: Toward Shared Prosperity Through a Resilient Economy", was the second session I was able to closely follow.

The Moderator was Robert Girling a Professor in the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University, a co-founder of the Sustainable Enterprise Conference series who serves on the Board of East Bay Green Tours. Prof Girling is the author of over 50 articles and books and he is currently writing a book on sustainable companies and social enterprises.

The Closing Plenary Conversation panelists.

Panelists included:

Elizabeth Brown (absent)
Julien Gervreau 
James Gore
Richard Heinberg

Julien Gervreau, Vice President of Sustainability at Jackson Family Wines, talked of the sustainable strategy, innovation, and operations at his company and shared years of experience developing and implementing successful corporate social responsibility strategies, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water reuse in wine. Unfortunately when asked about the use of pesticides he had no specifics and said he does not have purview over that area.

Richard Heinburg is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education. Richard, Spoke for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels and what that would entail. The work that needs to be done is daunting but the positive take away is we are already making baby steps towards it. A huge shift in perspective is also on the horizon because unlike the “Real New Deal” — advocated by Heinburg and others back in the 60’s which was very similar to The New Green Deal but was totally ignored — The New Green Deal is up and forefront on the news and getting a lot of attention.Heinburg also noted greenhouse gas emissions are down 56% since 1990.

Supervisor James Gore who represents more than 100,000 residents in Sonoma County’s 4th District, sits on the Board of Directors for the Pepperwood Preserve, the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation, and the Sonoma County Children’s Museum, was one of the more passionate and hopeful speakers at this conference session and urged our involvement and spoke to our link as individuals and families and where we can make a difference. For example, by securing our preparedness in crisis, such as the recent fires and floods, and making our piece of the pie as it were, sustainable whether it be by switching to solar electric power or buying an electric vehicle. Once we have done all we can in our own back yard we can then branch out to reach out to help neighbors, community, city, county and beyond.

Touching on what local government can take action towards, Gore mentioned water runoff and pointed out that for example annual rainfall alone could supply 50% of LA's water needs, but because of pavement and runoff, tons of clean rain water is diverted to sewage treatment centers, a waste of not only water but resources. Impervious surfaces such as pavement and buildings do not allow percolation of the water down through the soil to the aquifer.

As an ongoing continuous effort, lets not forget what Ann Hancock stressed, citizens must stay abreast of assembly bills and push for, demonstrate and support new legislation. First and foremost by contacting our representattives and making it clear how important sustainability is to us.  Learn about and advocate for effective climate legislation with student activists and state and local elected leaders at the Climate Action Night.

The good news is that there are concrete practical steps and actions we as individuals can take towards regional sustainability and resilience.




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