Sustainability 2.0: The Next Wave

A decade ago, a city looking to improve its sustainability efforts might have retrofitted City Hall, started a recycling program, and run a public awareness campaign. “A” for effort and results. No more.

We’ve entered the era of Sustainability 2.0. Climate change is far more complex than previously thought. And cities, as leaders in the efforts to meet the accompanying challenges, are taking on more ambitious initiatives, and fostering broad-based partnerships in the process.

Alex Aylett of the sustainability blog World Changing calls it “networked sustainability” – finding ways to catalyze action beyond what any one organization, community or utility can do on its own.

Because, Aylett notes, “the challenge of redesigning our cities isn't primarily about technology, it's about people.”

One shining example: Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP), which aims to carry out residential energy retrofits across the city on a massive scale. CEWP provides financing, coordinates the work, and provides a certified workforce to make sure it's all done done right.

And those broad-based partnerships I mentioned earlier? CEWP partnered with Green For All, a national NGO that uses green collar jobs to boost people out of poverty. In a tough political and economic climate, this emphasis on equity and jobs helped CEWP get the political support that it needed to succeed where other programs faltered.

The program is being scaled up statewide, and could directly create 10,000 stable jobs over 10 years.

Appealing numbers – the kind you can build partnerships around.

Photo credit:  Thomas Hawk