The Citywide Green Team has found a few sustainability heroes among us — our co-workers and friends who keep the City running smart and have made some big changes in their own lives, too. Each and every one of them is an inspiration and deserves our thanks! Together we’re a powerful team.
We’d like to add your story to our growing list of Sustainability Heroes. Email the Citywide Green Team, firstname.lastname@example.org, to learn how.
When it came time to modernize the Bureau of Development Services’ (BDS) vehicle fleet Katie Salazar faced a challenge: “The Prius was seen as the ultimate green wimpy car. I wanted to be sustainable, but also to keep my people happy.” So, Katie got to work. She explained to BDS staff how the Bureau needed to reduce its carbon emissions in order to do their part to meet the City’s Climate Action Plan goals. She sold hybrids on convenience: “You won’t have to stop as frequently for gas.” And she gave staff voice and choice.
After test driving different models, BDS inspectors chose the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Today, all of BDS’s 108 vehicles are hybrids and 60% are plug-in hybrids that can be chargedelectrically. The City recently opened 43 charging stations in the garage that houses BDS’s fleet.
Katie’s advice to others: “I think I have been successful because I can see a lot of different points of view.”
For Kathryn Linzey, Fiscal Process Coordinator at the Police Bureau, working on sustainability projects in the workplace and at home gives her the feeling that, “I’m not just taking. I’m maintaining this beautiful city and making sure that the next generation can enjoy the forests, the mountains, and the waterfalls.”
Kathryn was a top point earner in the City’s 2017 EcoChallenge. She switched to a reusable coffee cup, set up an energy audit for her house, and she’s even gone car free. But perhaps most important, Kathryn was vocal and active in supporting her colleagues in their EcoChallenge efforts, recognizing that, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Her advice to others: “Start small and try to pair a change with a habit you already have. I try to touch at least one other person positively and create a ripple effect.”
For Ethan Cirmo, who works on the communications team for the Office of Management and Finance (OMF), sustainability projects push us to think about the long term. “We live on a planet with finite resources, but we seem to believe we can keep growing and growing. There is not enough big picture thinking.” Working towards sustainability forces us to think creatively about systems over time and, “This is what got me interested in it in the first place.”
One of Ethan’s ongoing projects is to grow OMF’s presence on Twitter, using it to share with Portlanders the vital, but usually invisible work of the Bureau, especially its sustainability efforts. Ethan sees social media as a way to share stories that humanize the City’s work and give it a face and a voice. Ethan is also an active member of the, where he can discuss broader sustainability trends and learn about larger, collaborative projects.
Ethan’s advice to others: “Don’t go it alone. For any kinds of behavior change you need a team. Support from management goes a long way. Lastly, have a thick skin and trust in yourself that you’ve got a good idea.”
For Vinh Mason, Green Building Policy Coordinator for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, calculating his family’s carbon footprint was eye-opening. During the City’s 2017 EcoChallenge, he discovered that flights to Hawaii for his family of four (they’re fond of seeking out winter sun) produced more carbon emissions than powering and heating their house for an entire year. Vinh then turned to his fourteen-year old daughter and said, “We’ve got to stop taking these flights!” Within a couple of months, the family got behind a new plan. They purchased a plug-in hybrid electric Mitsubishi Outlander with a backup gas tank. “Now, for vacation we’ll get in the car and drive to the sun, whether that’s Oregon, Nevada, Utah or southern California.” And Vinh and his family will be producing a whole lot less carbon dioxide while saving money otherwise spent on air travel.
The Mode Shifter
It’s easy to forget just how important basic safety is to sustainability. If our streets are unsafe for biking or walking, then it’s going to be difficult and irresponsible to nudge Portlanders towards more active modes of transportation.
Thankfully, we’ve got Clay Veka working hard to make our streets safe for all Portlanders, regardless of where they live or how they get around. She’s the Program Coordinator for Vision Zero Portland’s adopted goal to eliminate deaths and serious traffic injuries on our streets by 2025. Safer streetscapes and a sense of security are essential to enable transportation mode shift - from cars to more active and less impactful ways of getting around.
On most days and for most trips you can find Clay and her family biking around Portland. But she is quick to point out her shortcomings. With relatives in Norway and Peru, her family racks up airline miles. Her advice to others: “Don’t discount the small stuff. Small steps can have ripple effects that are impossible to predict and can be bigger than the acts themselves.”
“Plants bring people together in really interesting ways. People connect on a personal level and come alive,” explains Brandon Rogers, a city planner with the Bureau of Development Services. Brandon has been giving plants to his colleagues at the City in what is both a social experiment and an effort to improve indoor air quality.
In the spring of 2017, Brandon was walking around the offices when he noticed some particularly healthy spider plants with hundreds of little babies ready to be rooted. So, Brandon did just that and started giving them away. Soon he purchased pots and soil and even found a free surplus AV cart at PSU which he set up as a mobile plant station.
Brandon’s project has really taken root, helped along by Kate Green, Green Team member and colleague. They’ve given away 100 plants and counting! For Brandon, it is satisfying to see how caring for plants is social and relaxing. And he's happy knowing that indoor plants, especially spider plants, clean the air, removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzine. His advice to others: “Follow your heart. Start small. Share your ideas with others and collaborate.”
In his personal life, Brandon has also made some big changes. In 2012, after reading a book on food production, he became a vegan. Brandon wanted to minimize animal suffering and reduce his carbon footprint. He recalls that at first it was very hard. “About two weeks in I dreamed of a six-foot high pile of sliced tri-tip covered in cheddar cheese.” By now, though, Brandon sleeps easy and feels great about his food choices.
Shawn Roberti is the kind of guy you would want taking care of your house. He'd fix the things that need fixing right away, plan some major improvements, and create a plan for replacing appliances and systems when they fail. He'd save you money, and time, and you’d have peace of mind, knowing that your most valuable asset was being carefully managed.
As the Senior Facilities Maintenance Supervisor for Portland Fire and Rescue, Shawn is responsible for maintenance and repairs at the City’s 35 fire stations and facilities. Each fire station is much like a house, only with more tenants and some pretty big vehicles. In 2017 Shawn’s team completed electrical retrofits at three stations, installing LED fixtures throughout, for an annual savings of around $5,000. Similar retrofits are planned for the remaining stations. These projects save money, and they also reduce future maintenance needs so that Shawn’s small team can have more time to take care of pressing work orders. Everyone wins!
Portland Fire and Rescue has many other sustainability projects, large and small, in the works.
“It’s amazing what people can gravitate around,” observes David Olsav. He’s a Stores Supervisor with the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) and he’s talking about paper towels. Specifically, those old trifold paper towel dispensers, the kind where even a gentle pull can get you a stack of 20 or more towels. Everyone in BES saw the waste happening and was frustrated.
David worked with the Citywide Green Team and vendors to install over 70 new paper towel dispensers that use rolls of recycled paper towels, for an annual savings of $5,000 or more. The rollout (pardon the pun) has been a big success, in large part due to David’s careful planning. To build support, he even installed a demonstration dispenser in a breakroom along with a clipboard for comments.
David suggests contacting the Green Team,if you’ve got an idea for a sustainability project.
The Uphill Battler
For Bill Crawford, an Administrative Specialist for Parks and Recreation, sustainability in quite simply "one of the most important things" we can work toward. And while it's an uphill battle, Bill knows that if we all pitch in we can make “a better city and a better world.” Bill is doing just that by working in his community as an educator and an organizer and by continuing to learn.
For his neighborhood association in Hosford Abernathy he has organized an annual cleanup that collects bulky objects for reuse, recycling, and as a last resort, landfill. As a Green Street Steward, Bill cares for his neighborhood bioswale. And he has completed the Sustainability Leadership Program at the University of Oregon and become a Master Recycler.
Bill’s advice to others: “Start small. But, if you’ve got a good, big idea, bring it to your supervisor, your Bureau chief, or the Citywide Green Team. Great ideas come from us all. And remember, that the first step is the hardest one.”
John Dutt has always felt “that we have a responsibility as human beings to be stewards. It’s common sense. We need to take care of each other and our shared resources.”
As a member of the Citywide Green Team, John is making important changes in his Bureau, the Office of Community and Civic Life. He gave each staff member an insulated metal cup to take with them to Starbucks or the water cooler. The Bureau has also purchased reusable cups, plates, and silverware for public meetings where food is served and for offsite meetings they work increasingly with caterers who offer reusable plates and cups. Such change is not easy. It does take longer to wash your cup than to throw it out. But the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-terms costs.
John’s advice to others working on sustainability projects: “Remove your ego. You have to do it because you think it's the right thing to do. People are busy. Sustainability and wellness are not always high priorities. It's easy to get frustrated but stay focused on the big picture and the long term.”
The Goal Setter
Icie Ta, an HR Systems Specialist, is a new member of the Citywide Green Team and she is enjoying working with city employees who are passionate about sustainability. “I love knowing that there are other sustainability champions out there. We are not alone in this.”
Icie is working on sustainability projects in her Bureau, including the 2018 Earth Day Bike Month, which encourages employees to bike more and share their biking stories. Icie is also setting goals of her own. She wants to grow more vegetables in her garden this summer because she likes growing what she needs, and fresh veggies taste great. She’d also like to start riding her bike to work, perhaps one day a week, even though there’s a hill in the middle and she worries about running out of energy on the way home. Icie recently completed her first bike commute. Way to go, Icie!, which was a wild success, and
Her advice to others: if the big picture of sustainability is scary or overwhelming, “Think small. Start with yourself and the small changes you can make.”
For Danny Grady, Energy Specialist at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, optimizing energy use to meet the City’s needs is the name of the game. That’s why he’s the right person to assist City bureaus in saving energy and creating energy from renewable energy sources. Danny, along with his predecessors, have helped the City save $75 million in utility bills since 1991. He offers technical assistance, identifies funding opportunities for energy projects, and advises city operations staff on issues relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Danny has recently taken a more active role leading OMF’s Facilities group in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program. SEM focuses on optimizing energy management by adopting operation and maintenance best practices throughout the organization. The goal is to empower City staff to play an integral role in saving energy and helping the City to meet the aggressivelaid out in the Climate Action Plan. There’s more to energy efficiency than installing energy saving gadgets; ultimately, people play a key role in realizing energy savings. “We’re early in the process of revamping the program, but I can already see a culture shift that will pay dividends into the future,” says Danny. Other bureaus that have participated in the SEM program include BES, Water and Parks.
At home Danny is a father to a four-year-old son so he values comfort and simplicity almost as much as efficiency. This means if he leaves an LED nightlight on all night he doesn’t sweat it. According to Danny, “Martyrs don’t have any fun”, and Danny likes to have fun!
From space travel to clear skies, Michele Crim's focus has always been upward. She began college aiming to become an astronaut, but climate change led her in a different direction. Armed with a masters in environmental science and regional planning, Michele settled in Vancouver, Washington after grad school to run Panasonic's environmental programs at its Clark County manufacturing plant. Three years later, she moved to Portland and became the first sustainability coordinator for Portland State University. Her move to the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability 14 years ago produced the country’s first Climate Action Plan to integrate equity, adaptation and tackling the emissions from the food and goods Portlanders consume, among many other firsts.
In December 2018, Crim took the sustainability reins at BPS, replacing Michael Armstrong who acted as Deputy Director under Susan Anderson. Looking to the future Michele sees clearing the skies of carbon emissions as directly linked to opportunities to address the city's growing gentrification, housing affordability and related challenges. “The key to closing equity gaps and resolving climate vulnerabilities is the direct participation by impacted communities in the development and implementation of solutions and policy decisions that impact them,” Michele said. "Ultimately, it's about improving peoples' lives.”
These are just a few of the Sustainability Heroes among us. Visit this story again as we update it with more featured staff profiles.