Reproduced courtesy of the Press Enterprise:
Riverside has made much progress in “going green,” but could do even more if like-minded people could more easily share information and resources, perhaps through on-line communities, neighborhood-based “green teams” or a citywide environmental expo.
Those were some of the ideas generated by more than 100 Riverside residents who participated in the city’s first Green Leadership Summit on Feb. 1. The event, sponsored by Riverside Public Utilities, drew representatives from business, academia, neighborhood groups and non-profit organizations who are interested in furthering the city’s environmental and sustainability goals.
“This is really encouraging, because there are so many people here who are really committed to these ideas,” said one participant, Bob Smith, a member of the Wood Streets Green Team.
The summit, held at California Baptist University, was organized by Justin Scott-Coe and Bob Stockton, co-champions of Route 5, “Being a Green Machine,” part of the Seizing Our Destiny program approved by the Riverside City Council to chart a course for the city’s future development.
“We think of sustainability in broad terms, including both economic development and our environmental health,” Scott-Coe said in welcoming attendees. “We are here tonight because you wanted to be here.”
Although several participants spoke in favor of the City Council giving voters the opportunity to approve a recommendation to add a Sustainability Commission to the city’s charter, organizers said the event could result in a variety of new initiatives.
“Our purpose is just to start a conversation,” said Gina Airey, a consultant working with the city to implement the Seizing Our Destiny plan. “There’s no one way to do this, or one right way.”
Using technology to generate real-time feedback, Airey was able to determine that more than half the people in attendance had lived or worked in the Riverside area for more than 15 years; that most were from neighborhood or non-profit groups; nearly half have been working on “green” activities for more than five years; a vast majority equate “going green” with embracing sustainability; and the hottest topics for the group were food, water and energy.
“There is a great deal of experience and commitment in the room,” Airey said.
In addition to hearing presentations from leaders in the local green movement, participants worked together at their respective tables to come up with ideas for furthering the city’s green goals, then reported out to the rest of the group.
Mayor Ron Loveridge called sustainability “a dominant conversation in the city’s look to the future,” noting that the city is on its second version of a Green Action Plan. He praised attendees for taking the time to get involved.
“This is really an exciting evening,” Loveridge said. “It’s not just looking at what we have done, but also looking forward to the opportunities and choices we have before us in the future.”
Embracing the green movement also has given the city recognition across the state and the nation, said Mike Bacich, the city’s Sustainability Manager and Assistant General Manager, Customer Relations/Marketing for Riverside Public Utilities. For example, the city recently achieved silver status from the California Green Communities program.
“A lot of other places around the country are just getting started on this stuff,” Bacich said. “Riverside should be really proud of its leadership role.”
Loveridge encouraged residents to stay involved.
“One of the puzzles of “Seizing Our Destiny’ has been how we move beyond just having great route leaders and outstanding city participation,” Loveridge said. “Working together, we can change the neighborhoods in which we live.”
Information about the city’s Green Action Plan and other green initiatives can be found at www.greenriverside.com
In the notion of “Becoming a Green Machine“, the Green Leadership Summit was a great opportunity to bring like-minded people together to establish a synergistic partnership between industry, City leadership, organizations, and residents.