A Brief History
In 2004, a group of business and community leaders formed Sustainable Arizona® to provide a resource to organizations around the state working towards some aspect of sustainable development. Preliminary research indicated that while there were a range of energy, environmental and economic organizations striving towards improving the quality of life in Arizona, they did not collaborate or share to advantage. All organizations interviewed stated a need for a resource such as Sustainable Arizona to help leverage their assets and improve their results.
Over the first several years, Sustainable Arizona hosted monthly educational meetings on a range of sustainability topics and participated in statewide conferences and events. Among the issues covered were water management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable economic development, community participation and more. Speakers were drawn from universities and colleges, municipalities and state government, business specialists and Sustainable Arizona’s own resources. These events were sponsored by a combination of grants and corporate funding.
One of the first collaborations created the Sustainability Resource Center at the Sedona Public Library. There are displays and a full bibliography of resources at the library. The funding for the Resource Center also helped create the original Sustainable Arizona website which hosted an enormous amount of data and resources on sustainable development, green building, renewable energy, water conservation, healthy living and other essentials.
As the political climate, the economy and the networks of organizations changed, Sustainable Arizona® focused more on collaborations with other organizations and reduced its number of events. It did maintain a few annual efforts in Northern Arizona: the annual solar tours, April is Water Awareness Month, and the Verde Resilient Communities initiative.
The solar tours were mounted in collaboration with the NACOG (Northern Arizona Council of Governments), American Solar Energy Society and Arizona Solar Energy Association. Sponsored by green businesses, these tours featured homes and businesses with renewable energy and energy efficiency systems. Sustainable Arizona also worked in partnership with APS, the large electric utility, on their renewable energy standard outreach efforts by hosting a series of events to provide home and business owners with resources for converting to renewable energy systems. Those events came to an end when APS began to achieve its mandated renewable energy standard and moved to thwart the continued development of distributed energy resources in the state. Currently, Sustainable Arizona provides technical and economic information to the Arizona Corporation Commission to encourage them to increase renewable energy standards and adopt a true value of solar economic policy.
Water Awareness Month was developed in partnership with the League of Women Voters and the Sedona Women beginning in 2004. Sustainable Arizona® led in a number of workshops on water management systems and drafted a water management plan for Sedona. Over the next five years, Water Awareness Month grew to a full month of events, workshops, and celebrations of water conservation in Arizona. The collaborations included the Arizona Department of Water Quality (before it was cut to pieces), Sierra Club,
Institute of EcoTourism, Sedona Women, the City of Sedona, the Audubon Society, Gardens for Humanity, Sedona Chamber of Commerce and others. The collaboration was recognized by Governor Napolitano as a model program and has been adopted by the state. Visit the Water Awareness Month site to learn more.
The sustainable communities’ efforts brought together nonprofits, municipalities and businesses to learn about ways to help communities become more resilient and self-sufficient. Sustainable Arizona raised funds to support a number of organizations with their community outreach and education events, and participated where needed with expert presenters. Sustainable Arizona consulted on the development of the Living in Harmony project focused on improving the quality of life in the oldest, most diverse neighborhood in Sedona and hosted an Earth Day fund-raiser for local schools. The resilient communities effort is still underway through the new Sustainability Alliance.
In 2005, the president of Sustainable Arizona joined the founding board of SEDI, the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative of Northern Arizona (www.SEDInaz.org). He led the Education for Sustainability,
Sustainable Tourism, Green Business teams and participated in the Sustainable Communities Indicators Project and the Energy Teams. While head of the Education for Sustainability team, TASC, the Teachers Awards for Sustainable Curriculum, was developed. In 2018, TASC awarded $18,000 to twelve teachers for their outstanding achievements in creating sustainability frameworks and experiential learning in their classrooms. The SEDI Sustainable Communities Indicators Project is undergoing its second update.
As part of the sustainable development outreach efforts, the president of Sustainable Arizona has given presentations around the Southwest, including: Phoenix Green Building Expo, Tucson Sustainable Communities Conference, the Arizona Minority Business Enterprise Center Biz Green Conference, the US Green Building Council annual meeting, Bioneers conference, the Society for Human Ecology meeting, the American Resort Development Association conference, the Arizona Association of Economic Development and others.
In 2010, Sustainable Arizona® helped the Sedona International Film Festival go green. In addition to reducing their wastes and recycling, the Festival purchases solar, wind and geothermal energy through the APS Green Choice program to reduce their climate change impacts. Each year, the Festival presents a track of films on sustainability topics. Sustainable Arizona has participated hosting a weekend of films, displays and filmmaker panels. In addition, the audiences attended workshops on sustainable development topics featuring expert panels and hosted by Sustainable Arizona. As the Film Festival expanded its offerings, so has the sustainability film series expanded to year-round screenings.
In 2011, with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, Sustainable Arizona developed the Value the Verde Ecotourism Initiative and signed up more than 120 Verde Valley businesses to participate. Each committed to conserve water, eliminate toxic materials, reduce wastes, become energy efficient, support their local communities and educate their visitors. At the end of the funding cycle, this effort was turned over to a local tourism marketing agency that had incorporated ecotourism into its listing.
Sustainable Arizona received a second grant to help create a “culture of conservation” in the Verde River Valley. Sustainable Arizona joined the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and worked with their staff to create a green business affinity group. The Sustainable Arizona president also provided direct input on the Sedona community planning process to ensure that water management and sustainable development principles were included. This effort was followed by a third endeavor, One for the Verde, again with Walton Family Foundation funding. The project engaged local businesses, visitors and residents in preserving the Verde River and watershed. Friends of the Verde River now manages this special project.
For several years, Sustainable Arizona board member, Larry Bean, served as the Midwestern Regional Coordinator of eight State Energy Offices deploying American Reinvestment and Recovery (ARRA) funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Over the years, Sustainable Arizona helped other nonprofits develop beginning with direct support for Sustainable Tucson and the Phoenix Green Chamber. It has also served in a nonprofit fiduciary capacity for Biodiesel US and GMO-Free Prescott, helping them win grants for their programs.
In 2014, Sustainable Arizona moved its offices and management to the Phoenix area and shifted its focus to two initiatives: Grow Organic Kids and the design of an EcoLearning Center in South Phoenix. Since that time, Grow Organic Kids split off on its own. The EcoLearning Center is still in the concept phase awaiting funding.