Author Archives: Diane Brossart

Diane Brossart

About Diane Brossart

Diane Brossart has a longtime connection with Valley Forward Association, having first joined the non-profit public interest organization 20 years ago. Brossart served on the Valley Forward Board of Directors for several years and was named President of the association in 1991. As President, Brossart oversees a staff of four and manages a host of committees, which focus on such issues as land use planning and desert preservation, transportation and air quality, water concerns and environmental education. Under Brossart's leadership, Valley Forward has received widespread recognition for its role in addressing environmental and quality of life issues in the Valley. Awards include an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9; Award of Distinction from the Western Mountain Region of the American Institute of Architects; and first-place honors from the City of Phoenix Mayor's Environmental Awards Program. Brossart also received the Phoenix Award from the Public Relations Society of America's Phoenix Chapter in 2008, in addition to the 2009 Champion of Sustainability Award through the Phoenix Business Journal's Green Pioneers program. She is also involved as a member of several civic organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Valley Partnership, Friends of the West Valley Recreation Corridor and Phoenix Community Alliance. Prior to her work with Valley Forward, Brossart was Vice President of one of the Valley's largest public relations agencies, serving as a marketing consultant to Valley Forward and several commercial accounts. Brossart received her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University in 1979 and began her professional career as a reporter for a daily newspaper in metropolitan Detroit.

solar panels, renewable energy

As Renewable Energy Makes Process, Energy Policy To Be Explored

An unlikely group of bedfellows gathered for a private meeting last month to discuss the future of energy policy in Arizona. While they didn’t solve any issues, there is a measure of success in simply convening dialogue among this small but powerful group of diverse stakeholders representing the governor’s office, state legislature, Arizona Corporation Commission, utilities, private industry and the nonprofit sector. Objective, civil discourse on sometimes contentious topics can be productive.

The renewable energy sector has made inroads in Arizona, including the following notable accomplishments:

  • In 2001, Arizona established one of the first Renewable Portfolio Standards in the U.S. and today are targeting 15 percent by 2025, with the highest solar carve out in the nation.
  • The National Renewable Energy Lab ranks Arizona the best state for solar capacity.
  • Greater Phoenix is home to both pioneering research institutions as well as the world’s largest solar generation projects.
  • Arizona offers renewable companies refundable corporate income tax credits and reduced real and personal property taxes. Arizona passed landmark legislation opening the door for renewable energy companies to expand here — not just solar, but also wind, biofuel, geothermal and other technologies.
  • Our major utilities are servicing more than 30,000 Arizona customers with rooftop solar.
  • In addition, utilities have installed more than 316 MWs of energy through large-scale solar projects and 225 MW of wind energy in the state.
  • We have relatively low electricity rates compared to many other states in the country.
  • And, our energy efficiency standard is also very aggressive.

However, energy policy in Arizona has gone virtually unchanged since we became a state 100 years ago, so it is inevitably time to evaluate and explore what’s next and best for our state’s energy future. As a non-partisan, third-party interest, Arizona Forward is committed to helping ascertain how major stakeholders can work together on critical statewide issues and is dedicated to continuing this productive dialogue among energy sector leaders.

environmental excellence

Valley Forward Showcases Environmental Excellence

It may not be easy being green but in today’s world, it might be the only way for companies to survive. Consumers are increasingly attracted to “greener” options, forcing organizations of all sizes and industry sectors to reevaluate how they operate.

Those that figure out how to do it right see a wide range of benefits from saving money to creating a healthier workplace. It further results in a more productive and satisfied workforce and ultimately a more sustainable future.

Valley Forward has been showcasing environmental excellence in the region for more than 30 years, recognizing contributions to quality of life and raising the bar for future development.

The organization’s Environmental Excellence Awards has become known as the “Academy Awards” of the local environmental community, setting standards for the exceptional physical, technical and social development of our metropolitan area. The awards are highly sought by companies both large and small, government agencies, cities and towns, design professionals, educators, media representatives, artists, technicians and others.

Environmental excellence takes many forms, from green buildings, magnificent desert vistas and livable communities to innovative public art, sustainable technologies and environmental education.

Sustainable development is more prevalent today than ever. The past few years has seen a record number of entries in the competition, and this program has become a powerful vehicle in advocating for the preservation of natural resources – air, water, open space and our unique desert environment.

If you have or know of green initiatives that should be recognized at the 32nd annual Environmental Excellence Awards program at the Westin Kierland on Sat., Sept. 29, get your entry in ASAP! The deadline is fast approaching.

In an effort to make the awards program as environmentally friendly as the projects submitted, Valley Forward is now requiring all entries be submitted electronically through an FTP site and will not accept any printed, hard copy materials!

Nominations will be accepted through 4 p.m., Thursday, July 19, 2012, in the following categories: Buildings and Structures; Livable Communities; Site Development and Landscape; Art in Public Places; Environmental Technologies; Environmental Education/Communication; and Environmental Stewardship (SRP Award).

Environmental Excellence Awards nomination forms are available at valleyforward.org or calling (602) 240-2408.

vacant lot

Valley Community-Based Project Transforms Vacant Lots

Build it, and they will come: Transforming underutilized, vacant lots throughout Valley communities


Valley communities need to come together and make lemonade! Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when life hands you lemons?

Let’s start by transforming the many underutilized and vacant lots throughout our communities into productive gathering spaces that contribute to our sense of place and beautify our neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, there are a fair number of them out there, due largely to the economic downturn and plight of the construction industry. Fallow lots can be eyesores and negatively impact the physical environment of surrounding neighborhoods. They’re often targets for vandalism and graffiti.

The good news is there’s is enormous potential for these vacant parcels to be developed for a variety of temporary uses, such as urban gardens, farmers’ markets, bicycle parks and community recreational spaces that can improve the livability of existing neighborhoods and help attract new residents.

ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning is developing a student research project to explore the concept of installing temporary uses on vacant fallow lots in the urban cores within the Light Rail Corridors of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. This fall, students will work in teams to prepare development/redevelopment scenarios for selected sites, and then present their design concepts to stakeholder groups.

The end goal of the project is to document the process of successfully establishing these types of programs, providing a guide that outlines potential pitfalls, unforeseen roadblocks and other hurdles that a grassroots group or even a property owner might encounter in attempting to install a temporary or permanent amenity. Students will recommend potential solutions to these impediments, as well as case studies of successful implementation.

The city of Phoenix is already galvanizing supporters to activate and transform one vacant lot at a time through a community-based project called, “The Lot – What Should Go Here?”. Its initial focus is on a parcel known as Ro2, located on the northeast corner of 2nd and Roosevelt Streets. Several community events and forums have been held on the site, engaging attendees in helping to determine prospective uses and also outlining ideas for other fallow lots.

Phoenix is also temporary leasing a lot from Barron Collier Companies located on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road and plans to activate the 15-acre parcel through partnerships with private and non-profit groups. It’s hoped that the initiative will provide a template for other vacant lots around the Valley and create incentives for private property owners to participate in temporary lot activation projects.

Land owners have a responsibility to do something with their fallow lots — leaving them vacant and unutilized isn’t acceptable. A savvy developer can generate a great deal of good will in the community by allowing appropriate temporary uses.

You know what they say, if you build it they will come, and who wouldn’t want a cold glass of lemonade in this heat anyway?

Democratic Process And AZ Parks

Democratic Process, Both Frustrating And Rewarding

Talk about good news/bad news and all in a single day – that’s the democratic process in action for better or worse!

As an advocate for Arizona State Parks, I was disappointed that Gov. Brewer vetoed House Bill 2362 introduced by Rep. Karen Fann. Her bill would have protected earned income by state parks, such as entrance fees and other user charges, from further legislative budget sweeps.

I’m a registered lobbyist for Arizona Forward, a statewide business-based environmental coalition, but don’t often spend the day at our state capitol.  Mostly I advocate through education and outreach. But earlier this year, I participated in State Parks Advocacy Day at the capitol and co-hosted a press conference on the lawn with the Arizona State Parks Foundation. One of many parks stakeholders, I visited legislators in their office to communicate support for HB 2362. My own legislator, Rep. John Cavanaugh, told me he would not support the measure because the revenues would not be appropriated.

That’s why when the bill soared through the House and the Senate with bipartisan support and only a few opposing it, we were especially elated and felt like we made a difference. But then… our governor vetoed the bill.  That was definitely disheartening.

At the same, however, I learned the governor also vetoed HB 2757, which would have allowed for electronic billboards, a measure that violated the state’s ban on intermittent light, ruining the dark skies that have made Arizona a prime site for astronomical research.  That was good veto for the environment.

There’s democracy for you – it’s no doubt sometimes frustrating. After spending weeks getting park advocates, business owners and involved citizens to meet with their senators and representatives, it was erased with a single veto signature.  Admittedly, this bill definitely wasn’t the answer to state parks funding problems but it was a small step in the right direction.

On a positive note, many conservationists are already working on potential long-term solutions to fund parks and open space throughout Arizona. Plus, Rep. Fann is working on resurrecting her bill with a narrower focus to get passed in this session. Even though the governor has indicated she will support this revised version and agrees that parks create value in our community, anything can happen. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed.

Or better yet, speak out and voice your support for parks. If you would like to lend your voice to advocating for Arizona’s natural assets – the beautiful parks and open space that draws so many to the Grand Canyon State – please visit arizonaforward.org.

Air Quality

A Better Environment: Improving Air Quality And Our Health

Did you know 13 million deaths could be prevented every year by making our environment healthier? The fact is, public health is intricately connected to our environment regardless of where we live. This link between health and the environment has increasingly become a focal point for the medical community, policymakers and the general public. Some of the foremost factors are air pollution and exposure to pests and chemicals, which can have a significant impact on not only our health but also our quality of life.

The EPA considers indoor air quality one of the top five environmental risks to public health. It is a serious health issue for people who work inside, and furthermore, Americans spend 90 percent of their lives indoors.

Air quality is closely linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of hospitalization in adults, and it can also contribute to asthma and cardiovascular diseases.

Did you know the main reason for school absenteeism is asthma? It accounts for more than 12.8 million missed school days in a single academic year, and every day, nearly 40,000 people miss school or work due to this chronic disease.

The annual cost of asthma is estimated at nearly $18 billion in direct and indirect costs, such as hospitalizations and lost earnings, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Household pests also contribute to health problems with German cockroaches and dust mites a key risk factor for asthma development and exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

Green building emphasizes ventilation and non-toxic, low-emitting materials that create healthier and more comfortable living and working environments. The built environment has also recently been recognized as an important potential contributor to reduced levels of physical activity. An important element of sustainable design is the preservation of natural environments that afford a variety of recreation and exercise opportunities. Green buildings also seek to facilitate alternatives to driving, such as bicycling and public transport, which eases local traffic while encouraging personal health and fitness.

An interactive panel of local healthcare experts discuss the impact of the environment on our health at Valley Forward’s Quarterly Luncheon on Tuesday, April 3 at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

Dawn Gouge, Ph.D., entomologist specialist at University of Arizona, will talk about how public health is affected by pests and pesticides, including the rising bed bug crisis our nation is facing. In addition, Fred Karnas, Ph.D., president and CEO of St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, will spotlight health impacts in relation to the built environment and what constitutes livable, walkable communities. The program will be moderated by Bob England, M.D., director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Join us for this enlightening perspective on how our health is impacted by where we live, work and play — and how we can improve our environment, including improving air quality and reducing exposure to pests and chemicals. Visit valleyforward.org for more information.

Renewable Energy

Arizona’s Renewable Energy Industry Generates $2B, Thousands Of Jobs

The renewable energy sector is a $2 billion industry with an estimated 16,800 jobs created in 2011, according to a new study conducted by Elliot D. Pollack & Company. The report was commissioned by Pinal Partnership with support from Arizona Forward and was released at the Renewable Energy Economic Summit & Conference hosted by both organizations last week. More than 200 industry professionals attended this sold-out conference held in Casa Grande.

Renewable energy is still a small part of the overall economy in Arizona, which totals 1.7 million jobs in the Phoenix area alone. However, to put this in perspective consider the copper industry — one of the state’s original five Cs  — which generates only 9,000 jobs with 70 percent of the country’s copper produced in Arizona. Another positive is that recent job growth in the renewable energy industry has helped replace lost construction jobs.

Public policy, energy efficiency, untapped renewables and the future role of solar in Arizona’s economy were among the other topics addressed by four different panel sessions featuring industry experts. They noted that while Arizona has some of the best clean energy resources in the nation, we are still behind other states in harnessing new energy development.

Regulatory uncertainties, global competition, rapid changes in technology, along with financing, siting and transmission issues are all challenges the industry faces. Panelists suggested that we must work together to maintain a reasonable level of support for solar and renewable energy technologies both through incentives and policy.

In order to continue to grow the renewable energy sector, the Pollack report recommends Arizona become more involved in the manufacturing of components and products to export to places like California where much of the installation activity is happening. Arizona has less regulatory intrusion and a much lower manufacturing cost base than its West Coast neighbors.

What’s promising is that with leadership at the federal, state and local levels, we can expand the renewable energy sector and create new jobs while enhancing our environmental quality. Public and private sectors must work together to identify and foster long-term policy solutions. The Grand Canyon state is uniquely poised to be a leader in clean energy, which will benefit the economy, communities and environment.

For more information about renewable energy, Elliot D. Pollack & Company or Arizona Forward, visit edpco.com or valleyforward.org.

Civil Discourse

Civil Discourse: What, How And Why Now?

It seems to be the topic of many conversations these days. But what is civil discourse, and how can we achieve it? More importantly, why has the call become increasingly louder for a concerted effort to find a different way of electing our leaders, solving our problems and interfacing with each other?

What is Civil Discourse

Civil discourse is our ability to have conversation on topics about which we disagree and to listen to each other’s perspectives. Civil discourse requires respect of the other participants and an appreciation for others’ experiences.

To advance society and improve the quality of life in Arizona, we must be prepared to discuss important, yet potentially contentious issues, such as growth, transportation, healthcare and education. Our democracy is dependent upon responsible residents that can, and will, wrestle with these tough issues, without partisanship, while maintaining respect for the need to hear, understand and take into account different viewpoints.

Join the Discussion

An interactive panel of local experts will be discussing civil discourse, what it is and why it’s important at Valley Forward’s luncheon on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel.

Panelists include Paul Johnson, former Mayor of the city of Phoenix and manager of Southwest Next Capital Management; Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs; and Steve Rizley, senior vice president and general manager of Cox Communications. Tarah Jackson, president of Arizona Town Hall will serve as moderator.

These speakers will be engaging attendees in a conversation on civil discourse, the shifting of politics in Arizona, consensus building and regional thinking. It’s especially important in this presidential election year, which also marks Arizona’s centennial celebration and the 50th anniversary of Arizona Town Hall. Come hear for yourself why listening to others’ opinions is so integral in our society.

For more information about Valley Forward, visit valleyforward.org.

Valley Forward

Valley Forward: Reflecting On Two Decades Of Service

I never really thought when I took the job that I’d see my 20th year anniversary as president of Valley Forward. That’s not to say I expected to leave my post sooner. For the past two decades, it’s been pretty automatic – I got out of bed every morning and found my way to the office without much thought about doing anything differently.

And for that I have no regrets. Serving this 42-year-old environmental public interest organization is an honor and a privilege but even more, a passion that has enriched my life in many ways. For that I thank all of the Valley Forward members  – the lifeblood of our impressive and diverse association, as well as our friends in the community who have supported our efforts over more than four decades.

This has been a year of significant change and transition as we’ve taken our mission statewide through a new initiative, Arizona Forward. I’ve become a regular on the I-10 corridor to Tucson and north to Prescott and Flagstaff via 1-17. The prospect of commuter rail  in the Sun Corridor one day brings great promise for enhancing our connectivity and bridging economic development opportunities.

We’ve come a long way during my tenure, which spans almost half of Valley Forward’s existence. From creating and presenting the state’s first official Earth Day celebration to co-hosting Arizona’s largest volunteer clean up along the Salt River, we have engaged countless individuals in our environmental programs.

Our advocacy of desert preservation and open space, multi-modal transportation options, water conservation and renewable energy alternatives has helped to shape public policy in our region that impacts both our livability and sustainability. We’ve graded Valley cities on how they respond to growth issues and made them stronger in the process. Our publications on smart growth strategies have helped educate public and private sectors.

That’s a lot! It’s also what drives my enthusiasm for Valley Forward – it’s ever changing, never static, always moving and anything but boring. I encourage everyone to get involved in something – find a way to give back to the community you’ve made your home. It will reward you in many ways.

I thank those who picked Valley Forward for their involvement. We couldn’t have made such strides without significant support from the community at large. 2012 brings with it ample opportunities to continue our collective journey to balance Arizona’s environmental quality and economic growth towards a more vibrant future.

For more information about Valley Forward, visit valleyforward.org.

Richard Picciotto, Valley Forward Association 42nd Annual Lunch

9/11 Firefighter Richard Picciotto To Speak At Valley Forward Luncheon

The highest-ranking firefighter to survive the World Trade Center collapse and the last fireman to escape the devastation, Richard “Pitch” Picciotto, was on a stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors of the North Tower when it collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Picciotto is coming to Phoenix to speak at Valley Forward Association’s 42nd Annual Lunch on Dec. 9, 2011, and will provide an outspoken account of that indelible day.

His inspirational presentation to some 500 business and community leaders in attendance will address how to lead effectively and achieve optimal teamwork to help organizations achieve their goals; the training, preparedness, risk management and decision-making know-how necessary to tackle any problem; and how hope and positivity can emerge out of tragedy and adversity.

An FDNY battalion commander, his is the harrowing true story of an American hero, a man who thought nothing of himself and gave nearly everything for others during one of our nation’s darkest hours. Picciotto will share the positives that can emanate from a major disaster.

Picciotto’s book, Last Man Down, is a tribute to the 343 firefighters and 2,400 civilians who lay dead in the rubble that surrounded him on that day. Moreover, it is a heartfelt remembrance of a day of infamy and profound humanity. The book was an immediate New York Times bestseller upon its release in May 2002. He will personally autograph copies of his book for luncheon attendees.

Sept. 11 demonstrated the power of the human spirit, revealing a nation united and tenacious, saddened but resilient. Life has carried on even in the face of unthinkable loss. We may never understand the whys of what happened, but we can use our collective energy to create a stronger America.

For more information about Picciotto and the Valley Forward’s 42nd Annual Lunch, visit www.valleyforward.org.

 

Phoenix Sky Harbor, Economic Impact

The Economic Impact Of The Aviation Industry, Phoenix Sky Harbor

Most everyone knows Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is an economic engine for the state, but the actual numbers are nothing short of staggering.

One of the 10 busiest airports in the nation for U.S. passenger traffic, Sky Harbor had a $33 billion economic impact in Arizona in 2007, supporting 305,136 jobs through the Phoenix Airport System with a payroll of $11.9 billion. This includes airline employees, food service, security and air traffic control personnel. Currently, more than 33,500 people are employed at Sky Harbor with a payroll of $1.7 billion.

Directors of three Valley airports provided an enlightening perspective of aviation issues relating to economic growth and environmental quality at Valley Forward’s recent luncheon. Expert panelists included: Danny Murphy, aviation director for Phoenix Sky Harbor; Lynn Kusy, executive director of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport; and Gary Mascaro, aviation director of Scottsdale Airport.

According to the Arizona Airports Association, more than 470,000 Arizona jobs are related directly or indirectly to aviation with an annual payroll of $14.7 billion. The aviation industry facilitates further economic development by bringing visitors and newcomers to the state and provides vital links for transportation services that add value to the region.

Over the past few years, our local airports have made tremendous strides in becoming more environmentally sustainable. For example, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport’s terminal expansions are energy-efficient and can support solar panels installations. Scottsdale Airport reuses materials for pavement projects and installs LED systems for airfield lighting replacements. Additionally, there are plans underway for a new airport operations center, which will be built in accordance with the city of Scottsdale’s green building standards. Phoenix Sky Harbor also has incorporated a number of green initiatives including reducing energy use through greener construction and energy-efficient buildings, using alternative fuels and finding ways to cut back on overall waste.

Economic Impact of Aviation Industry, Phoenix Sky HarborAs an aside, I’m honored and excited to be a participant in the fifth PHX Aviation Academy sponsored by the Support Sky Harbor Coalition in association with the City of Phoenix Aviation Department. This eight-week program offers a rare opportunity to go behind and above the scenes of PHX. For example, last month I found myself in the cockpit of the Air National Guard’s workhorse Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker! And at the end of this month I’ll get an exclusive tour of the FAA control tower.

The total impact of the state’s aerospace industry, both in terms of economic impact and number of jobs created is extensive and will continue to grow as long as we continue to provide and maintain the infrastructure of our airport and aviation facilities.

For more information about Phoenix Sky Harbor, skyharbor.com.

 

Arizona Forward, State Park Issues

Arizona Forward Enhances Awareness of Arizona’s Park Issues

Arizona Forward Enhances Awareness of Arizona’s Park Issues

Arizonans value their parks and open space, consistently ranking them as key quality of life indicators. A recent survey conducted of residents statewide shows that 87 percent visit a park or recreation area at least once a year, with 23 percent doing so on a weekly basis. In addition, parks and open spaces create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue.

Multiple land ownerships and funding mechanisms have produced parks and open space issues that are complex, confusing and sometimes controversial. In fact, the telephone survey conducted by WestGroup Research further revealed that most residents (80 percent) rate their knowledge of how state and local parks are funded as very low or in the middle range. Meanwhile, a depressed economy and recession has impacted parks negatively at every jurisdictional level from federal and state to county and municipal governments.

Recognizing the need for public education on the subject of parks and open space issues, Arizona Forward, a new statewide environmental/business coalition launched by Valley Forward earlier this year, developed a comprehensive report to provide unbiased facts, background information and answers to frequently asked questions about state and federal lands as well as county and municipal parks.

Designed to enhance awareness of and interest in solving Arizona’s parks issues, the primer is among Arizona Forward’s first projects towards its mission to promote cooperative efforts to improve the livability, sustainability and economic vitality of cities and towns across Arizona. Readers can sort out how much open space is available in the state, who is responsible for it and the challenges facing various jurisdictions of government. The user-friendly reference guide is described as ‘parks and open space 101’ and can be downloaded at arizonaforward.org.

While the primer doesn’t take a formal position on how to solve funding issues relating to parks, it communicates the economic impact of recreational and open space amenities and why Arizonans should care about these natural resources.

Charter members of Arizona Forward include: Arizona Community Foundation, First Solar, Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold, National Bank of Arizona, Solon Corporation, Sundt Construction, The Nature Conservancy, Total Transit and Wells Fargo.

For more information about Arizona Forward, visit arizonaforward.org.

Phoenix, Arizona Sustainability Reports

Arizona Sustainability Report: How Well Is The State Doing?

Phoenix and Arizona Sustainability: How does Arizona fare when it comes to being green?
The Good, the Bad and the Dirty

It seems like every week there’s a new list or report being published. So it’s hard to keep track of how our region is faring, and it’s even more challenging to cull what’s credible and what’s not.

That said, I’m particularly interested in how we’re doing from an environmental standpoint. Based on recent reports, Phoenix has been ranking fairly well in most categories, including green jobs, solar installations and overall sustainability factors. But our metropolitan area still has some setbacks with high pollution ratings.

Arizona, overall, doesn’t appear to be doing as well. Ironically, the state as a whole is not ranking as high on similar lists as the Valley. For example, Phoenix was ranked in the top 10 sustainable U.S. metro areas by Site Selection magazine in its “Green Guide 2011” last month. Site Selection Sustainability Rankings were derived from a unique index of data ranging from the overall size of the green industry to the level of incentives available to support green projects. Arizona as a state did not even make the magazine’s top 10 list.

In the jobs department, a recent list shows Greater Phoenix ranked 20th out of the top 100 metropolitan areas for the proportion of jobs connected with the “green” or “clean” economy in 2010, according to a study compiled by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. Again, Arizona ranked lower – 25thout of 50 states.

Many wonder for all the rhetoric if we’re really on our way to becoming the solar capitol of the world. In the renewable arena, Arizona did make great strides in 2010, taking fourth place for deployment of photovoltaic installations statewide, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. Arizona’s total was 54 megawatts, helped by federal incentives as well as those from programs at APS and SRP and only trailing California, New Jersey and Nevada. Another report by the SEIA ranked Arizona in terms of solar installations during the first quarter of 2011.

Unfortunately, we’re not doing so well in air quality – the Valley is still perceived as being dirty, albeit no longer the dirtiest in the country. According to a report released by the Lung Association in April 2011, the Phoenix Metro region ranked second worst of the five metropolitan areas with the highest year-round levels of fine-particle air pollution. On the flip side, Tucson ranked third lowest in the same category. lung association noted that the Phoenix region improved its rankings in the report card’s two other categories, falling from 14thin 2010 to 24thfor short-term dust pollution and from 11thto 19thin ozone.Overall, Maricopa County received a failing grade for ozone in the lung association’s report card, as did Gila, Pinal and Yuma counties.

So, what does this all mean? Regardless of the rankings, we need to do a better job of fostering collaboration in Arizona. Our legislators, municipal leaders, county officials, tribes, corporations and non-profit organizations must work together to advocate a balanced public policy agenda and effectively manage statewide growth concerns that impact both our quality of life and economic competitiveness.

 

Quick Links about Phoenix & Arizona Sustainability Progress

Green Guide 2011

Metropolitan Policy Program study

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) study

SEIA report, solar installations

Lung Association report

31st annual Environmental Excellence Awards, Nominations, Valley Forward

Searching For Environmental Excellence, 31st Annual Awards

Like most of us, companies and organizations have to do more with less these days. The truly successful have found ways to stay profitable while keeping sustainability a top priority. That’s because environmentally friendly practices can green the bottom line as well and contribute to a more productive and satisfied workforce. A healthy environment leads to a healthy economy and though this isn’t a new concept, it’s one that’s fast growing in popularity.

In fact, the notion of leveraging superior environmental quality for sustainable economic prosperity has been recognized in the Valley for more than 30 years. Throughout the past three decades, Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards winners have positively impacted the community in countless ways. As varied as the hundreds of award winners have been over the history of Valley Forward’s program, they all have one thing in common – each has had an undeniable impact in the community. And that’s what the Environmental Excellence Awards program is all about.

Known as the Academy Awards of the local environmental community, the Environmental Excellence Awards set standards for the exceptional physical, technical and social development of our metropolitan area. The awards are highly sought by companies both large and small, government agencies, cities and towns, design professionals, educators, media representatives, artists, technicians and others.

Environmental excellence takes many forms — from green buildings, magnificent desert vistas and livable communities to innovative public art, sustainable technologies and environmental education.

Environmental sustainability is more prevalent today than ever. We receive a record number of entries in the competition each year. The program has become a powerful vehicle in advocating for the preservation of natural resources – air, water, open space and our unique desert environment.

Iyou have or know of green initiatives that should be recognized at the 31st annual Environmental Excellence Awards program at the Westin Kierland on Sat., Sept. 17, get your entry in ASAP! The deadline is fast approaching.

Nominations will be accepted through 4 p.m., Thursday, July 7, 2011, in the following categories: Buildings and Structures; Livable Communities; Site Development and Landscape; Art in Public Places; Environmental Technologies; Environmental Education/Communication; and Environmental Stewardship (SRP Award).

Nomination forms are available at valleyforward.org or calling (602) 240-2408.

Creating Jobs in AZ, Implementing E-Work Strategy

Creating More And Better Jobs In Arizona By Implementing E-Work Strategies

In the past 20 years, there has been a major shift in the way work is done. With the rise of the knowledge-based economy, rapid advances in technology and concern over carbon footprints, the traditional workplace model has grown obsolete.

The actual necessity to physically change location in order to routinely sit down in front of a computer and perform simulations, word processing, data entry, reporting and numerous other such tasks is being challenged on the basis of concerns for energy conservation, the impact on our environment, a refocusing on family values, and number of other issues. It just doesn’t make sense for workers to commute back and forth to an office anymore. Telework, also referred to as e-work or telecommuting, offers a more productive working environment with fewer distractions that result in better job performance, improved employee morale and job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and less sick leave usage.

Estimates suggest that over 50 million U.S. workers (about 40 percent of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time; yet in 2008, only 2.5 million employees (not including the self-employed) considered their home their primary place of business.

There are many myths associated with telecommuting, which create a barrier for widespread acceptance. For example, managers wonder how they will know that their employees are actually working if they’re not in the office. To combat these types of concerns, a number of technologies are now available allowing employees and managers to track business products and services and to communicate with their teams effectively and efficiently.

The State of Arizona’s Telework Program has served as a model and resource for employers internationally for nearly two decades. As an extremely diverse organization with more than 21,000 employees in Maricopa County — representing 100 very different agencies, and residing in 265 separate buildings, the state has implemented a tremendously successful program. More than 20 percent of its total employees in the county are actively participating. The measurable impact is astonishing; estimates show that state teleworkers annually drive 5.25 million fewer miles, generate 175,000 fewer pounds of air pollution and endure 181,000 fewer hours of stressful driving time.

Nearly 100 CEOs, human resource directors and IT managers gathered in Scottsdale this month for a half-day E-work Summit to learn specific techniques that they can apply today to start moving towards the e-workplace of tomorrow. The event was sponsored by several local companies and organizations, including Valley Forward.

We are on the verge of a new era in telecommunications that will undoubtedly impact how we work and live. You can be at the forefront in changing how we do business to improve quality of life and sustainability by integrating the e-workplace into your existing business models.

EcoFlight, sustainable environment, Photo: Valley Forward

Sonoran Institute, Arizona Wilderness Coalition Encourage A Sustainable Environment

Two non-profit organizations are working together to foster a sustainable environment and vibrant economy in the West Valley, recognizing the natural and cultural assets of these communities.

I was honored the Sonoran Institute and the Arizona Wilderness Coalition recently invited me to take an airplane tour to see and hear first hand about their efforts. Our six-person EcoFlight plane took off from Deer Valley Airport for an arial exploration of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that may be suitable for solar/renewable energy development. These lands are included in the Sonoran Desert Heritage conservation proposal and are the target of a desert protection campaign to protect BLM lands for current residents and future generations.

A vast expanse of public lands are included in the conservation proposal, forming a crescent from the Lake Pleasant area, expanding west to the county border region, then curving east to the Sonoran Desert National monument. This comprehensive solution for ecosystem protection ensures the best possible integration of a variety of uses and users. The Sonoran Institute has been reaching out to a wide cross section of stakeholders, including land managers, developers, the military, local governments, user groups and other like-minded organizations, such as Valley Forward, that have an interest in both conservation land and renewable energy.

EcoFlight supports the initiative and helps foster public outreach by providing aviation services to those interested in land use issues associated with solar facilities and wind generating turbines. This unique group educates its passengers on how these renewable energy facilities will affect wildlife and conversation efforts. Seeing is believing; it’s an amazing perspective to view from above the corridors that exist or must be created to transmit and harness natural energy.

Conservation of these public lands provides many benefits, including protecting cultural resources, key wildlife habitat, water and air quality and recreational opportunities. As Western Maricopa County continues to grow over the coming decades, these valuable landscapes will be protected into perpetuity.

The bottom line is a robust renewable energy industry, and the economic prosperity that comes with it can be realized in a thoughtful manner that is respectful of our natural resources, including our wildlife, water and public lands.

Arizona Mega-Region, Sun Corridor

Developing the Road Map to Growth in the Sun Corridor

With the housing industry in the slumps and fewer construction jobs, now is the time for Arizona to look at ways to diversify its economy to guarantee a sustainable future. The region’s population is poised to grow from 5 million to 10 million by 2050, so we will also face the environmental challenges of accommodating rapid population growth in a fragile desert community.

The changing demographic and economic situation is prompting researchers and leaders to think about how the mega-region known as the Sun Corridor can one day become a significant economic, technological and cultural center. In moving forward, how do we ensure a balance between economic growth and environmental quality?

If the region between Phoenix and Tucson becomes a new paradigm in Arizona for sustainable development with a diverse economic base, our state — quite possibly — will be on track to advance globally. With that said, it will take a substantial amount of cooperation between business and government as well as much better marketing of the region to encourage the wave of investment to continue and accelerate.

Next month, Valley Forward Association is hosting a luncheon focused on opportunities for the Sun Corridor. Panelists include:


The program will be moderated by Janet Perez, editor-in-chief of Arizona Business Magazine, and will focus the discussion on ways Phoenix, Central Arizona and Tucson might work together to enhance growth opportunities and the quality of life issues in the Sun Corridor. Be part of the dialogue that will help shape Arizona’s future!

Electric Vehicle were a big hit in 2010 in Arizona

Arizona’s “Green” Future Was Founded In 2010

2010 will probably be remembered more for the challenges it brought than the successes it yielded in our Valley and state. But out of the darkness came some light, and the illumination casts hope for a bright future.

Countless volunteers gave generously of their time, talent and treasury to support green initiatives in our region despite a challenging economy. Their efforts are evident in a range of projects that contribute to the sustainability of our unique desert environment. And their commitment will make our communities stronger, more vibrant places.

Working together, they’re a testament to the power of collaboration representing companies both large and small, government entities, educators, non-profits and concerned citizens. Their individual successes are our collective treasures:

We’re one of five states selected to deploy “smart” charging stations as part of an electric vehicle program by ECOtality and the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of charging stations in Phoenix and Tucson will create more green jobs, less pollution and a reduction on foreign oil dependency.

Daily ridership on our 20-mile light rail system exceeded expectations by an average of 58 percent, and a new Adopt-A-Station program promotes use of public transportation. In addition, the city of Phoenix in partnership with ASU, APS and other sponsors received $25 million in stimulus funds to build the Green Rail Corridor Demonstration Project to showcase ways to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

The Center for Teacher Success was officially launched to improve the academic achievement of Arizona students by elevating the professional performance of their teachers and education leaders. Several non-profits partnered to provide environmental education resources to teachers through workshops, forums and special events.

In the wake of municipal budget cuts, Adopt-A-Park programs have drawn thousands of volunteers to trash pickups, tree plantings and general spruce ups of city recreation areas.  The city of Chandler opened the Paseo Vista Recreation Area, a 64-acre park built atop the closed city landfill; and the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center opened on the banks of the river in Phoenix to connect people with nature.

The town of Gilbert celebrated its 90th anniversary and was named the 17th safest city in America, one of the best places to live in the U.S. and among the best places in the nation to learn.

Several LEED certified projects came online throughout our region, and 12 Valley mayors signed a proclamation by Valley Forward and the U.S. Green Building Council, Arizona Chapter in support of green schools.

Through a preservation-by-relocation effort, the Sandra Day O’Connor House, originally constructed in Paradise Valley as a family home for the former Supreme Court Justice, was undertaken and piece-by-piece, the entire house was deconstructed and transported to Tempe. It was meticulously reconstructed in Papago Park, with a keen focus on historic preservation and environmental sustainability.

Our region overall has become a brighter green in the past year. And it occurred in the worst recession most of us can remember in our lifetime.  As the year closes with winter’s short days and long evenings, we’re reminded that even in the darkness there is light.

Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations - The future will happen first in Arizona

Electric Vehicles And Charging Stations an Arizona Reality

The future will happen first in Arizona. That’s because Phoenix and Tucson made a list we can be proud about – we’re one of six states selected to deploy “smart” charging stations as part of an electric vehicle (EV) program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of charging stations will soon be placed throughout our region and 900 zero-emission Nissan LEAF electric vehicles will rollout in our metro areas.

As a project stakeholder, Valley Forward Association was privileged to participate in a press conference at the Desert Botanical Garden to officially unveil ECOtality’s plans to electrify Arizona’s Sun Corridor.

ECOtality is a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies and is facilitating The EV Project, the largest electric vehicle infrastructure venture ever undertaken. It will deliver 15,000 residential and commercial charges to 16 cities in six states.

Part of the planning process included the involvement of local government agencies and regional stakeholders to ensure the proper locations for the charging stations. Collaboration on the infrastructure is essential to prepare Arizona for the next wave of electric vehicles and enable more rapid adoption. The company also evaluated a variety of factors, including population density, zoning regulations, employment centers and transportation routes, when developing the blueprint.

The goal of the project is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making the Valley ‘plug-in ready’ and enhance alternative transportation efforts that encourage individuals to incorporate green technology into their lives. The success of EVs is dependent on charge infrastructure that makes recharging convenient, practical and cost-effective.

Standing in the way of wider spread EV adoption are perceptions and myths about how far the car will go on electricity – approximately 100 miles on a full charge – in addition to fears of being stranded, even though charging stations are being placed every 30 miles along most freeway systems. ECOtality plans to collect and analyze data from the vehicles and charging systems to characterize vehicle performance and the effectiveness of local charging infrastructure under various use patterns and climate conditions to prepare for the next deployment and help encourage additional adoption.

The EV deployment plan is good news for Arizona on several fronts, including more green jobs, less pollution and a reduction on foreign oil dependency.

Earthfest Provides Free Resources to Teachers

EarthFest Provides Free Resources To Teachers

Teachers are desperately in need of assistance, especially during these tough economic times with budget cuts, fewer resources and larger class sizes. That’s why it’s important to get the word out about some exciting opportunities to assist educators, both personally and in the classroom.

Arizona teachers can apply for one of two full-tuition scholarships being offered by University of Phoenix and/or $5,000 in funding for environmental programs in their school, classroom or community through an EarthFest Education Grant made possible by STMicroelectronics.

Valley Forward Association has partnered with University of Phoenix to offer two full-tuition scholarships to Arizona K-12 teachers in an effort to expand its environmental education outreach. Each scholarship will allow a prospective student the opportunity to obtain a Master of Arts in Education (MAED) degree.

The purpose of the scholarship program is to provide educational opportunities to local teachers who have demonstrated sustainable practices in their classroom and want to continue to make a difference in their community. The scholarship application deadline is Oct. 22 and recipients will be announced by Nov. 12. To obtain a copy of University of Phoenix’s Valley Forward Scholarship application, teachers can visit valleyforward.org or phoenix.edu/scholarships.

In addition, Valley Forward recently announced $5,000 in grant funding for teachers in the 2010-11 school year to support projects that enhance awareness of and interest in environmental sustainability. It is the fourth consecutive year STMicroelectronics has funded this program.

Projects should focus on such topics as: energy, water, air quality, transportation, land planning, plants and animals or waste management. The deadline for submitting applications is Dec. 10. Applications may be mailed or emailed to info@valleyforward.org and projects must be completed by May 1, 2011.

These and other opportunities were offered in conjunction with the sixth annual EarthFest Educators Night, presented in partnership with Intel Corporation and the Helios Education Foundation. To learn more about what resources are available, visit: Environmental Education Directory.

Why does it matter? Because if we expose kids of all ages to ways they can contribute to a healthier environment, it helps ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Joel Sartore ~ National Geographic Photographer

Valley Forward Hosts National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

Why should humans curtail economic activity to preserve endangered forms of life? The question needs answering for each new generation despite the fact the Endangered Species Act has been in place for 36 years now.

World-renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore notes in his newest book that nearly 2,000 plants and animals are listed as endangered species. This doesn’t even account for those that are already extinct.

Forty Arizonan species are endangered or threatened under federal law, meaning they are close enough to extinction to necessitate protection. Arizona is losing its native wildlife. As animals ourselves, this should make us very nervous.

Sartore’s book, Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, started as a personal project and grew into a three-year effort to document everything from grizzly bears to endangered flies. Rare includes portraits of some of the country’s most endangered creatures. Some of them are likely to go extinct without people ever knowing they existed. This thought-provoking picture book shows the reality of the Earth’s vanishing biodiversity and what we stand to lose if we don’t act now.

Biodiversity produces the food we eat and the air we breathe. It also filters our water, controls disease and maintains our climate. The impact of losing native species is profound. Every mammal, bird, fish, reptile and invertebrate native to the state of Arizona is ultimately at risk as rivers continue to dry up, forests vanish from wildfires and drought, and desert habitats are turned into urban landscapes.

Despite the somber topic of extinction, Sartore’s book manages not only to present the beauty of some of the last members of animals and plant species in the world, but also to inspire readers. The last chapter of the book showcases animals that have started to come back from brink of total extinction through conservation programs, such as the bald eagle, the gray wolf and the California Condor.

Thus, the good news is that there is still time. However, we each need to do our part to save these unique creatures — and ultimately, ourselves. By pledging to reduce, reuse, recycle and greening our own lifestyles and business practices, we can take the first step towards helping to save species from being lost forever.

Arizona is privileged to be hosting Sartore as the keynote speaker at Valley Forward’s 41st  Annual Luncheon held on Dec. 3 at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail info@valleyforward.com or call (602) 240-2408.

Diane Brossart is president of the Valley Forward Association.

www.valleyforward.org

Photo via www.joelsartore.com.

Water Consumption

Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders Program Showcases Water Management Efforts

In this unique desert environment, water is our lifeline to sustainability and growth. The Valley’s secure water future is the result of more than 100 years of visionary planning. It’s clear, however, that while our region leads the Southwest in managing water supplies, we need to do a better job of communicating our efforts.

Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders program is designed to showcase how business and industry are demonstrating innovation in managing water resources.

Holsum Bakery in Tolleson was named the environmental public interest organization’s inaugural Water Efficiency Leader, and earned the title for integrating more sustainable processes into its entire operation.

In addition to bestowing top honors on Holsum Bakery, Valley Forward has recognized Intel Corporation and CityCenter of CityNorth for exceeding water efficiency standards.

“These companies are integrating sustainability into their corporate culture and have included water conservation and efficiency in their overall operations,” says Gregg Capps, chair of Valley Forward’s water committee, which initiated the program. “By spotlighting their efforts, we’re encouraging other businesses to review their processes to improve environmental quality, while at the same time positively impacting their bottom line.”

Holsum’s team has converted its water-intensive sanitation practices to processes using much less water. Irrigation of desert landscaping has been optimized, reducing water usage by 57 percent in the summer months and saving an estimated 155,000 gallons of water annually. Waterless urinals are now in place, saving 40,000 gallons annually, and basket washer controls have been modified to ensure minimal water usage.

Other water efficient practices include:

  • Setting goals each year for the bakery to reduce water usage per pound of production and in absolute gallons.
  • Installing secondary water meters to monitor usage at key process points, such as ingredient water, cooling towers and swamp coolers.
  • Increasing the use of brooms and brushes in the place of water hoses to clean equipment and work areas.

Next year, Holsum plans to install a system to capture runoff water from cooling towers and swamp coolers to replace incoming water used for landscape irrigation.

These measures are making a difference. Through July of this year, Holsum’s improvement in usage rate has saved the equivalent of 613,997 gallons of water over 2008, despite an increase in bread production of 4.1 percent.

Intel’s Ocotillo campus has developed innovative water conservation approaches that offset up to 75 percent of fresh water usage in the manufacturing process. Its key water management strategies include aquifer recharge, reuse of wastewater and internal water recycling.

CityCenter is the 76 acre, mixed-use portion of CityNorth development of Desert Ridge. Its state-of-the-art water capture and management system is designed and constructed to reclaim approximately four-million gallons of water per year.

Diane Brossart is president of Valley Forward. For more information on Valley Forward’s Water Efficiency Leaders visit www.valleyforward.org

Teen Sustainability 2010

The Future Of Sustainability Is In The Hands Of Today’s Teens

I’ve lived half my life and never heard the word cotillion. So when I went to my first cotillion event this fall, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what to expect. And I was blown away by the experience.

The Phoenix Cotillion was formed more than 50 years ago to give young men and women the opportunity to learn philanthropy, to be exposed to the fundamentals of etiquette and to become better acquainted with their peers by attending annual social events. This focus remains today, but membership is open only to young women of high school age throughout the Valley, and nearly 500 of them are currently members.

Another mission of The Phoenix Cotillion is to support a charitable organization at each event. Valley Forward Association, the 40-year-old, business-based environmental public interest group that I’ve managed for nearly two decades, was the charity of choice for the recent Mother-Daughter Fashion Show.

So, I found myself on the rooftop of the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel one Sunday night amid hundreds of gorgeous girls and their moms, all dressed to the nines. They lined up to give me cash and checks to support Valley Forward’s mission of environmental stewardship. They also clearly demonstrated the theme of their event, “Teens Looking Good and Going Green.” A few young men were invited to escort the models during the fashion show and stood out among the mostly female crowd.

In celebrating Valley Forward’s milestone anniversary this year, our leadership is looking ahead at what the next 40 years might look like as we continue to advocate for more livable and sustainable communities.

It occurred to me as I looked at these bright young faces with eyes full of promise — each of them brimming with poise and confidence — that they hold the future in their delicate and capable hands. And for that I’m grateful and somewhat relieved, because these incredible young people already are doing so much to give back to the communities in which they live. They belong to environmental clubs in their schools. They volunteer to help clean up neighborhoods, plant trees and support green projects around the Valley and state.

Valley Forward’s historic agenda has embraced such issues as land use and open-space planning, desert preservation, transportation and air quality, water management, and most recently, energy.

While these issues remain prevalent, our burgeoning Valley cities struggle with ways to grow smarter and in harmony with the pristine, natural desert environment that is unique to Arizona.

As the green movement now sweeping the nation, and indeed the world, touches all business and industry sectors, the quest for a more sustainable future appears within reach. Maybe one day, it won’t be a movement — it will be the lifestyle of choice.

Today’s youth are certainly making it that way. And the next 40 years really belongs to them.

Diane Brossart is president of Valley Forward Association, which brings business and civic leaders together to convene thoughtful public dialogue on regional issues, and to improve the livability and sustainability of Valley communities, www.valleyforward.org

Promoting Smart Growth in Down Economy

Promoting Smart Growth In A Down Economy

Please welcome Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, and guest blogger to the AZ Green Scene. This is the first blog of our exclusive monthly blog partnership series, where Diane will share her experience and insight regarding the state’s sustainable industry.

Freezing impact fees to stimulate economic development runs counter to the principles of smart growth.

There is no evidence that placing a moratorium on impact fees results in any increase in residential or non-residential construction, according to a number of authoritative studies, including the Brookings Institution. Yet with the hope of establishing momentum in the development industry our legislature recently imposed a freeze on acquisitions and increases until June 2010.

Not only won’t this stimulate growth but it places a huge burden on Valley cities when they can least afford it. Most communities are struggling with severe budget cuts, reductions in personnel and impending tax hikes. Now they’re facing yet another economic hit in the form of lost revenue from impact fees.

New development should pay for itself, period end of story. Impact fees implemented by local governments on new or proposed developments assist or pay for costs caused by growth and expansion. These fees help fund the construction of offsite capital improvements including infrastructure and public services such as road expansion and maintenance, expanded police and fire services and increased demand on schools.

In short, impact fees effectively eliminate the financial encumbrance on local jurisdictions that are trying to deal with population growth within the area. The capital required to fund new growth is simply the cost of doing business.

The widely held perception that development results in economic growth is not always the case, however. Badly planned growth creates vast burdens that are often subsidized with tax dollars.

The financial crisis our state is now facing has little to do with impact fees. It’s the result of poor and unscrupulous lending and borrowing decisions that led to a nationwide credit freeze.

Legislation should work to promote livable and sustainable communities by creating viable incentives for developers to undertake projects within urban areas rather than in greenfields on city edges. Our policies should facilitate a balance between economic growth and environmental quality.
The moratorium on impact fees undermines smart growth while shifting the cost of development from one sector to another.

Diane BrossartPresidentValley Forward Associationwww.valleyforward.org