Author Archives: Kasia Marciszewska

Kasia Marciszewska

About Kasia Marciszewska

Kasia Marciszewska is a writer and editor with experience working in magazines, newspapers and web. She covers topics relating to business, entertainment, health care, sustainability, philanthropy and more.

2 wind turbine with solar panels in front of a blue cloudy sky

Can Green Save The Day? Leaders Across The Valley And State Are Betting That Sustainability Will Help Lead To Economic Stability

Search for the word “sustainability” on Google and you’ll end up with nearly 25 million hits. But what does sustainability mean to Arizona, especially as the state’s economy crawls out of the crater left behind by the recession?

“The word sustainability and the word green means different things to different people — it’s more than just environmental technologies … The real question is how is the concept of sustainability affecting businesses at large. Because sustainability is a business issue,” said Rob Melnick, executive dean of the Global Institute of Sustainability/School of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Though 2009 proved to be a difficult year economically, it was a landmark year for the green industry in the Grand Canyon State.

In October 2009, Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm devoted to the clean-tech sector, listed Phoenix in the top 15 U.S. metro areas for clean-tech job activity. Phoenix was in the company of established cities in the industry such as San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, Calif., as well as Denver, Boulder and Greeley, Colo.

A month later, Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1403 into law, creating the Renewable Energy Incentive Program, which provides refundable tax credits and property tax reductions for manufacturers.

“That sent a resounding alert to the industry that Arizona was serious about becoming a global leader in the renewable energy sectors,” said David Drennon, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Commerce. “The result has been a solid response in companies — particularly in the solar industry — to consider establishing operations in Arizona. It means investment in our state and jobs for Arizonans.”

In her State of the State address in January, Brewer reinforced her belief that the sustanability industry will have a positive effect on the state’s economic recovery.

“We celebrate significant progress in establishing our foothold in the solar industry, and in advancing our competitive position in the national and global economy,” she said. “Our goal is to land the top solar manufacturers in the world and we are well on our way.”

School of Sustainability building at ASU
The School of Sustainability at Arizona State University has done much to advance the state’s reputation in the global green industry.

And on the federal level, President Barack Obama in January unveiled $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing tax credits for clean energy manufacturing projects across the United States. Companies with plans to build in Arizona requested nearly $30 million in tax credits. In a release announcing the funds, Obama stated, “Building a robust clean-energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future. (The credits) will help close the clean-energy gap that has grown between America and other nations, while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security.”

Slow Beginnings
Although the Renewable Energy Incentive Program signaled the state’s shift toward a valid future in the green sector, Arizona still has a way to go before catching up to other states.

A new study by the nonprofit research group Next 10 found that between 1995 and 2008, California had a 2.4 percent annual growth rate in its core green-economy employment. The study also found that although total jobs in California decreased 1 percent between January 2007 and January 2008, green jobs increased 5 percent.

“The state has to make some strategic investments,” Melnick said. “It’s got to be creative about regulation, work force development, finance and marketing itself. Right now, no one is saying Arizona is the green job capital of the world. We really could have been the solar capital of the world 20 years ago. We were growing so fast and so rich, but now we need it.”

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) echoes these sentiments.

“It’s a very policy-specific industry,” Broome said. “We have to think critically about energy policy, planning and community economic development.”

Now more than ever, Arizona needs to take the right steps in securing the industry as a valuable economic engine.

Green Jobs
The burgeoning sustainability industry is growing green jobs, bringing the prospect of much-needed employment to the state.

Brewer recently announced that one of the world’s largest solar-cell manufacturers, China-based Suntech Power Holdings, will bring its U.S. headquarters to the West Valley this year. Suntech, a multibillion-dollar corporation that makes photovoltaic solar cells and solar electric systems, will potentially be one of the first companies eligible for the Renewable Energy Incentive Program.

“We did quite an extensive search around the country,” said Steven Chan, chief strategy officer of Suntech Power Holdings. “(Arizona) had a combination of a strong potential market, very supportive policies and incentives, and very good educational institutions.”

The plant is set to open in Goodyear and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of this year, with an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts. The 80,000 to 100,000-square-foot plant will be designed with growth in mind, due to the anticipated expansion of the U.S. solar market.

Suntech announced it is expecting up to 150 jobs for the company’s first phase — 75 at launch, with the potential to double within the year. The plant will have a variety of jobs that will be focused mostly on manufacturing and operations.

“We’re looking forward to building a long-term base for Suntech in Arizona. We feel that both in Arizona and across the U.S. there is a promising future for a green work force,” Chan said.

Another manufacturer also has announced plans for an Arizona presence — and it comes from an unlikely source. Tower Automotive, a producer of structural metal components for the automobile industry, plans to invest $50 million in an Arizona plant. The decline of the U.S. auto industry hurt the company and spurred it to diversify its product line. The plant will manufacture mirror assemblies for solar-power systems and will employ about 200 people.

Green News Roundup

Green News Roundup

With so much going on in sustainability these days, I always find it difficult to narrow it down to just one thing to write about. Instead, I’ve decided to post a weekly green news roundup with some interesting green stories from around the Web. Enjoy! Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

Vancouver Olympics Going for the Green
The 2010 Winter Olympics have been at the center of the news for 2 weeks now, but I didn’t know until I read this LA Times article that they’re the greenest Olympics in history! The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, rides his bike to events even though he was provided with a car and driver. Using renewable hydro power for electricity and high green building standards, Vancouver generated fewer greenhouse gases in seven years of preparation than Salt Lake City and Turin did just during their Games!

An Inn Is an Oasis From Environmental Affronts
Topia Inn in the Berkshires is committed to providing guests with a completely green, organic experience. Guests are asked to remove their shoes before entering the no-smoking facility where they are provided with complimentary organic bath and body products and an organic breakfast. It’s a vacation that helps the environment too!

The Waste of Eating Out
No time to read through an entire article? Check out the Huffington Post’s visual representation of just how much waste we create by eating out. The captions really put things in perspective; for example, Americans use 15 billion disposable coffee cups a year. It also includes tips on how to reduce your waste next time you eat out!

Green Style: Earth Day Refashioned
Dressing fashionably and helping the environment? Sounds great to me! Marie Claire magazine offered up some ‘green’ clothing tips. Not only does it feature green items such as organic tee-shirts (imagine how soft!), but it brings to our attention entire fashion lines consisting entirely of green clothing. For example, Raw Bags by Beth Kelly Warner features sustainable  bags made entirely out of bamboo. Fashionable and good for the environment!

Students Prompt City of Mesa to Get Rid of Plastic Bags and Go Green
Here’s a great local story as well. A group of 8th graders at Rhodes Junior High School came up with the idea to ban plastic bags in Mesa during their Project Citizen Class in their quest to make the city more “green.”

Mel Sauder, President And CEO Of Microblend, Wants To Bring Paint Into The 21st Century

Mel Sauder
Microblend
Title: President and CEO
Est: 1998 | www.microblendtechnologies.com

“We plan to bring the painting industry into the 21st century like cell phones did for communications and digital cameras did for picture taking.  We plan to improve the painting experience like Starbucks did for coffee.” – Mel Sauder, President and CEO of Microblend

There’s more to Microblend than just a bucket of paint. A lot more as a matter of fact. Although founder Danny McClain died after a protracted illness, his legacy lives on through his revolutionary way of making paint.

The company makes, installs, supplies and supports the Automated Paint Machine (APM), which uses six liquid components to get customers exactly the color and type of paint they need. The APM saves retailers from purchasing hundreds of different cans, because they only need to use the six liquid components that are delivered directly to the point of sale or production.

“This was the ‘Holy Grail’ of the paint industry to be able to create all these paints at the point of sale or production instead of in factories 1,000 miles away,” says David Philbrook, vice president of training and development at Microblend. “We can now create the full line of architectural paints in virtually any color in the spectrum, match any competitor color and offer our own color palette.”

The process is also greener than traditional paint production because it uses fewer raw materials, less energy during production, comes in reusable pails and more. The company’s efforts at sustainability were recognized during the annual Governor’s Celebration of Innovation when it was named one of the Green Innovators of the Year.

But the road to success hasn’t been an easy one and Microblend has surpassed numerous challenges to get to where it is today.

“Our single greatest challenge has been gaining market acceptance,” says Mel Sauder, CEO of Microblend. “We are a small company and we intend to change the paint industry the way digital photography changed the photo industry landscape and cell phones altered the communication industry.”

Microblend’s revolutionary way of making paint proved a hurdle and a blessing on the company’s path to success. Since the industry hadn’t seen a “major change since the introduction of water-based paint (latex) decades ago” Microblend’s revolutionary, and in Sauder’s own words, “disruptive innovation” wasn’t immediately welcomed by industry peers.

However, it’s this rogue mentality that set Microblend apart and has been integral in pushing the company to success. The Gilbert-based company’s products are currently featured in a few Costco, Home Depot and Sears locations, along with independent paint dealers. Still warming up to residential users, Microblend already is a hit with paint contractors who use it to work on major projects.

“The system is so efficient and so small it offers tons of advantages to non-traditional retailers,” Philbrook says. “We feel this is the future of paint. We are comfortable and confident that retailers will take the green advantage.”

Despite the economic climate, Microblend’s system is catching on judging by the 60 percent to 70 percent revenue increase Sauder is anticipating for 2009. Sales in mass market locations increased significantly over the previous year, and Sauder hopes that with more distribution in the future, sales will continue to grow.

“Don’t underestimate the effort, sacrifice and time it will take to achieve success,” he says. “And I believe most importantly, long-term success is dependent on an everyday trust/integrity, commitment to customers, vendors and staff alike.”


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

ATA Profile: Jim Prueter, Senior Vice President of AAA Arizona

Jim Prueter
Senior Vice President, AAA Arizona
www.aaaaz.com

As senior vice president of AAA Arizona, Jim Prueter is part of a company that provides automotive, insurance and travel services to nearly 800,000 Arizona members. He’s no stranger to AAA, having worked as vice president of AAA Mid Atlantic in Philadelphia, and as executive vice president of AAA Chicago Motor Club. But he didn’t get his first taste of the travel industry side of the company until 1998, when he arrived in Arizona.

In his current post, he is responsible for heading up the largest leisure travel agency in Arizona, AAA Travel Agency. In addition, he is the publisher of AAA’s member magazine, Highroads Magazine. With a subscription of nearly half a million, the magazine is the largest in the state. In his various professional affiliations and as current chair of Arizona Tourism Alliance’s board of directors, Prueter recognizes the importance of tourism advocacy efforts.

“It is vitally important that the Arizona travel industry has a voice that is heard by our elected officials, the business community at large and the public. Tourism has a huge economic impact on our state, that is largely unknown, that must be heard,” Prueter says.

The ATA, Prueter says, is a driving force in spreading the message about the enormous impact the travel industry has on the state’s economy.

“The ATA serves as a catalyst and voice for the Arizona tourism industry dedicated to providing advocacy and generating awareness of the industry by providing education and leadership to the industry,” says Prueter. “Over 37 million domestic and international overnight travelers visited our state in 2008, spending some $18.5 billion. That equates to more than $51 million pumped directly into our economy every day. It is the only industry that brings prosperity to all 15 Arizona counties.”

He adds that taxes paid by visitors have a direct and measurable benefit on Arizonans, generating $2.6 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues in 2008.

“The point is, out-of-state visitors spend money that benefits businesses far beyond traditional travel entities. The purchases travelers to Arizona make generate taxes that create tax revenue that fund jobs and public programs, such as police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers,” Prueter says.

The dismal economy certainly put a strain on the industry, as did the faltering state budget and bad press regarding corporate meetings (Meetings account for more than 70 percent of resort revenues in the state).

To counter this, Prueter encourages individuals to join organizations such as the ATA, the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, the Arizona Restaurant Association, local convention and visitors bureaus and other industry organizations. His goal is to continue to work with the ATA on advocating tourism to all industries. With events such as the Unity Dinner and the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the ATA will continue its efforts on behalf of travel and tourism in Arizona.

Getting the industry back on track will take some time, but Prueter offers this advice: “Don’t sit on the sidelines wringing your hands … Let them know what the economic impact of the Arizona tourism industry means to their business and the positive impacts travel has to the benefit of all Arizonans.”


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

ATA Profile: Deborah Ostreicher, Deputy Aviation Director At Sky Harbor International Airport

Deborah Ostreicher
Deputy Aviation Director, Sky Harbor International Airport
www.skyharbor.com

As deputy aviation director of Sky Harbor International Airport, Deborah Ostreicher has a hands-on grasp of the travel industry. A typical day at the airport includes more than 1,200 aircrafts arriving and departing and more than 100,000 passengers coming and going. It’s no surprise that Sky Harbor is one of the 10 busiest airports in the world and has a $90 million daily economic impact.

Ostreicher’s professional background is in international business and marketing. She lived in Europe and the Middle East for about 10 years before coming to Phoenix. Although the travel industry always interested her, it wasn’t until 1996 that she became a travel professional. She joined Sky Harbor as the air service development manager, working to recruit airlines to Phoenix. The industry has certainly seen its share of changes since Ostreicher entered the scene.

“When I joined the industry, it was booming like crazy. With the economic downturn and post 9/11 era, things are certainly slower; and so is the cash flow that was once available for promotions and marketing,” Ostreicher says.

Yet Ostreicher sees her roles at Sky Harbor and as an executive committee member of the Arizona Tourism Alliance’s board of directors going hand in hand.

“As the area’s main airport and one of the largest in the entire Western region of the U.S., our role is to provide data and support to the efforts of the alliance,” she says. “Working together is critical, since a huge number of tourists come to Arizona by air and a large part of the airport’s business is the leisure market.”

Sky Harbor was not immune to the detrimental economic climate. Yet, the airport fared better than many others across the country.

“There has been an overall decrease (in passengers) of about 10 percent in 2009, but this is significantly better than many airports across the country. It’s important to keep in perspective that, rather than about 100,000 passengers a day, now we have about 90,000 per day,” Ostreicher says.

The demanding pace of keeping up with security changes, coupled with economic difficulties, is an ongoing challenge for the airport. Yet, it’s a challenge that Ostreicher is confident Sky Harbor can and will overcome. The recently announced Sky Train is one major project in the pipeline that is sure to bring growth and development to the airport.

“The Sky Train is by far the biggest project that will serve tourists, as well as the local community,” she says. “This will be ready for use by 2013, making it much easier for people to travel to, through and from the airport well into the future.”

Ostreicher recognizes the need to advocate the long-term benefits that a strong and vital tourism industry will have on the state. Though things may be difficult now, she says it’s still wise to invest in an industry that will be integral in Arizona’s economic recovery.

“The demand for tourism and air travel will undoubtedly bounce back,” she says. “But we can’t wait for that to happen to construct services necessary to serve this rebound. We have to do it now; and if you come to Sky Harbor, you’ll see that at America’s Friendliest Airport we are working to serve not only today’s customers, but tomorrow’s.”


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

ATA Profile: Mark Grenoble

Mark Grenoble
President, Enchantment Group
www.enchantmentgroup.com

Not many professionals can say they grew up in their industry. Mark Grenoble is one of the few who can. He has worked in some capacity in the tourism industry since he was a teenager, and aside from a few years in real estate, he has never left the industry.

From humble beginnings as a hotel banquet waiter, Grenoble has risen to the ranks of president of the Scottsdale-based Enchantment Group, a company that provides spa and resort property development and luxury hotel management services. He founded the firm with senior executives of Enchantment Resort and Mii amo, a destination spa that has been ranked No. 1 in the world by Travel & Leisure. Yet, Grenoble doesn’t think his story is very unique.

“There are so many stories just like mine; started at 15, 16, 17 and have grown up in the business, have a passion for it and enjoy it,” he says. “I like the resort side of the hotel business even better. Everyone wants to be there. The business is fun in general. Most people in this business are very passionate about what they do.”

That passion has helped Grenoble etch out a successful career in an industry that has undergone many changes during his 25 years and counting. All his hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. Last year, Grenoble was named the Tourism Champion of the Year at the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Though he thoroughly enjoys the industry and his role within it, Grenoble is very frank about the future. Recent challenges have plagued this industry and Grenoble’s role in the Arizona Tourism Alliance is to educate the public on the value of tourism.

“Our leadership in the industry needs to be active and advocate. We need to educate business leaders and elected officials on the value,” he says. “We’re a major industry in the U.S. and the state. Millions are employed nationwide. It’s an industry that is an economic driver; it’s a career path and we need to educate people on the value of it.”

Tourism is a huge part of the state’s economy, especially in smaller, rural communities. Sedona is one example. The city does not have a property tax because tourism funds services for the town.

“Tourism drives the economy for the town and real estate values. It adds a quality of life. Sedona has a population between 10,000 and 15,000 people. All the activities, art galleries, etc. — as a resident you would never be able to do that without the tourism aspect of it,” Grenoble says.

One positive thing that has occurred as a result of this downturn, he adds, is that communities, and even some elected officials, are willing to invest in tourism dollars. They have begun to understand the value of it and the long-term benefit of the cities and the state as a whole.

Grenoble also was instrumental in adding a communications position to the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association, a move that proved itself to be an excellent resource during last year’s trying times. The position bridged the gap between the industry and the public, and helped communicate the value of tourism.

“We’re trying to engage the public, elected officials and our membership, all the constituents of the tourism industry. We need to understand what we’re doing as an industry,” Grenoble says.

One way that Grenoble hopes to accomplish this is to include outside industries in tourism advocacy. The goals and missions for all industries is to bring economic stability to the state, and the best way to do so is to recognize the value of each industry and work together.

“We’re all intertwined, and that’s why we need to build alliances and bridges with those outside industries,” he says.

Another cause that Grenoble thinks could be helpful in aiding the tourism and travel industry in its recovery is a regulated school calendar that doesn’t begin until after Labor Day.

“It’s had a very positive uptick in taxes for states that have mandated school start after Labor Day,” Grenoble says.

He is currently lobbying supporters for this, but he remains focused on the main goal of tourism helping lead the state out of the economic downturn.

“I think the state has a lot going for it and I see the lights at the end of the tunnel,” Grenoble says.


Arizona Business Magazine

February 2010

Greenroads: A sustainable highway

Greenroads: A Sustainable Performance Metric For Roadways

Windows rolled down. Wind whipping through your hair. Music blaring from the speakers.

Does this scene sound familiar? Chances are many (if not all) of you have experienced driving down the highway and can relate to this imagery. Indeed, driving on the millions of miles of American highways is as embedded in our culture as hot dogs.

The United States highway network consists of 4 million miles of roads and streets. But did you know that building and maintaining a single mile of freeway takes as much energy as 200 homes in the U.S. use in one year? Or that it generates more waste than 1,200 homes produce annually? I certainly didn’t.

Luckily, researchers from the University of Washington’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the engineering firm CH2M Hill have launched the world’s first rating system for sustainable road construction.

Just as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced the LEED Rating System — a third-party certification program encouraging sustainable green building through tool and performance criteria — the researchers and engineering firm have introduced Greenroads.

According to the website, Greenroads is “a sustainability performance metric for roadway design and construction. It is applicable to new and reconstructed/rehabiliated roadways. It awards points for approved sustainable choices/practices and can be used to assess roadway project sustainability.”

In order for a roadway to be considered a Greenroad, it must meet 11 “Project Requirements”. Much like the LEED system, there are also several levels of certification including: certified, silver, gold and evergreen.

Sustainable practices continue to be implemented into all facets of living and Greenroads is a great example of the progress that’s being made. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — our future is green and that’s a good thing.

What do you think? Will Greenroads be a success?

www.greenroads.us
www.usgbc.org
www.ce.washington.edu
www.ch2m.com

California Leads the Way in Green Building

CALGREEN Leads The Way In Green Building

California has long been a leader in sustainability and now the state is taking it one step further. Officials from the the California Building Standards Commission recently adopted the country’s first mandatory statewide green building code. The regulations, called CALGREEN, will require every new building to reduce water usage by 20 percent and recycle 50 percent of its construction waste. Other stipulations include separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use in commercial buildings and mandatory inspections of energy systems for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet. These regulations take effect in January 1, 2011.

The objective of the code is to help the state achieve their goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

In Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission has goals for achieving 15 percent renewable energy by 2025. With the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, along with many other initiatives we are making big steps toward making this a reality.

California is definitely ahead in their efforts to incorporate environmental standards on many levels. Other states, Arizona included, are sure to learn from the example that the Golden State sets.

For more information visit http://gov.ca.gov

Recycled Plastic Used as Building Material

Recycled Plastic Bottles — Building Material For Classrooms

It’s all about the three Rs right? — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Laura Kutner certainly took this idea to a whole new level when she led the way in the construction of a school building in Guatemala, using discarded plastic bottles.

The inspiration came to her when she realized there was plastic trash everywhere yet classrooms had no walls. Why not use the resources available and create a solution?

Kutner, a Peace Corps volunteer, gathered the community of Granados — a village of 900 people — to collect more than 4,000 used plastic drink bottles. They then stuffed these bottles with other waste material and stacked them side by side, tied them with chicken wire and coated them with a cement-sand mix.

The Guatemalan group Pura Vida, inspired Kutner to the design. The group was using bottle-filled “eco-blocks” for construction projects.  With the help of local businesses, who donated labor and materials, and the Hug it Forward organization the project was successfully completed.

I’m no engineer but I was very impressed at this hands-on yet useful approach. This sustainable solution was a great gift to the children of the school. Not only did they recycle plastic bottles that would have otherwise littered the area, they received the biggest reward — a safe, stable building to learn in.

Read the full story here: www.oregonlive.com

Peace Corps
Pura Vida
Hug it Forward

BLT Steak Offers Fine Food In A Classy, Yet Casual Setting

BLT — Oh, there’s bacon, lettuce and tomato alright, but not in the way you would expect. BLT Steak actually stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, named after its famous chef and the master behind the magic of this great dining experience. As part of the BLT Restaurant Group, the Scottsdale location is one of many restaurant ventures with homes in cities from New York to Los Angeles, and even San Juan, Puerto Rico. One thing that remains constant at all the restaurants is Tourondel’s devotion to fine ingredients, with simply prepared cuisine served in a relaxed dining atmosphere.

BLT Steak is known for its signature modern American steakhouse menu that is supplemented by weekly blackboard specials. The restaurant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary at the renovated Camelback Inn and continues to impress guests with great dining in a casually elegant setting. Chef De Cuisine Marc Hennessy has created a blend of American fare with a French twist, also paying homage to the location with hints of Southwestern seasonings and flavors.

After much discussion, my dining companions and I finally ordered some appetizers. We opted for the crabcakes and tuna tartare — little did we know that this was only the beginning of course after course, bite after bite of delicious dining. The crabcake, complemented by remoulade and radish salad, tasted delicious. But our table was simply blown away by the tuna tartare. The tuna was served on a plate of ice — a detail that would ultimately seal the deal as the table favorite — resulting in a pleasant, chilled taste, packed with the flavors of avocado, soy-lime dressing and a whisper of wasabi. Divine. Did I mention this was only the beginning of our meal? Our knowledgeable and friendly server, Jeanie, also brought out a chicken liver pate with crunchy, toasted bread and a fine assortment of antipasto.

Next, we were surprised with some massive carbohydrate creations. Giant Gruyere-crusted popovers, coupled with butter and sea salt, were brought to our table. The sheer size of these concoctions was intimidating, but once you broke through that crispy layer and unearthed the airy, warm, soft bread center, all fears disappeared. I indulged in one whole popover, though I really did try to stop myself, knowing that a full meal awaited.

We rounded out our starter selections with crispy field greens, flavorful roasted beets, and beefsteak tomatoes that impressed our table even further. What was next we wondered? The answer: more great-tasting food.

Sauteed dover sole, 8-oz filet, 14-oz New York Strip and braised short ribs were our entree selections. Just as the popovers had thrown us for a loop, so too did the entrees and the accompanying sides. We were lucky to sample a true assortment, everything from potato gratin and grilled asparagus to stuffed mushroom caps. We certainly got our daily dose of vegetables, even if some were served with bacon, as was the case with the brussels sprouts. As one of my dining companions noted, “the only way to do brussels sprouts is with bacon.” I can’t argue that one. But bacon or no bacon, every dish left us wanting more — and wishing we had the room in our stomachs to accommodate it.

The fish was buttery and light, simply melting in your mouth with each bite. Of course, we had to sample some signature steaks at a restaurant with the entree in its moniker, and we weren’t disappointed. The New York Strip had a zesty tang thanks to a peppercorn sauce. The filet’s medium-well cooked flavors were complemented by my choice of red wine sauce (FYI there’s myriad sauces to choose from), and the braised short ribs also were well received.

Alas, our meal was slowly coming to an end. Despite the fact that not one of us thought we could muster another bite, we simply couldn’t leave without having dessert. Our commitment to the full dining experience was rewarded by the three desserts we selected: a warm chocolate tart, a peanut butter chocolate mousse and a blueberry-lemon meringue pie. The tart was incredibly rich, but was paired well with the coolness of a dollop of pistachio ice cream. The peanut butter chocolate mousse, served with banana ice cream, was an interesting mix with a great balance of flavors. And last, but certainly not least, I surprised myself with my personal favorite of the night. Normally, anything chocolate wins in my book, but the fresh fruit flavors of the pie and the tartness of the lemon sorbet were a perfect ending to a meal fit for a king. For a truly satisfying meal, excellent service and an overall pleasant dining experience, BLT Steak doesn’t disappoint.

If You Go:
BLT Steak Scottsdale
At Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa
5402 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale
(480) 905-7979
www.bltscottsdale.com

Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010

Avatar Sends an Eco-Friendly Message

Avatar Sends An Eco-Friendly Message

You don’t need to be a sci-fi buff to love Avatar. James Cameron makes his much anticipated return to movie making with this alien biopic of epic proportions. Outfitted with a stunning visual landscape, strong cast and concept as well as a multimillion-dollar budget, the movie is sure to provide an out-of-this world cinematic experience.  (Especially if you see in 3D, like I did).

What you probably don’t know is that beneath the action-packed drama, Avatar sends an eco-friendly message. It makes a pretty strong statement against the wastefulness of our industrialized society. In the film a corporation will stop at nothing in order to obtain a rare, expensive mineral — including eliminating an entire indigenous species of people. The film promotes sustainability and preserving the gifts that our natural environment has bestowed upon us, instead of plundering our natural resources and placing a dollar value on something that is irreplaceable. We as a society need to respect and value the natural resources we do have. If we continue to exploit them, the plotline in the film doesn’t feel that farfetched — rather a very scary glimpse into what our future may one day look like if we don’t implement changes.

This message really resonated with me and it’s great to see such current themes in movies. Though Avatar isn’t the first film to include an eco-friendly storyline, his stunning visual effects highlighted this concept and helped drive such large crowds to see it. Marketing this film to young adults (it’s rated PG-13) was a great way to spread the message about sustainability and encourage individuals to become ecologically responsible. The entertainment industry is a perfect medium to send such a message and can really make an impact. Oh and if you couldn’t tell from this post, I loved the movie and would definitely highly recommend it.

Photo Source: www.avatarmovie.com

China Skyscrapers

China Leading The Way In Green Technology

Though the country is the world’s top polluter, that isn’t stopping China from leading the way on new green technology. China has begun an effort to figure out how to burn coal without releasing carbon into the atmosphere.That’s quite an ambitious goal — especially for a country that is the biggest source of carbon emissions — but one that could completely alter the future of the green industry.

And that’s not all. China is making strides in several sectors and is on the road to revolutionizing the green industry.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Shai Oster writes:

“China’s vast market and economies of scale are bringing down the cost of solar and wind energy, as well as other environmentally friendly technologies such as electric car batteries. That could help address a major impediment to wide adoption of such technologies: They need heavy subsidies to be economical.
The so-called China price — the combination of cheap labor and capital that rewrote the rulebook on manufacturing — is spreading to green technology. “The China price will move into the renewable-energy space, specifically for energy that relies on capital-intensive projects,” says Jonathan Woetzel, a director in McKinsey & Co.’s China office.”

The article goes on to state that China is facing some tough challenges. Their low-cost manufacturing base can slow down their innovation, or worse yet, could restrain technology advancement in other countries as well.

Read the full article here to find out more.

What do you think? What kind of an impact will China’s surge in the sustainability sector have?

www.wsj.com

Climate Change Talks

U.S. Commits To Change At Copenhagen Climate Talks

As some of you may be aware of, the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference is underway right now in Copenhagen. The conference began on December 7 and will continue till the 18th. It is the largest international political conference ever to be held in Denmark, with participants from 192 countries meeting to reach an agreement about how to combat global warming.

Despite some clashes with protesters that that essentially ceased all talks on Dec. 16, the conference pressed on. President Barack Obama is expected to appear on Friday, along with 100 other national leaders hoping to come to a historic agreement between nations.

On Thursday, Dec. 17 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announced that the United States would participate in a $100-billion-a-year fund that will help poor nations combat climate change through the end of the decade. Though Clinton did not specify how much the U.S. would be contributing, it is still a huge move for the country and sends a strong message about the nation’s stance on environmental issues.

However, U.S. participation was contingent on reaching an agreement this week, as well as a commitment from China about more transparency in its emissions reporting.

Clinton’s announcement is a high point in the conference, which has been plagued by delays and deadlocked over several issues. Hopefully, discussions will end on a good note and firm plans for progress will be put in place.

en.cop15.dk

No Impact Man

The Adventures Of No Impact Man

Can you imagine a life without toilet paper, electricity, or any of the modern conveniences many of us consider a staple in our daily lives?

Colin Beavan — aka No  Impact Man — and his family did without any of this (and more) for an entire year. During their experience, Beavan wrote a blog that later spawned a book and documentary film about what it’s like to go off the grid while living in New York City. The goal of the No Impact project was to live life in the city while causing no net environmental impact. They did this by giving up on many things i.e. electricity, toilet paper to decrease their negative impact. In order to increase their positive impact they volunteered at various environmental groups, cleaned the banks of the Hudson River and donated to charity among other things.

In an excerpt from his book: “NO IMPACT MAN: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes and Our Way of Life in the Process” Beavan writes:

“This book, in short, is about my attempt with my little family to live for a year causing as little negative environmental impact as possible. If what I’ve described so far sounds extreme, that’s because it’s meant to be. My intention with this book is not to advocate that, as a culture, we should all give up elevators, washing machines, and toilet paper. This is a book about a lifestyle experiment. It chronicles a year of inquiry: How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet’s resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Would living this way be more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed, or is there hope? Is individual action lived out loud really just individual action? Would the environmental costs of producing this very book undo all the good, or would the message it purveyed outweigh the damage and add to the good?
But perhaps most important, at least when it came to addressing my own despair, was I as helpless to help change the imperiled world we live in as I’d thought?”

I was able to catch a showing of the documentary at the Global Institute of Sustainability on Monday and thought the film was fantastic. It portrayed a family that went to the extreme, all in the name of Mr. Beavan’s experiment and came out of it with a truly renewed perspective on the environment. Now, the goal of Mr. Beavan’s message isn’t to ask people to go to the lengths he did, but rather bring attention to an important issue. He hopes that his family can, in a sense, lead by example and others will be inspired to do what they can to help the environment.

I was surprised to read a lot of backlash against Mr. Beavan and his No Impact experiment. He was doing a good thing, after all, why all the bad blood? Some dismissed this as a gimmick for a book deal, but I think they’re missing the bigger picture. Did the premise land him a book deal? Sure. However, after watching the documentary it’s hard not to believe the fact that Mr. Beavan and his family really are striving to do the right thing — help the environment and make a difference. According to Beavan, this change has to begin on the individual level, and only then will government implement laws that will hopefully undo the years of havoc we’ve wreaked on our planet.

Most importantly, Beavan himself admitted that the project didn’t end after their year was over, rather it had begun. His family had to decide what kind of a life they would lead, while still maintaining their principles and desire to help the environment.
They turned the electricity back on, but air conditioners, dishwashers, and freezers are still gone. They continue to eat locally-grown food, but have added previously banished coffee, olive oil and spices into their diets. Most importantly, they recognize the need for individual action and continue to take steps in helping the environment.
Beavan has also launched the No Impact Project, a nonprofit project that encourages individuals to “make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics” as stated on the project’s Web site at noimpactproject.org

noimpactman.typepad.com
noimpactproject.org

Calistro

Oh-So-Good Organic: Calistro Offers Healthy Food That Packs A Tasty Punch

Although we all know organic food is good for us, sometimes it’s hard to accept this healthy alternative to our bad-for-you favorites. Well, Calistro has broken the cycle by offering healthy, organic and, best of all, great-tasting meals.

All the products in the restaurant’s fresh Mediterranean-inspired fare are sourced through local and regional organic and sustainable farms in Arizona and the Western United States. In addition, Calistro is taking its dedication to sustainability a step further by being a member of the Green Restaurant Association and doing its part in promoting green business practices to help the environment.

The restaurant’s decor is both modern and warm. An oversize wine rack sits at the center of the dining room floor, adding stylish touches to the inviting and elegant layout. The heart of the open kitchen is the wood-burning oven, and together these elements set the stage for a laid-back environment that’s perfect for a relaxed meal.

My dining companions and I began the evening with my personal favorite — hummus. Comprised of a delicate balance of lemon, cumin, tahini, tomato and sumac the hummus was served with warm, freshly baked flatbread. The dish had just the right consistency, taste and texture that I would expect from a great hummus, with the added bonus of being organic.

We rounded out our choice of appetizers with crab cakes and lamb meatballs. All the dishes we chose were tasty, but the fresh crab meat, made with panko, seasonal tomato salad and avocado mousse took the cake, so to speak, as everyone’s favorite.

Next, we sampled the salads. The calistro caprese salad, made with organic heirloom tomatoes (from Arizona farms), mozzarella (made in house), pickled shallots and topped off with an herb pesto vinaigrette made an impression on the table. But it was the Caesar salad, a mixture of romaine (organic, of course), tapenade croutons, fresh lemon and a light Caesar dressing that really had us singing its praises. The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the soy-based dressing had just enough kick.

Though we’d already had quite a few items from the menu, we were ready for the entrées. The organic meal was satisfying to our taste buds and the freshness of the products was savored in every bite. Each entrée had something to offer and gave us a glimpse into the appetizing possibilities of organic cooking.

The chicken was very well received, with sweet and crispy prosciutto enveloping the all-natural chicken breast. The chicken’s delicious balance of flavors was topped with caramelized fruit, pommes puree and Madeira jus. But it was the Doc Crosby short ribs that took the prize as the table favorite. The impossibly tender, red-wine braised ribs, complemented by pommes puree, seasonal organic vegetables and horseradish breadcrumbs, simply melted in your mouth.

Always a sucker for dessert, we rounded out the meal with dairy-free rice pudding, butterscotch crème brulee and, my personal favorite, the chocolate soufflé cake. Each dessert was heavenly and since it was organic, sampled all three guilt-free.

The cuisine at Calistro is a testament to what all food should be — fresh, healthy and tasty. The ingredients truly do “speak for themselves” and serve as the basis for Chef Devin Walsh’s belief that what tastes good can also be good for you.

If You Go:
Calistro
18221 N Pima Road, Scottsdale
(480) 502-0325
www.calistrocaliforniabistro.com

Nonprofits struggling to provide services for those in need

The Charitable Challenge

The construction industry has faced more difficulties than any other in this recession. The industry lost 45,800 jobs year-over-year in September, the most of any sector in Arizona. Despite that grim number, many construction companies still are trying to give back to the community in any way they can. Hunt Construction is one of them.

When the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the poor, needed new vehicles to help with day-to-day operations, Hunt didn’t hesitate. The company essentially donated vehicles to the nonprofit by selling it two trucks for a mere $2.

“The construction industry, like so many industries in Arizona today, is facing a number of challenges. Having said that, I am just amazed at how generous they have been to us,” says Steve Zabilski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “The vehicles are pickup trucks that are in great shape and we use them almost daily in our various operations”

Hunt wasn’t the only one to step up to the philanthropy plate and help the charity during these difficult economic times. Another contractor, Gilbane Building Company, made St. Vincent de Paul a beneficiary of its golf tournament this past year, resulting in a $10,000 gift.

This generosity is just one example of companies’ ongoing commitment to philanthropic efforts despite a recession that has left the world reeling from its impact.

Recession reductions
The Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits conducted a survey of member nonprofit organizations in February 2009 about the effects of the economy from the beginning of 2008. The survey also included projections for 2009. The results found that “one-half of nonprofits reported that their revenues declined in 2008, and two-thirds said they expect revenues to be down further in 2009.” This equates to about 75 percent of nonprofits working with reduced budgets this year.

“The largest decrease in donations was from foundations, which decreased an average of 26 percent. That was followed by corporate donations, which declined an average 24 percent,” says Patrick McWhortor, president of the Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits. Individual contributions decreased approximately 14 percent.

Elaine Fogel, communications chair of the Arizona chapter of fundraising professionals, echoes these sentiments.

“I think that based on both anecdotal (evidence) and statistics, we are definitely seeing a downturn in charitable giving across the board. Locally, regionally, nationally, absolutely,” Fogel says.

According to the survey, on average, revenues decreased 19 percent in 2008, and nonprofits expect that number to decrease another 18 percent this year.

Organizations such as the Sojourner Center that receive funding from the government also have seen revenues shrink.

“Our losses really came from receiving a severe cut in our government contracts,” says Connie Phillips, executive director of the Sojourner Center, which helps families in crisis. “I anticipate in the state of Arizona we will continue to see funding from the government decrease. … If we lose even more of our government funding and have to pick even more from the philanthropic community, how do we retool?”

The Piper Notebook, a magazine published three times a year by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust states: “If life as a nonprofit has always been difficult in Arizona, the economic recession has further strained capacity. Nonprofits face lower revenues as government shrinks, fund endowments decline and individual contributions dip.”

Increased needs
With fewer resources but an amplified need for services, nonprofits are forced to make do with less. The recession has caused an increase in demand for a variety of services, with vital basic needs such as food and shelter high on the list.

“More than 80 percent of organizations saw demand for services grow in 2008 and 2009,” McWhortor says. “Of course, this issue is most concentrated with nonprofits who serve our most vulnerable populations — workers who have lost their jobs, homeowners facing foreclosure, homeless families and youth, people who are hungry. These issues will become more urgent in the coming months as further reductions in state funding for programs undercut the ability of nonprofits to serve the elderly, disabled and economically stressed populations.”

Merl Waschler, president and CEO of Valley of the Sun United Way (VSUW), says thousands of individuals and families are turning to VSUW and the nonprofit network for assistance. The organization’s partner agencies also are citing an increased demand in several areas, particularly food and shelter.
The nonprofits face a wrenching conundrum: Demand is higher than ever due to the poor economy, but since the economy is bad, philanthropic organizations can’t get additional funding to meet their goals and provide the community with the services it requires.

Philanthropic struggles
Just as different industries were affected by the recession in various ways, so too were philanthropic organizations. While basic-needs organizations struggle to keep up, arts organizations face their own set of challenges during this exceptionally tough year.

“We were hit as aggressively as anyone. A lot of what you see at the foundation level and/or the corporate level, some of the emergency social service needs are kind of the priority, and rightfully so,” says Seth Sulka, director of development at the Valley Youth Theatre.

Sulka says the Valley Youth Theatre saw significant drops in both ticket sales and contributions and stresses that it’s important to remember about all types of nonprofits.

“We can’t forget about the arts and expect every organization to have the resiliency to weather such a storm,” she says.

As a private nonprofit contracted by the city of Scottsdale to administer city arts and cultural projects, the Scottsdale Cultural Council also was hit by the realities of the recession. The council encompasses the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale Public Art Program. It saw an approximate 22 percent year-over-year decrease of contributed revenue (from individuals, corporations and foundations).

“Like almost every arts organization, we experienced a loss of contributed and earned revenue as a result of the recession, which also happened to coincide with the renovation of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Because our main theater was closed for more than a year, we had already planned to operate on a reduced budget,” says William H. Banchs, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

The center continues to move forward and is implementing necessary changes to weather the economic storm.

“Throughout the season, we tightened our belts and focused on our mission and programming,” he says. “We made very personal, one-on-one efforts to engage our donors, as well.”


Photos from left to right:
Intel employees serve as e-Mentors to students at Scales Technology Academy in Tempe. They help youngsters build computer and communication skills. Photo Intel Corp.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty auctioned off one of his cars for charity at last year’s Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction in Scottsdale. Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.

Environmental Media Awards

Environmental Media Awards — Celebrities Helping The Green Cause

I’ll admit, I have a guilty pleasure — celebrity gossip.

Though personal opinions about celebrities vary, it’s difficult to argue the fact that they have an amazing platform to send a message. The nonprofit Environmental Media Association has been been trying to place environmentalism into the mainstream since the association launched in 1989.

The association hosts the Environmental Media Awards, “the only program solely devoted to celebrating the entertainment industry’s environmental efforts,” as stated on its Web site. “The annual EMA Awards honor film and television personalities, productions, musicians and musical tours that convey environmental messages in the most creative and influential ways.”

The 20th anniversary Environmental Media Awards took place on Oct. 25, and an assortment of high-profile guests came to support the green cause. I came across the information about the EMA Awards while indulging my guilty pleasure of perusing the entertainment section of MSN. Several popular actors, musicians, etc., were walking the appropriately chosen green carpet at the event that honors the entertainment industry’s environmental achievements.

Categories for the awards ranged from feature film to documentary, as well as special honors that were given to people who have “gone above and beyond to help the environment both professionally and personally.” This year those honors went to Sir Richard Branson, Centropolis Entertainment, the National Geographic Society and singer Jason Mraz.

Winners in the various categories included: The Lazy Environmentalists: The Lazy Family/The Lazy Pet Groomer in the reality program category; Food, Inc. and The Cove for documentaries; and Disneynature EARTH in the feature film category.

In addition to the EMA Awards, the association also hosts the EMA Green Seal Awards that honors productions and corporate entertainment offices that go green ‘behind the scenes.’ Throughout the year, the association works with writers, directors and producers to integrate environmental messages into film and television productions. Events with a sustainable message are also held year-round with the help of celebrities’ familiar faces bringing it to the attention of the media and public.

Certain aspects of celebrity surely aren’t to be desired. However, taking a public stance in helping the environment and becoming involved with associations like this one are positive causes those in the entertainment industry can bring to the attention of the public. Communicating information about sustainable practices is a necessary component to make the changes we need for a greener future.

http://www.ema-online.org

Green Job Opportunities for Women

Green Job Opportunities For Women

Recently, I attended the “Women & the Green Job Movement” panel hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and Zion & Zion.

Our very own Tina Robinson, exhibit director for the Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference, was asked to be part of the panel and speak on various aspects of women employment in the sustainability field. The roundtable was comprised of individuals from various organizations, cities and schools with a vested interest in women and their future in green jobs.

Jenny L. Erwin, regional administrator for the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, opened the roundtable discussion. Some of the main points covered were:

  • Ensuring green jobs are “good jobs” with benefits and livable wages and career paths.
  • Definitions of green jobs and other common terms that are understandable to a broad range of working women.
  • Information on how women in community-based organizations focusing on women, women business owners, labor unions and others can access funds for green jobs.
  • Best practices related to women.
  • Green jobs that are in demand, new career paths and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The roundtable began with the reason we were all gathered at the event — where do women fit in the green industry? Though the number of green jobs is on the rise, there is indeed a disparity in the quality and quantity of jobs available to men and women. This spurred discussion on why this paradox exists.

One of the main issues women must face as we try to alter this uneven landscape is changing the perception that women can’t hold jobs in male-dominated industries. The math and science-related fields are typically over-represented by men, and changing this will be the first step in encouraging women to enter the green industry.

I left the roundtable discussion with a bright outlook. Green industry jobs vary; some are more technical than others; and there is always room for those who need to market the technology and spread the message to others. Bottom line — there is a huge opportunity for women to capitalize on the amazing benefits the green movement offers. So let’s get to it ladies!

www.chandlerchamber.com
www.builditgreenexpo.com
www.dol.gov/wb/

Greenbuild

Greenbuild 2009 Arrives In Phoenix

The time has come! Greenbuild 2009 has officially begun. For those unfamiliar with Greenbuild here’s some background information listed on the Web site for the event.

“Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. Thousands of building professionals from all over the world come together at Greenbuild for three days of outstanding educational sessions, renowned speakers, green building tours, special seminars, and networking events.
Greenbuild 2009 is heading to the American Southwest, a region with unique environmental and social challenges and opportunities, and the imperative is clear: Green building can and must come home to all people, boosting the quality of life on main streets across the country and around the world. Join us at Greenbuild 2009 in Phoenix, Nov. 11-13, 2009 and engage in the conversation we must have to bring green to everyone, and bring everyone to green.”

Gov. Jan Brewer and Mayor Phil Gordon have proclaimed the week of Nov. 9-13 as U.S. Greenbuilding Council (USGBC) and Greenbuild International Week.  In separate statements, the governor and mayor cited the work of the Arizona Chapter of the U.S. Greenbuilding Council (USGBC) in hosting the conference and expo as well as the mission of the USBGC which is to alter the built environment.

Greenbuild is bringing 25,000 people from 90 countries to Arizona to attend this exciting conference and expo. The expo will showcase more than 1,000 vendors while the conference will offer 125 educational sessions on various green topics taught by local and national industry leaders. Sometimes referred to as the “Super Bowl of building green” Greenbuild is bringing some famous faces to town. Former vice president Al Gore is this year’s opening keynote speaker and singer Sheryl Crow is set to perform at Chase Field as part of the Greenbuild Opening Keynote & Celebration.

In recognition of this significant event hitting the Valley, the Arizona Greenbuild Host Committee and the Arizona Chapter of the USGBC have organized outdoor activities, off site education programs and 18 tours that showcase the best of the sustainable built environment in Arizona.

Several events will also be going on in the Valley throughout the week. From Tempe to Flagstaff, the entire state will be bringing sustainability into the spotlight with fun festivals and events for the public.

www.greenbuildexpo.org

www.tempe.gov/events/greenstreet
www.greenstreetscottsdale.com
www.rooseveltrow.org/greenstreets.html
www.usgbcaz.org

Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Grant Scholarships

Times Are Tough For Everyone, And Students Trying To Fund Their Educations Are No Exception

With college tuition constantly on the rise, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation is doing its part to help deserving Hispanic students throughout the Valley pay for their educations.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization whose main goal is to provide scholarships to Hispanic students attending Arizona post-secondary schools. The foundation also supports philanthropic efforts within the Latino community.

“As chairman of the board for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (AZHCC), one of the accomplishments that I am most proud of is the establishment of a scholarship program,” says Robert Espiritu, who works in acquisition marketing for American Express’ International Business Unit.

Espiritu developed the scholarship initiative in 2008, during the 50th anniversary of the chamber’s Black and White Business Awards Ball — the longest-running black-tie event in Phoenix.

In order to commemorate the anniversary, Espiritu developed the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation Scholarship Program, which now has grown into a permanent component of the awards.

Espiritu also decided on an unconventional way to raise money for the scholarships.

“The idea I had was to ask the audience for pledges for scholarships,” Espiritu says.

The donations began with companies who had pre-committed to donating money and continued from there. “It was kind of spontaneous; I just wanted to ask people if they wanted to join the donation …” Espiritu says.Soon, “call-outs” were made from attendees pledging various amounts to the scholarship fund. Those who pledged then came on stage and stated their pledge amounts.

The 2008 event turned out to be a huge success. Donors big and small, from individuals to corporations, banded together to raise nearly $110,000.
“The generosity on the part of our corporate citizens and individuals has been amazing and gives me great faith that even with this down economy we still have the support from our community,” Espiritu says.

Despite the difficult economic climate, an additional $35,000 was raised in 2009. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Qwest Communications, Humana, Wells Fargo, APS and SRP were some of the larger corporations to contribute at this year’s ball.

“To date, the AZHCC Foundation has raised approximately $140,000 in scholarships for deserving and aspiring Latino students,” Espiritu says. “I want to personally thank all of our donors for their contributions. Without them, all of this would not be possible.”

On May 19 of this year, 60 Latino students were presented with the scholarships at a private dinner at the Wrigley Mansion. Scholarship recipients ranged from first-generation college students to graduate students.

“To be awarded such esteemed honors means that my hard work paid off. But I still have so much more to do to prove that I am worthy of such recognitions,” says Annalili Chacon, a recipient of the scholarship and a Barack Obama Scholar at Arizona State University.

Cosme Madrid, a student at ASU, also received a scholarship.

“I wanted to apply for this scholarship simply because it applied to who I was. … I learned that the chamber of commerce supports Hispanics to get a higher education and so I went for it,” he says.

Madrid adds that being selected a winner “is a great feeling because it shows the hard work that I have done throughout my high school career to get to where I am and to receive this scholarship.”

Both recipients are grateful for the financial relief the scholarships provide and are better prepared for the road ahead.

“It is so important for us to reach out and help future generations of students, and for the Hispanic chamber especially to be able to assist our Latino students,” Espiritu says. “These students will become our future leaders and the goal of AZHCC’s scholarship program is to help facilitate the development of our future leaders through education.”

Solar panels on a house roof

Solar And Sustainable Building Tour Hits Valley

Many homeowners are hesitant to install solar in their homes for various reasons, whether it’s cost or simply not knowing enough information about how it actually works. It’s one thing to read about solar but a whole other story to actually see it as a real application on a home or building.

This weekend, the Scottsdale Green Building Program, Arizona Solar Center and the Arizona Solar Energy Association are sponsoring the Solar and Sustainable Building Tour. Nine Northeast Valley homes and buildings and eight other solar buildings from across the Valley will be on display during this free tour. This event sounds like a great hands-on way to show attendees what they can potentially do at their own homes.

The tour is now in its 14th year with several other tours that took place in the month of October, in conjunction with National Energy Awareness Month.

Next weekend Oct. 31 to Nov.1 the Tucson tour will take place.

These homes are on the Solar and Sustainable Buildings Tour and will be open for viewing this weekend. In addition, several buildings will be on the tour as well. Free tours start hourly from 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.

Open Saturday and Sunday

  • Augspurger solar greenhouse, 11458 E. Christmas Cholla Drive.
  • Bauder-Strauss residence, 10875 E. Bahia Drive.
  • Edwards residence, 8151 E. Smokehouse Trail.
  • Mushorn residence, 25227 N. Roping Road.

Open Saturday only

  • Garrett residence, 8502 E. Cactus Wren.
  • Green remodel, “Bungalow,” 6613 E. Aster Drive.
  • Dalrymple residence, 4622 E. Palo Verde Drive.
  • Fuller Paper Palace One, 1 Continental Drive.

Open Sunday only

  • Green remodel, “Edible Landscape,” 8243 E. Monte Vista Road.

Find the complete list of homes and buildings here.

www.azsolarcenter.com
www.azcentral.com

Are Green Jobs Recession Proof

Are Green Jobs Recession-Proof?

The recession has been grim. Every time you read more depressing statistics relating to the world’s economic woes it’s almost impossible to see anything positive. However, there is some news that points to a brighter future. In a previous post I wrote about green jobs leading to a good future and it seems that may in fact be the case.

Newsweek put out a list of ten recession-proof jobs (as recession-proof as you can get these days I guess) and sustainability-related jobs took four spots!

One of them was solar energy, here’s what Newsweek wrote:
“With 80 percent of oil industry employees facing retirement in the next decade, now’s the time for America to invest in renewable energy… And, aside from replenishing the oil and gas industry with younger workers, green energy (including nuclear) will see strong growth and increased employment rates, especially under an administration focused on clean energy initiatives.”

Wind energy was next on the list. According to a 2006 study released by the Renewable Energy Policy Project cited in the Newsweek article, researchers found that 2,000 businesses in Michigan could use wind turbine technology as an employment alternative for ailing auto workers. It went on to state that “as that industry declines, nearly 34,000 new jobs could be created by simply reorienting workers from their current manufacturing jobs to those focused on creating renewable energy for the state.”

Overall green business was also on the list with a continuing demand for eco-oriented project managers, attorneys, engineers, etc.

Energy efficiency was also listed as a recession-proof job, citing the need to fill green jobs that technology has created. As developments of these new technologies continue to flourish, more and more employees will be needed to see these projects through.

I guess it’s safe to say that jobs in the sustainability field are ones that will help us in riding out this recession and moving forward. To me, it’s just another example of why ‘green’ is indeed the way to go.

www.newsweek.com

Road Made Out of Glass

Driving on Glass — Solar Roads of the Future

When I browse around the internet searching for the latest green news to write about on my blog I’ve come across some pretty cool stuff. But this takes the cake (so far) for providing me with a jaw-dropping moment of admiration.

A co-worker sent me an article from Scientific American titled: Driving on Glass? Inventor Hopes to Lay Down Solar Roads.

This sure got my attention.  Scott Brusaw, of Sagle, Idaho-based Solar Roadways hopes to make this headline a reality. He is working on building a prototype of his so-called “Solar Road Panel” —basically a road that will generate power every time you drive on it. Sounds crazy? That’s what I thought at first but then I read a little further.

The solar road panel prototype is 1,024 modules, with each containing a solar cell, a light-emitting diode and, someday, an ultracapacitor for storage—placed between a layer of some yet-to-be developed glass as well as a layer of conducting material.

Glass is certainly not what comes to mind when one thinks of building material for roads, but this won’t be your average glass. It will be textured to allow for water run-off and tire-grip for vehicles. Heating elements — similar to those you find in your car’s rear windshield — will help melt snow or ice and the road will be self-cleaning. And of course, it will be super strong and able to handle the extreme stress of having mass amounts of weight on it.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This type of glass doesn’t exist — not yet anyway.

Brusaw is hoping to partner with researchers at Pennsylvania State University’s Materials Research Institute to develop it.

With $40,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Brusaw is currently building a prototype from chemically hardened glass panels and experimenting with various types of solar cells. The ultimate goal is to create a cross-country highway system that doubles as a national electricity generator and power grid.

The prototype is due to be tested in February of 2010. I’m curious to see how this turns out and what lies on the road ahead — literally.

Read more about solar roads here

Rebuilding Greensburg

Rebuilding Greensburg for a Sustainable Future

I recently read an interesting piece in the New York Times about the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan. Some of you may recall the devastating tornado the tore through the region back in 2007 leaving 11 dead and millions of dollars in damages. The devastation was immense but local residents were determined to rebuild. And rebuild they did. Greensburg was ready to start fresh and rebuild in a way that would generate new business and jobs. Dea Corns, a real estate agent who manages the Greensburg State Bank with her husband Thomas V. Corns was quoted as saying “We put the ‘green’ back in Greensburg.”

The community has already taken steps to make it as green as can be. An ordinance requiring all municipal buildings larger than 4,000 square feet to be built to LEED-platinum standards has been passed.

Several buildings are being renovated with green features such as geothermal pumps for heating and cooling, high-performance lighting and others that qualify them for LEED designation.

Greensburg is also one of the first cities in the nation to use LED lamps in their streetlights, saving 70 percent in energy and maintenance costs over the old lights.  The list of all the other green features that are being implemented into the city goes on and on.

This got me thinking. If Greensburg is able to rebuild in such a sustainable way after such devastation why can’t we use them as an example for future rebuilding/renovations? This is definitely something to think about. If a city so ravaged by a natural disaster can emerge stronger than ever, the potential for future new developments is incredible.

The city’s dedication to sustainability is refreshing, after all rebuilding this way is more expensive and more time-consuming than conventional methods. But higher upfront costs are often replaced with lower operating costs and a bigger payoff in the long run. Most importantly, residents and city leaders alike seem to have the big picture of the future of the city in mind.