Aaron Perry


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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 48 - Matt Gray, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Cleveland

Matt Gray, the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of the City of Cleveland, discusses the integrated framework for sustainable and equitable development at the municipal scale. From the city’s Tree Plan – with its focus on tree canopy concentration by neighborhoods, correlated to the distribution of asthma rates, property values, and rain-water catchment capacity, to name a few – to its energy, recycling, mobility, transportation, water, and land stewardship plans, Cleveland is a leading example of what’s possible. Mr. Gray is hosting a special Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit on October 16th, 2019 (sustainablecleveland.org), at which a variety of experts will convene to share strategies and best practices across disciplines. Gray, referencing the massive clean-up efforts since the terrible “burning water” toxic waste fires on the Cuyahoga River in the 1960’s, describes Cleveland’s situation and stewardship priorities on the shores of the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of our planet’s fresh water!

In the United States, urban municipalities representing over 50% of the country’s population have taken the lead in the absence of federal government leadership around the Climate Crisis, and have committed to the Global Community’s targets as set forth and agreed at the COP21 Paris Climate Accord in 2015. Matt Gray and other municipalities’ CSOs (as well as CSOs from corporations, universities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)), are transforming urban infrastructure, economic development opportunities, community resilience, food security, energy security, disaster preparedness, community health, and access to education through frameworks grounded in business leadership, racial equity, job creation, and co-creative processes.

Mr. Gray received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Master’s Degree from Columbia University. He previously served four years with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program, before receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to research climate change impacts and governance in Mauritius. His areas of expertise include green building and climate change, and Mr. Gray has served as Chair of the Interagency Sustainability Working Group to improve green building practices and standards throughout the Federal government. He describes the importance of “appreciative inquiry” in the community mobilization process, and emphasizes the critical importance of neighborhood scale and cross-sector collaboration to achieve more vibrant, healthy, and thriving communities.


(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes – grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Welcome to the YonEarth communities stewardship and sustainability podcast series.

Today we have the opportunity to speak with Matt Gray, the Chief Sustainability Officer

for the City of Cleveland, hey, Matt.

Hey, thank you.

Thanks for inviting me.

Great to have you on the show really looking forward to our discussion with you.



I’m here.

So, Matt works on all things, urban sustainability, and leads the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 initiative

to create a thriving green city on a blue lake.

He is responsible for advising the city on policies related to sustainability and leading

implementation of the Cleveland Climate Action Plan.

This position follows completion of a U.S.

Bolberite Fellowship in Mauritius, where Matt researched climate change impacts and

governance prior to receiving this grant.

He served four years with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program.

Matt worked largely on green building and climate change, serving as chair of the interagency,

sustainability working group to make green building standard practice throughout the federal


Matt, it is just such a joy to have this opportunity to speak with you today.

And I know that as a chief of sustainability for the City of Cleveland, you are really

positioned at the nexus of so many different stakeholders and government and private sector

in the general public.

And I’m just curious sitting there at that center point, what does that like for you day

and day out?

Well, I’ve had a variety of jobs, and this has been my favorite one, because it’s really

interesting, I like the word to use nexus, because it’s very real.

You know, we are doing day-to-day projects, you know, a specific street, what kind of

complete street, you know, work do we do to make it more bicycle or pedestrian friendly

to the specific solar array we want to put on this city building.

But then we also work with, you know, 200 plus other people like me, throughout North

America, other sustainability directors or sustainability chiefs, all collaborating

to really, you know, collectively have, you know, very significant impact in cities

really across this country.

So it’s a great position to be able to have, like, you know, really focus on real projects,

but also be part of this bigger conversation on how do we create national but also global


Yeah, it’s so important, obviously, to have that national scope or even that global perspective

with all that we’re doing, while also really mobilizing on the ground in neighborhoods

in communities where we can affect specific and substantial change.

Yeah, I think that is right out.

The neighborhood focus, especially in Cleveland, is where it’s at, you know, we have our Cleveland

Climate Action Plan, and we launched that in 2013, and then we can update it last


But it’s, you know, it’s titled, you know, Cleveland Climate Action Plan, you know, creating

thriving and resilient neighborhoods.

So the whole focus of the work is at the neighborhood level, you know, in Cleveland,

and I think most of these are like this, we are a city of neighborhoods.

We have, you know, I would say 25 distinct neighborhoods in our all different, you know,

to create solutions that make sense, you kind of have to build in the bottom up at that

neighborhood level.

So that’s where a lot of our work is to the resident engagement, business engagement,

and working with trusted partners in those neighborhoods to kind of expand the 10th of

engagement, I guess, around sustainability.

So how do we make that choir bigger?

And I think, fortunately, we’ve had a 10 year initiative here, started in 09, sustainable

human 2019.

We’ve arrived, but it’s, you know, sustained commitment over time is allowed as to kind

of, you know, advance every year a little more forward in terms of the amount of people

engaged in this topic, which has been great.

Yeah, it’s really wonderful.

I’m excited to hear more about it, and I’m just wondering to fill in some of our audience

who may not be as familiar with Cleveland, what’s it like?

It’s on one of the great legs.

What’s it like as a community?

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I live here, I’ve been here a while, I grew up here,

I went away for a while, but I came back and, you know, so I know a lot of his intricacies,

but still when I travel sometimes, you know, people hear the word Cleveland and they’ll

think, oh, that city where the river caught on fire and where your sports teams are awful.

So it’s much more than that.

And in fact, we are, this year, we’ve marked 50 years since the infamous kind of river

fire, June 22nd, 1969, and, you know, really, we marked 50 years of progress in Cleveland.

And I think that sort of river fire story kind of, in many ways encapsulates Cleveland.

We think back to 69, and Cleveland was still one of the largest cities in the country.

And, you know, really industrial manufacturing city made a lot of things still do, but,

and then, you know, over that time, really since World War II, our population decreased significantly.

From about a million to today, it’s a little less than 400,000.

So, you know, a lot of kind of white pipe to the suburbs and really occurred a lot of

challenges over time with the tax base, you know, lost a lot of manufacturing jobs.

But what’s exciting is that we, I think for the first time, it may be since World War II,

we’ve seen sustained progress really over these last, you know, six, seven, eight, ten

years, especially since the recession.

I think it gets people feel like this time, you know, it’s real.

There’s sort of been fits and starts of a comeback for Cleveland, I think, over the years,

but this one feels right, and we’re, and the whole idea what sustainable Cleveland is,

how do we transform this economy in Cleveland so it’s a sustainable one?

And I think our mayor, Mayor Jackson, that was his focus from the beginning.

You know, as we rethink what the city looks like, how do we do it in a way that really makes

us more resilient to these kind of external shocks, like our recession.

So, that’s been a lot of the focus of the initiative.

I’m really, I’m really interested so, you know, I have my family and relatives

hailing from the upstate New York region, which is also in that Great Lakes zone.

Also was at the heart of the country’s industrial mechanism back leading into World War II

and past World War II, and has seen a lot of economic decline since then, as has much

of that Great Lakes region.

And I’m curious, when some of the developments now with communication technology advances

in things like the internet and what basically is enabling entrepreneurs, business owners,

and others to locate just about anywhere, how does that, how does that play for your guys work

around sustainability?

Yeah, and that’s interesting.

I mean, we have lost a lot of the big industry, but there still is a lot left.

Just in North East Ohio, there’s still 6,000 manufacturers in the city,

even though there’s 900.

I mean, when you look at our carbon footprint for cities, it looks a lot different than

one of the other cities out there that’s doing carbon footprint.

So, the industrial sector is still the biggest sector in terms of emissions.

We have a steel plant, you know, big steel plant that still operates in the city.

So, you know, some of our work, you know, is some of the traditional stuff you’ll see in

all other cities, we work on a lot of residents, you know, residential buildings, commercial

buildings, certainly in fleets, but we also need to engage in that industrial sector,

which in many ways can be difficult, you know, especially these small and medium-sized

manufacturing companies.

So, that’s still there, but, you know, I think like some cities,

Pittsburgh is a good example.

There are archenemists, but I will give them a shout out.

They did do a good job of sort of diversifying their economy,

and Cleveland’s certainly on that road as well.

You know, we’re not going to be a soil industrial family.

So, health care in Cleveland is huge.

We have the Cleveland Clinic, the University of Hospital and others,

you know, huge employers, and in fact, the clinic is the biggest employer now in the city of Cleveland.

IT is growing.

There’s a lot of work around kind of smart city type technology, which is exciting.

So, we are diversifying.

What was interesting thinking about the Great Lakes, and, you know, where you’re from too,

it’s when we think about the long game,

especially with climate change, and you do that back in the envelope analysis of

where businesses are going to want to locate, where people are going to want to locate.

It’s up here.

Honestly, we have access to fresh water.

You know, 20% of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes.

We don’t have, you know, in general, giant natural disasters.

Our weather is mild,

comparably, and our infrastructure is there.

You know, we are a city, again, that was built for more people.

We have sort of excess capacity to welcome more businesses and residents.

So, I think you’re going to see over time that Great Lakes cities,

you know, I think there’s going to be a lot more migration, climate migration, climate

refugees, whatever you want to call it.

But I think we’re going to see more people kind of moving back to the Great Lakes,

into the Midwest.

Yeah, that’s a really interesting forecast.

And I’ve certainly heard others mentioning the same.

And of course, I’m located out in Colorado, the semi-air Rocky Mountain West,

where water is such a precious and it seems increasingly limited resource.

So, hopefully we’ll have opportunities as a society to see more balancing around all of that.

And to have that much fresh water available is obviously an incredible gift.

And clearly a resource that hopefully we are all

doubling down to really protect and make sure we don’t pollute.

And, you know, take good care of that because 20% of the world’s fresh water, that is quite a lot.

Yeah, no, it’s pretty crazy.

And again, kind of back to that 50th anniversary, we were marking that progress, right,

from just the river that feeds our Lake Erie.

You know, literally 50 years ago, there was there was nothing living in the river.

There’s basically no oxygen in the river.

And it actually caught on fire 13 times over the course of 101 years,

didn’t know way back to 1868, was the first time river conifier.

And many rivers actually caught on fire across the country, especially the Midwest.

But as we look back, it was, you know, what made this progress?

You know, how did we get from no life in a river that’s burning to over 70 species of fish,

surviving and thriving? Many of which only survived in very clean water.

And where we have a shared river with industry still,

you know, going to the steel plant, but also recreation,

more and more recreation everywhere on the river.

And how did we get here?

It was a combination of determined local action over 50 years,

combined with strong federal and state policy.

I mean, that’s how you scale up progress.

And so a lot of what we do in cities is our part, right?

We do what we can on local policy and progress.

But, you know, our ceiling is here, you know, to get to here,

really, we do need that strong base of state and federal policy.

I think that takes all right progress even further.

So that’s kind of how, in our position, the local government interacts with regional state,

federal and international too, the UN.

Right. Exactly.

You know, it’s such a curious and bizarre and probably a perilous time at the moment.

And in that, at the level of the global community,

the international community, we have general consensus around major existential challenges

or crises like the climate crisis.

And we have at cities, municipalities across the country a general consensus of the same sort.

Many states are responding now to deal with the incredible challenges we have ahead of us.

But we, of course, have at the national, the federal level right now in the United States

a very different situation going on.

And I’m struck that in the United States, we now have cities and municipalities

representing well over 50 percent of the total population of the country

who have effectively signed on to the Paris climate accord who have effectively said,

yes, this crisis is real and we’re going to do everything we can to deal with it.

And you’re part of that.

And I’m wondering if you can share with our audience what that looks like in terms of all the

cross collaboration going on with your colleague, you mentioned Pittsburgh.

And I know you’re networked with other sustainability officers throughout the country.

How much are you guys able to share and the learning process right now?

Yeah, that’s a great question.

The net one of the networks we’re in is this urban sustainability director’s network,

USDM, you’re going to USDM.org and there’s some public facing content there.

So we share through that network, go on with some other networks as well,

one of these best practices within cities because there’s a lot of work going on to compare cities

and kind of rank them against each other in terms of sustainability.

That’s a very difficult thing to do.

Because depending on what topic you’re talking about, each city kind of does things a little

differently. And I think different cities are looked to for leadership in different

sustainability topics. But you know, I think there are some commonalities that we share and we work on.

You know, certainly energy is number one. That’s in general,

especially with respect to climate, both energy efficiency and renewable energy.

So we, along with saying we are still in to your point on the Paris Climate Accord.

We also recently, the last late last year, has signed on to the 100% renewable

school. So we’re getting to 100% for us renewable electricity.

There’s a lot of cities also working on that. So you know, with our specific plan, which we

give a grant, we’re going to be implementing over the next year, how do you get to 100% renewable?

Make this huge transition in our economy, like complete transformation of how we

do things. How do you do that with workforce development, jobs and equity, especially racial

equity at the core? You know, has there ever been an example in the history of mankind where

there’s been a giant shift in the economy and the people who had wealth just got richer?

You know, they they’d figure out a way to adjust. We want to think about in Cleveland,

which is still has a second highest poverty rate in the country. As we make that transition,

how do we make it so, you know, those who are historically underserved benefit from that

transition to a clean energy economy? That’s the kind of things we work on a lot with, you know,

certainly recycling. There’s a lot going on with, you know, China, not accepting our,

one of our plastics and paper. How are cities responding to that so we can work with each other

across a lot of cities to figure that out? Transportation is a big one. Actually, just today,

we launched our shared mobility pilot, so we have four scooter companies, a dockless flight company

in the city operating now. There’s a lot of best practices that that is a world that’s changing

every week. You know, how do you stay on top of that? We work across cities to figure that

out. So I can go down the line from trees to land use, you know, clean water issues, that, that,

that. So there’s just so much innovation going on that we really depend on, I think a lot on

each other. So let’s figure that stuff out. Yeah, that’s, it’s really exciting. You know, you’re

commentary around this wholesale transformation of economy with a focus on equity among a diverse

population, reminds me a little bit of World War II. Yeah, our mobilization there, I understand,

provided many, many opportunities to women, to people of color who didn’t previously have access

to some of those opportunities. And not to say that it was a panacea or that clearly we didn’t have

a whole lot more work to do after the end of World War II, but it was a step forward as I understand

it for many folks accessing different progress, different opportunities, different socioeconomic

strata basically in this society. And I’m wondering how you guys are thinking about that when you’re

thinking about your strategies and your plans, how to, how to enhance the, the social equity that

is so much important. Yeah, the, you know, my perspective, you know, when we think about the

triple bottom line of sustainability, you know, people planning profit or, you know, environment

economy and equity, you know, you know, in many ways it started with the environment, right? Like,

it was half century ago, even us first even further back, was how do we protect the environment

from people to go and visit the environment? So that was, you know, for a long time the driving

force, then the economy, I would say, maybe became next, if people saw that opportunity to, not only

be good for the environment, but also good for the pocketbooks, but residential, but also businesses.

And I would say the equity piece is it was light to the game, you know, and I think a lot of cities

would recognize that. And it was always, I think for a long time, I was kind of a check the box,

type of scenario, but you know, a lot of cities are really shifting to having equity be really at

the front and center of what we do. And a lot of that is really engagement. It’s, you know, really

talking to everyone in the community to get the perspective on what the priority should be,

and also supporting them in their own work at the residential level, at the neighborhood level.

So for us, you know, I think it started with our tree plan. I think it was really the first

plan we did that was head equity at the core. So this is maybe five years ago, four years ago,

we worked with four neighborhood partners in developing this tree plan along with the city.

And we basically put in there thinking about how do you prioritize who gets trees?

And it wasn’t just, you know, clearly where trees are is an important thing. We know the percent

can’t be in different neighborhoods, but it goes much beyond that too. It goes, we also

like that income levels, race, education, asthma levels, property values, you know, potential for

rainwater capture, all these things kind of then feed into where trees should go.

And then we did, we opted to our climate action plan last year. And through that process,

we spent a lot of time on these cross-cutting factors, not so much the nuts and bolts

of sustainability historically, like energy waste, you know. We were focused a lot on business

leadership resilience, racial equity and jobs, and we even created a racial equity tool with

20 organizations to basically assess every action in that plan against this tool. And to see,

are we, you know, are we doing enough? Can we do more to advance equity through this sustainability

or climate action? And then the final, the last thing we did was had 12 neighborhood workshops

through that process across the central neighborhood, any historically reserved, got input on what

should be in the plan, what language should be used even. But also, we basically also created

neighborhood-level grants through our Cleveland Climate Action Fund to support people in their

own work. If they wanted to do a neighborhood-based projects, there was funding available to then

to do that. So, you know, long story short, to do things equitably, you need to put resources and

time effort people into that, you know. It really does take a lot of forth up to do it well.

Well, I’m really curious to, you mentioned to me before we were recording that Cleveland is the

second poorest of the major cities in the United States right after Detroit. And I imagine that means

you’ve got as a municipality very significant resource constraints that you’re dealing with as

many municipalities are. How do you manage that? How does that get balanced in the making process?

Well, part of what that Climate Action Fund process was, you know, for climate action as

community-wide, for climate action sustainability to raise these other priorities of education, health,

you know, economic development, safety, etc. You know, you basically have to meet people where they

are and identify sustainability solutions that are also safety solutions, health solutions,

economic development solutions. So, that really is the focus of our plan, is putting that forward

as a priority. And the other piece which is critical for Cleveland is anything we do well and big

has to be done in collaboration. So, we have, we had 90 organizations as part of this planning

process. And anything, again, our Cleveland Tree Coalition, we need to double our tree canopy

in a dozen years. That’s our goal. We have over 30 organizations as part of our tree coalition.

So, that’s a lot of our work, honestly, a lot of other cities too. We sort of act as a convener

collaborator on these topics. And it’s sort of a neutral one, right, as an old government,

to bring all these parties together to go forward in a at least fairly, you know, consistent,

straight path, but while allowing for innovation along the way. So, that’s a lot of what we do as

an office is that identifying those opportunities for collaboration and then bringing those parties

together. One of the things I’d love about the approach you’re describing is that when we approach

challenges with a design mindset and we layer in multiple benefits and are seeking to basically

solve for multiple interrelated problems, it seems our thinking actually can evolve and get to a

more ecological versus a highly linear or highly mechanistic understanding of how these systems

are actually working. And my perspective is that having studied design and all of this for many

years is that the ecological framework is actually much more accurate and apropos for working with

them and making change within very complex systems. And it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re

doing day in and day out. Mm-hmm, that’s exactly right. And it’s interesting, so we launched

Sustainable Cleveland 2019 ten years ago. And I hadn’t started yet, but there was a three-day summit

and 600-700 people showed up for three days to kind of co-create what sustainability means for

for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. And that was the whole, that was the whole kind of mantra. This

is a larger ecosystem. And we need to have all these different sectors talking to each other

because they are all connected. So we had retirees connected the, you know, CDOs to students,

to nonprofits, the government, all at its table together, working these things out and seeing,

you know, where everyone can kind of contribute. So we’ve used, it’s basically used a smile

called appreciative inquiry, which was developed out of the case Western Reserve University

here in Oakland, Cleveland. David Cooperider has really created it. And it’s been used everywhere

at this point at the UN to many other businesses. But that’s the whole idea is to allow for that

sort of organic innovation really through these large compacts businesses or cities in our case.

And also to not go look at things from a problem-solving perspective, but almost how do you

build from strengths to address the challenges your face has a city? Not ignoring the stuff we’re

doing badly, but also not focusing on problem-solving. I think in Cleveland we did that for 50 years.

Here’s a problem. Here’s a problem. How do we solve it? How do we solve it? Let’s kind of get

behind that to, you know, thinking a little bit more expansively and holistically. That’s kind

of what we’ve been doing in the initiative. And, you know, it started off in 2009 and, you know,

we’ve had over 30 volunteer working groups since then who are just who come together, meet at the

summit, and then they continue for the other 360-degree days a year to do some of the work. And a lot

of those working groups have turned into four-profit companies, nonprofits who, you know, today are

really enhancing that work. So it’s been an interesting model at a city-wide scale.

Yeah, that’s absolutely fabulous. Let me take this opportunity to remind our audience that

this is the Why On Earth Community Stewardship and Sustainability Podcast Series. And today we

are speaking with Matt Gray, the Chief of Sustainability for the City of Cleveland. And if any of you

would like to get more information about what Matt and his team and colleagues are doing, you can go

to sustainableclevelin.org as a way to find all kinds of different information and resources.

I also want to mention that this podcast series is made possible by the generous support of all

kinds of individuals who have joined our monthly giving program. And if you have not yet joined

in, would like to, you can go to whyoners.org slash support to sign up for a monthly donation

at any level that works for you. And when you join, I’ll be sure to send you a special code

so that you can download for free all of our ebook and audiobook resources. And you can even share

these with your friends and colleagues. So be sure to join the monthly giving program if you

haven’t yet. Whyoners.org slash support. And I’d also like to thank some of our corporate and

organizational partners and sponsors helping us with our community mobilization work all

around the country. This includes our big upcoming Midwest and East Coast tour this November and

our coast to coast tour in 2020. These sponsors include the Association of Waldorf Schools of

North America, Earth Coast Productions, Equal Exchange, the International Society of Sustainability

Professionals, the LIDGE Family Foundation, Madera Outdoor, Patagonia, Purium and Walei Water. So

a huge thanks to all of you for supporting this work. And it takes obviously a village way more

than a village. It takes massive coordination and collaboration for all of us to be happening.

And Matt, that’s probably something that resonates for you in a big, big way. It sounds like

you are interfacing with so many different organizations and stakeholders. I imagine sometimes

that can get a bit intense and even perhaps a bit overwhelming. I’m just curious for you on

a personal note, what are some of the practices you have to help maintain that balance, that help,

that well-being in your position of leadership that’s so important to this kind of work that you’re

mobilizing. That’s a great question. Actually, there’s a lot of work going on now in personal

sustainability, even among our network. Certainly for me, I have a two and a half-year-old

grade, no longer baby-grace, but a grade. So it definitely helps provide perspective for me,

recharges me. Certainly, they’re less sleep at times, but it doesn’t necessarily mean

less recharge. I think I definitely get a lot from her. And I think

there certainly we have a leadership role in the community. But I think this idea of shared

ownership in a city, not just me, but all these companies and all these nonprofits working together.

It does really internalizing that, I think, can take a little bit off a little bit.

And then people aren’t necessarily looking at you for all the solutions.

And I think that helps a lot. They can get overwhelming when the city government or any organization

just tries to take on too much itself. And that also means that sometimes if there isn’t

community-wide buying on something, even though you think it’s personally important,

then maybe you shelve that for a little bit. And I think that’s what we’ve had to do,

the different initiatives. Okay, maybe we’re just not ready for this. It’ll just be such an uphill

battle, and our personal sustainability will suffer for it. We’re kind of work with where people

are. Take that one, you know, once that part of it. I think that’s worked pretty well for us.

So, you know, I am struck that you basically are in a position that now exists in virtually

every major city in this country and even internationally. Virtually every major university has a

chief sustainability officer or director of sustainability. And I think virtually,

at least the majority of the fortune 1,000. And I think it’s a much higher number than 50%.

At this point, also have chief sustainability officers. And these are positions that 15, 20 years

ago literally didn’t exist yet. And I’m curious to two-part question. One, how did you get into this?

What was your personal path from say, you know, your middle school or high school days that got you

here? And into what is it like to be right at the fore of such massive social change as evidenced

by the emergence of this position in virtually every major institution in our country?

Yeah, the, yes, my personal path, and it’s everyone’s personal path to these, you know, sustainability

leadership positions is different. You know, my first experience was with nature and working with

the Student Conservation Association. So when I was 17, I volunteered to go to the wilds of

Indiana at a naval base to build trails for five weeks with some of other high schoolers.

I’ve never had gone camping in my life. And it was a really transformative experience for me.

Just a hard work, first of all, kind of sweat equity you put in. But just being out there every night,

camping for five weeks straight was a really transformative for me. So for me, it kind of started

for conservation ethics. And then I used to, in the college, I ended up leading some of those

crews, which is the hardest job I’ve ever had, for sure, is wrangling eight teenagers out of the

woods. And then so sort of conservation, my undergraduate was industrial engineering and anthropology,

doesn’t make much sense, but these kind of expansive, you know, philosophies in terms of engineering

and, you know, anthropology. So, but I’ve always was interested in environmental issues.

So after I graduated, I went to Vermont, works for a non-profit there on water issues,

and I did went to the private sector, worked for Accenture, a big global consulting firm.

So we’re going to energy issues, luckily. And then I went through my master’s program,

building off of that to look at a master’s of public administrations with a focus on environmental

issues. So that kind of set me up. Then I worked for the federal government for four years,

so I went to DC. It’s called a Presidential Management Fellowship. If anyone’s out there’s

interested in federal service, it’s a great, great, great entrance into the federal government.

I did four years on green building, energy work, wanted to get more work and climate change

resilience and adaptation. So I got a full bright to the island’s country of Mauritius and the Indian

Ocean, used them at a gas car, very much in the middle of the ocean, looking at the impacts of

climate change on the island. And then I came back to Cleveland, lived in my parents’ basement,

age 31. I looked up my next job, and I was very lucky, you know, from Cleveland I was here,

and I was really interested in urban sustainability and positioned up in the mayor’s office.

That’s the kind of long story short of, I’m not so sure of how I got to where I’m staying.

The second part of your question on the social change, it’s scary. I think the mass mobilization,

the amount of interest in this topic, some of it’s just curiosity interest, but a lot of it is fear,

and it’s warranted. So how do you think a lot of our work is? How do you channel that, you know,

fear, urgency into tangible actions at the ground level? While, you know,

keeping your eye on these bigger advocacy issues that we all need to focus on against state,

federal, international level. Now, that’s, to me, even personally, it’s difficult sometimes.

It can feel daunting, overwhelming, but you’ve got to keep focused on what you can do, you know,

hugging data that. You know, it’s so cool hearing your story. I love how it appears on some

level to be perhaps a bit circuitous or perhaps even random, but what you’ve been doing is pulling

together all these different bodies of knowledge and experiences into a very interdisciplinary

framework, which is basically what’s needed in these kinds of challenges that we’re dealing with.

And I’m wondering when folks are thinking about the upcoming sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit.

Can you just share dates and is that something folks from other states or regions might want to

come to? What kind of programming would folks expect there? You are all invited to the, I guess,

now a 11th annual sustainable Cleveland summit. It is a, well, because we had such 25 events

over five days for the 50th anniversary of the river fire I mentioned, we’re doing one day this

year. We normally do a day and a half now of these summits, but it’s October 16. Basically,

you can come for free. It’s only 25 bucks if you don’t volunteer. But actually, we every year,

we get people from out of the out of state kind of curious how we operate these appreciative

inquiry summits. So, yeah, definitely welcome folks. This year is going to be kind of half

marking 10 years of progress, celebrating the people, especially who’ve made that happen,

but also looking forward over the next many years to really one of those key community-wide

priorities that we all need to work on. Energy clearly, the 100% renewable energy piece,

but moving towards a circular economy is going to be a big part of the summit this year.

Trees and ribbon canopy, parks are mayors signed on to a goal every resident living within a 10-minute

walk on a park. How do we get there? That’s going to be kind of how we co-crease the community,

how we get there. So, there’s going to kind of big topics we work on at the summits and implement

over the rest of the year. Yeah, fabulous. I know at least one of our key ambassadors is going to

be at the summit and I’m just so excited that the wine earth community will have some connection

there and I’m also thrilled. I can’t help but give a quick shout out to our community mobilization

kit, which we’ve just made available that is for soil stewardship and climate action and it’s

literally for community leaders, neighborhood level leaders, anybody to do even more when it comes

to soil and trees and things we can be doing in our own communities to tackle some of these big

challenges and just echoing your comments about how the fear can sometimes be so intense and

how important it is for us to take action and to mobilize and to do what we can do

is a huge part of the ethos and spirit of all the work we’re doing at the wine earth community.

So, Matt, I’m so thrilled to have this opportunity to connect with you today and to have this

conversation and share a lot of the work that you’re doing with our audience. Again, folks, if you

want to get more information, you can go to sustainablecleveland.org and Matt, before we sign

off here, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience for the moment?

I just have last point you mentioned about, I guess kind of the skill set that’s collaboration

piece. I do like to mention when people ask you, how do you get into sustainability?

You know, if you want to kind of get beyond your, you know, your resident, your neighbor

or a level project or the initiative in your business and I guess I like to say is it doesn’t

require a sustainability master’s degree at all and in fact some of those skills are sometimes

easier to pick up. A lot of what we, I look forward to new candidates and people joining the office,

is the collaboration, the curiosity, the empathy. Almost these people skills are almost more important

now when we talk about sustainability at a city scale and beyond. So, and the last

I was, thank you really for all the work you’re doing as well just to get this word out and

supporting people in their work. Thank you. Absolutely, Matt. We’ll spend great talking with you

today. Really appreciate it. Thanks again. Okay, thank you. Take care. You too.

The Why on Earth Community Stewardship and Sustainability podcast series is hosted by Aaron

William Perry, author, thought leader and executive consultant. The podcast and video recordings are

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