Growing Native Desert Trees for Shade

March 8, 2022 6:00 pm
YouTube link:

The coolness of shade comforts us on a hot summer day. What if we could increase the shade tree canopy around our homes without substantially increasing our water bills? Tucson averages less than 6 percent tree canopy coverage, with some neighborhoods having 4 percent or less. Increasing the urban tree canopy has multiple benefits but requires more water at a time when potable water systems are stressed.

To increase tree canopy to 15 percent without substantially increasing potable water demand, we can plant more native Sonoran Desert trees and increase water harvesting.

Native trees are well-adapted to our heat and seasonal droughts.  Planting these trees in appropriate locations and supporting them with harvested water can provide our homes and neighborhoods with shady, climate-resilient trees, while saving precious (and costly) drinking water.
Join Sustainable Tucson for our March virtual monthly meeting for an exploration of “Growing Native Desert Trees for Shade.” Our speaker, Ann Audrey, will provide tips on the best native trees to plant, where and how to make optimum use of the rain we receive to help Tucson grow into a greener and cooler community, plus other tips on tree planting and care.
Speaker. Ann Audrey, MS Hydrology and Water Resources, is an environmental consultant working in urban tree management, rainwater harvesting, and sustainable design. Having completed a grant compiling recommended Native Trees, she is currently assisting in the drafting of an Urban Forest Action Plan for the City of Tucson.


Agrivoltaics: A Winning Combo of Food and Energy

YouTube link –

Exciting research has been going on for several years at Biosphere 2 and two schools in Tucson. UA Professor Greg Barron-Gafford has been leading teams studying what happens when vegetables are planted beneath raised solar panels. So far, the results show that this is a winning combination, productive for both the plants and the panels.

Join us on Tuesday, February 8, at 6:00 pm for our virtual Monthly Meeting. Prof. Barron-Gafford will give us an overview of Agrivoltaics: how it works and why it’s a particularly suitable approach for Southern Arizona, and he’ll update us on what developments we can expect to see resulting from the local projects.

Greg Barron-Gafford is a professor in the School of Geography, Development, and Environment, and is Associate Director of the Community and School Garden Program. He has been developing the field of agrivoltaics for the last 8 years, currently working not just in Southern Arizona but with researchers in Colorado and Oregon as well as in Africa and the Middle East


Electrification: Key for Climate Change Mitigation

Tuesday, December 14, 6:00 pm
Youtube <>

We have ten, maybe fifteen years to decarbonize our activities, our city, and the world, repairing our damage to habitable places, and slowing the accelerating cascade of extinctions. We can achieve these goals if each major decision from now on eliminates fossil fuels from our daily habits. That means that household appliances, heating, water heating, cooking, and our long-term transportation purchases from here on out need to be powered by electricity, not gas, and that before mid-century we’re supplying them almost exclusively with cleanly produced electrical power. This will triple our electricity use, but the elimination of fossil fuels and their inherent inefficiencies means overall energy consumption will decline.
Join us at 6:00 on Tuesday, Dec. 14, for an overview of hands-on electrification in which everyone has a role. The presentation goes hand-in-hand with Sustainable Tucson’s new web-based Energy Transformation Toolkit, which includes practical guidance for electrification applicable to Tucson homes, businesses, and nonprofits, including financial incentives available. If you have a few minutes, give it a glance before the meeting.
Following the presentation and discussion of this timely topic, you’re invited to join in some celebratory end-of-year sharing on sustainability – of positive happenings over the year, current projects, and hopes for the coming year. Additional details and speakers will be announced in our next newsletter, on our Meetup page, on Facebook, and on our website (


Local Sustainability in the Public Sector

A conversation with civic officials 
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
6:00-7:30 pm
On Youtube: <>

What can governmental agencies do to help us live in harmony with our desert environment for generations to come? Meet civic staff whose work aims to ensure a sustainable future. 

Our conversation will feature Irene Ogata, Tucson Water’s Urban Landscape Manager; Natalie Shepp, Senior Program Manager for Outreach and Education at the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality; Nicole Gillett, the City’s Urban Forest Manager; and Samantha Neville, District 5 Aide to Supervisor Adelita Grijalva. Through a moderated Q & A, they will describe their roles, their goals, their successes, and the needs they see for their work going forward.


Indigenous Perspectives on Sustainability

Tuesday, October 12, 6:00 pm
Youtube link: <>

Indigenous peoples have become frontline leaders in the push for climate justice and the building of regenerative futures. Simultaneously, more and more folks outside of the Indigenous community have been learning that Indigenous traditional governance, frameworks, values, and ecological practices have the capacity to offer insight to building these futures for us all.
At our next monthly meeting, PennElys Droz will explore the movement of Indigenous peoples to re-emerge our values and governance in regenerative nation-building, our work to achieve Land Back, and why this is relevant and impactful for our local, national, and global community. Please join us for this timely presentation, with ample time for questions and discussion.

Dr. PennElys Droz is an Anishinaabekwe mother of five, a Program Officer for the NDN Collective, and an active founding Board member of Sustainable Nations. She has worked for over 20 years in service of the re-development of ecologically, culturally, and economically thriving and resilient Indigenous Nations.


Sustainability in the public sector:

actions and perspectives

A forum with municipal officials who work directly on sustainability issues

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
6:00-7:30 pm
Youtube meeting link: <>

Join Sustainable Tucson for our next virtual monthly meeting. Connect with dedicated public servants whose work touches directly on our mission to live in harmony with our desert environment long into the future. Panelists will describe their roles, their missions, their successes, and their needs. The program will be rich with detail and ample opportunity for Q & A. Confirmed to date: Julie Robinson, manager of sustainability for Pima County. Bring your questions!


Local Jobs/Local Needs: A Post-pandemic Look at a Greener Local Economy

August 10 at 6pm

It may seem a bit premature to take a “post-pandemic look” at anything, but we can start thinking already about what we want the post-pandemic picture of our region to look like.
In the past year and a half, we’ve seen all too many businesses close, including some favorite restaurants and bars. At the same time, we’ve seen new bars and restaurants opening and new local businesses starting up. Hopeful signs indeed. But can we control what happens next? All those ups and downs impacting the local business community present the perfect opportunity to plan and shape what we want for our local economy.
Join Sustainable Tucson on Tuesday, August 10, at 6:00 pm, for our next virtual monthly meeting, “Local Jobs for Local Needs: A Post-pandemic Look at Moving to a Greener Local Economy.” We will take a look at what Tucson and the Southern Arizona region need locally for a sustainable economic future, as we (hope to) come out of the past year and a half, with Covid-driven disruptions and constraints impacting local businesses, workers, and the overall economy.
As a basis and background for looking at where we’re heading, Kevin Burke, City of Tucson Economic Initiatives Deputy Director, will give an overview of where we are now and what the impacts on business and the economy have been (and still are) from the pandemic. In other words, what’s the current “health” of our local economy? Kevin will help us understand current local business trends and the data behind those trends.
Then, Mike Peel, Local First Arizona’s Statewide Sustainability Director, will discuss how we move forward, focusing on how to take advantage of greener, more sustainable opportunities to meet economic needs, rather than simply replicating the past. He’ll look at trends in green job and economic development as seen in our local region.
Bring your questions and experiences to share, as we’ll close with plenty of time for discussion with our presenters.
YouTube link: <>


The Four Big Things you can do to solve Climate Change, . . .

. . . and the 50 small things.

Link to recording of meeting: <>

Fundamental to solving the Climate Crisis is to replace the fossil-fueled equipment we use with more efficient and non-polluting electrically powered devices, powered with renewables. Robert will talk about why heat pump water and space heaters are more efficient, safer, and economical. Electric Vehicles have lower lifetime costs than fossil burners, and are more fun and reliable to drive. Solar can power your home and vehicle, resulting in low or no energy bills.

Join us for this presentation on how you can eliminate your direct fossil carbon emissions, improve the comfort and safety of your home and vehicle, and save money while doing it.

Robert Bulechek is a energy efficiency consultant specializing in upgrading existing buildings to be comfortable, affordable, healthy, and zero emissions. 

A member of the Tucson Commission on Climate, Energy, and Sustainability, he leads the Electrification of Transportation Working Group. He regularly pesters the Tucson City Council, Pima County Board of Supervisors, Arizona Legislature, and Arizona Corporation Commission to improve sustainability policy.

Robert lives in a zero emissions home, drives a zero emissions car, has negative utility bills and negative carbon emissions.


5G: Boon or Boondoggle?

Tuesday, June 15
(Note special date)

6:00-7:30 pm

View the presentation at <>

With the advent of smart phones and other such devices – from bluetooth speakers to refrigerators – not to mention social media, internet browsing, video downloading, and an unending stream of apps, the demand for connectivity keeps growing.  So, too, does our exposure to RF’s – radio frequencies that carry all of the messages and information that we send and seek. 

Like so many things of consequence in modern society, these RF’s are invisible, have no taste or smell, nor any tangible presence that we can easily perceive.  Does this mean that they have no effect on our bodies or the body of the Earth?  

A major study released in 2017 by the U.S. National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health found increased incidences of brain cancer, malignant tumors of the heart, and DNA damage in laboratory animals from microwave exposure levels below FCC guidelines. Ron Melnick, PhD, the National Institutes of Health scientist who led the design of the study, cautioned: “There is an urgent need to evaluate 5G health effects now before millions are exposed.” 

Yet the City of Tucson has already allowed for the installation of over 300 “small cell” wireless facilities across the city, including many in residential zones within 20 feet of bedroom windows, with permits for hundreds of more.

Join us on June 15 to hear Russell Witte, PhD, Professor of Medical Imaging, Optical Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery, who will describe well-documented hazards from microwave radiation at relatively low exposures, suggesting a more cautionary approach to the rollout of 5G. He will explain why thousands of scientists around the world have signed an emergency appeal for a moratorium on the rollout of 5G technology.

Climate, Forests, and Fire in Southen Arizona

Tuesday, May 11, 6:00 – 7:30 pm. Watch recording on Youtube
Many of us remember all too well the Bighorn Fire last summer: the sight of flames that kept coming ever closer, and the plumes of smoke that clouded the skies and filled our lungs. And here we are again. Last Sunday’s AZ Daily Star included the headline “Experts expect busy wildfire season again.” With the Mulberry Fire in February and the Margo Fire in early April, we are already well into this year’s fire season for Southern Arizona, making this month’s topic even more timely than expected.
Our May monthly meeting will examine “Climate, Forests, and Fire in Southern Arizona.” We’re pleased to present two local experts on these topics, University of Arizona Professors Donald Falk and Luke McGuire, who will help us understand the changing landscape we are already beginning to see in our region and the impacts — past and expected — from what seems to be an intensifying fire regime. Their work has addressed issues including forest and fire ecology, post-fire impacts on soil and flooding, risks of erosion, and possibilities for restoration.
We all play an integral role in the regional landscape, and our lives are impacted by the natural phenomena around us. Any consideration of fire in our surroundings will have implications — both risks and opportunities — for issues like where housing is developed, where transmission lines are located, and more broadly, whether there are prevention, mitigation, or adaptation measures we should be looking at and acting on.
Please join us on Tuesday, May 11, at 6:00 pm, for the virtual meeting on this important topic.