Event Meeting

COP28: UA Delegates Report on Their Observations & Local Implications

Tuesday, January 9, 6:00-7:30 pm

The world’s biggest climate meeting, the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), [recently] concluded in Dubai. Negotiators from around the world worked overtime to deliver a new plan for addressing the mounting crisis posed by human-caused climate change. … Despite important progress, COP28 fell short of delivering the decisive action on climate change that science says is needed.” – Forbes magazine, 12/13/23

Join us Tuesday, January 9, at 6 pm for a conversation with University of Arizona delegates to COP28, moderated by Duane Ediger, Sustainable Tucson Board member. The panel will include Joona Mikkola, graduate student in Arid Lands Resource Sciences; Dr. Mona Arora, Assistant Research Professor in the Community, Environment & Policy Department of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; and Yevheniia Varyvoda, Ph.D., Research Professional in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Hear their first-hand observations of the COP experience and, drawing on that experience, their thoughts on what we can do in southern Arizona to improve our climate future. There will be ample time for questions following their presentations.

Dr. Mona Arora’s research focuses on building the public health system’s capacity and capability to address global “wicked problems,” including pandemics, disasters, and climate change. She has a special interest in the health impacts of climate change, with a special focus on the usability of science for decision-making and models for translating science to action.
Joona Mikkola is passionate about ecological economics and finding solutions for real-world development and environmental governance problems with transdisciplinary research. His research interests include common-pool resource problems in semi-arid and arid lands, rangeland management and land-based greenhouse gas fluxes, and climate finance and community-based payments for ecosystem services (CB-PES) in Sahel and East Africa.
Dr. Yevheniia Varyvoda is an interdisciplinary environmental scientist at the University of Arizona. Her research focus is on leveraging nature-based solutions to enhance the resilience of communities, services, and systems upon which they depend. Her specific expertise includes ecosystem services in food systems, a methodological framework for impact assessment in case of emergency situations, and interventions for existing and emerging food safety issues in low- and middle-income countries.


Fashion Re-Formed: Transforming an Industry to Prioritize Sustainability

Tuesday, November 14, 6:00-7:30 pm


The fashion industry has been criticized for its environmentally damaging practices, reliance on exploitative labor conditions, and encouragement of overconsumption. For our next monthly meeting, our speaker, UA Professor Kathleen J. Kennedy will show that those negatives can and should be changed.  In this presentation, she will explore how leaders in the fashion world can reimagine the industry to be more sustainable, equitable, and conscious of its impacts. She will discuss innovations in circularity, materials engineering, fabric sourcing, manufacturing processes, streamlining the supply chain, and building transparency between brands and consumers.
We will learn how policy changes and grassroots activism can motivate large-scale improvements, and we will leave with ideas and inspiration for how the fashion industry can transform itself into a force for good. By working together and centering sustainability, we can reform fashion to be beautiful, ethically produced, and much less wasteful of resources.

Our speaker, Kathleen J. Kennedy, Associate Professor of Practice, Norton School for Human Ecology at the University of Arizona, is an expert in retailing, consumer products, and business strategy. As a faculty member at the University of Arizona since 2017, she has focused her teaching on ethical, responsible, and sustainable practices in the fashion and retail sectors. Concurrently, Kathleen has been a postgraduate researcher at the Alliance Manchester Business School, where her research is focused on the impact of AI technologies on retailing and consumer buying decisions.

Prior to her academic career, Kathleen gained over 15 years of experience as an executive for major retailers and financial services companies. In these corporate roles, she spearheaded product development and sourcing initiatives, always emphasizing sustainability, social responsibility, and zero waste. 
An advocate for reform in the fashion industry, Kathleen teaches about balancing profit and principles. She provides students and professionals with ideas and inspiration for transforming traditional business practices to be more equitable, eco-conscious, and human-centric. Kathleen is committed to research and education that can enable the retail and apparel sectors to become a driving force for good.


Exploring Our Local Native Food System

October 10, 2023 • 6:00pm

Tucson is increasingly becoming known as a major “food city.” What many may not realize is the long history of local agriculture and distinctive food traditions in our region. Join us on October 10 for our next monthly meeting for an exploration of that history and some of the ways in which regional traditions and uniquely desert-adapted foods are still important and will play a significant role in shaping a sustainable food future.
We are pleased to present two speakers who will share their deep familiarity with the deep roots and current practices of local desert agriculture and the distinctive food culture it produces. Sterling Johnson is Co-Executive Director and DeAnndra Porter is Outreach Coordinator of Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ajo CSA), a Native American-governed non-profit organization in Ajo, Arizona. Ajo CSA provides agricultural education, reduces barriers to healthy and culturally appropriate foods, preserves and revitalizes agricultural traditions, fosters local, food-based economic development, and establishes valuable partnerships. Their mission is to support the development of a sustainable and just local food system in Ajo, Arizona and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Johnson and Porter will share insights from their organization’s programming, which includes educating youths and adults on traditional foods, the Adopt-A-Sonoran-Desert-Crop Program, and Climate Smart Agriculture or traditional agricultural practices. With the impacts of climate change, farmers, growers, and ranchers continue to adapt. Traditional Tohono O’odham agriculture is climate smart agriculture. It includes practices such as ak-chin farming, an ancient but efficient system based on rainwater harvesting.

Sterling Johnson was born and raised on the Tohono O’odham Nation and is a proud tribal member who represented his tribe by ranching and competing in rodeos. Today Sterling is a traditional dry-land farmer and an urban farmer, as well as a farmer mentor for Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Sterling mentors new apprentices and goes to schools both on and off the reservation to educate students. As a part of Ajo CSA, Sterling grows seeds out for Adopt a Sonoran Desert Crop Program, which gives out native grown seeds and non-native grown seeds that have been surviving out in the Desert for hundreds or even thousands of years.

DeAndra Porter, also from the Tohono O’odham Nation, is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona in Nutrition and Food Systems. She is currently working with Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture as an Outreach Coordinator and with Native Seed Search as a seed saving apprentice. Her interests include gardening, being outdoors, and learning more about sustainable living and growing, nutrition, and community development.


¡Agua es Vida!

Celebration of Water in the Desert and Short Film Showcase

Artwork by Emma Nakpairat.

Saturday, 16 September 2023!

Celebrate water in the desert with fun family activities like build your own rain basin and a Living Lab tour at Watershed Management Group.

Then head to the Loft for a short film showcase featuring music by Ted Ramirez and short documentaries about everyday heroes working to keep our rivers flowing and securing water for generations to come. Followed by a filmmaker and water expert Q & A.

Find more details here.


Biodiversity:Local Perspectives on a Global Issue

Tuesday, September 12, at 6:00 pm,

Jaguar photo courtesy University of Arizona and USFWS

As we see all too often in the news, the world’s biodiversity faces many challenges and threats, even including risks of multiple extinctions across the globe. In the US, concerns about biodiversity seem to be highlighted by this year’s 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and globally we begin to see an awakening to the need for action, for example, the recent launch of the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund.
Closer to home, we’re fortunate to live in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. Yet here too, the flora and fauna in the Sky Islands and the Sonoran Desert face many threats challenging their survival.
Join us for our next monthly meeting, Tuesday, September 12, at 6:00 pm, for an overview of key issues impacting biodiversity in our region. Our speaker is Laiken Jordahl,Southwest Conservation Advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, based here in Tucson. Laiken will give a brief overview of regional biodiversity and then share work being done to protect biodiversity in the borderlands in the face of myriad threats, including border walls and militarization, industrial-scale mining, and rampant and illegal cattle grazing of our vanishing wetlands – all of which are contributing significantly to biodiversity loss in the region. Following his presentation there will be ample time for Q & A.
Laiken works to protect wildlife, ecosystems, and public lands throughout the desert Southwest and U.S-Mexico borderlands. Before joining the Center, he worked with the National Park Service studying threats to wilderness character at five different national parks and monuments and with the Bureau of Land Management on recreation planning for the San Juan River. He has also worked as a natural resource legislative fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives. For four years Laiken worked as the Center’s Borderlands campaigner, fighting wall construction in Arizona and across the southwest, before recently transitioning into his current, more general role as a Southwest Conservation Advocate.


The Future of Tucson’s Housing

Tuesday, August 8 at 6pm

Join us at Sustainable Tucson’s monthly meeting, “The Future of Tucson’s Housing,” on Tuesday, August 8, at 6 pm for an inspiring and informative event that will reshape the way we think about our homes and their impact on the environment and our community.

Discover how we can take charge of our local part in a national problem and build a resilient, sustainable future for Tucson! Our focus will be on tackling the challenges of our aging homes and making them energy-efficient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly through the groundbreaking Green Retrofit II program.

At the meeting, you’ll have the opportunity to: 🏠 Learn about the current conditions of our old houses, both in the past and today. 💰 Find out what you can do to make sustainable upgrades without breaking the bank. 👷‍♂️ Discover the innovative Green Retrofit II program, for training the skilled workforce we need to repair and upgrade our homes. 🗣 Engage in a thought-provoking panel discussion on making repair, preservation, and upgrading of our homes a top community priority.

The impact can be enormous! Buildings account for 76% of electricity use and 40% of all U.S. primary energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. But with cost-effective technologies, we can cut building energy use by over 20% in the next few decades. By fixing the nation’s 56 million old homes, we have a unique chance to combat climate change while supporting economic and social stability for millions of American families.

Green Retrofit II has ambitious goals, including: 🛠 Training a skilled workforce to repair and upgrade Tucson’s 200,000 aging and uninsulated homes. 💡 Raising awareness and providing financing tools for widespread repairs and upgrades. 🏡Collaborating with neighborhoods to implement sustainability initiatives.

Who should attend? Everyone who cares about: 🌍 Housing, environment, and social justice. 👷‍♂️ Sustainable job opportunities and rehabilitation workforce training. 🏠 Affordable, comfortable, and efficient homes for all residents. 💼Supporting local businesses and financial institutions interested in sustainable home improvements. 🏘 Creating resilient and vibrant communities for the future. 🌱 Advocating for climate change mitigation and social equity.


Joining Forces for Clean Energy: A Practical Guide to Saving Money and the Planet

6:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 11

As temperatures rise, broader segments of Tucsonans are helping clean up our energy emissions and enjoying financial benefits from doing so.
Local initiatives are making solar affordable to more households and smoothing the transition to electric transportation. Existing state and federal support to electrify and clean up household and workplace energy use are undergoing a massive restructuring that includes replacing fossil infrastructure with heat pumps to efficiently cool and heat our living and work spaces and our water.
Hear stories of people who two years ago would not have been able to afford greening their energy use and find out what new options may be within your reach.
Among those sharing will be Flor Sandoval, Program Director of the Sonoran Environmental Research Institute, who oversees the Solar Empowerment Program; Ben Nead, a member of the Tucson Climate Coalition and a volunteer advisor to the City of Tucson on electric vehicle charging for multifamily housing; and Solar Lawyer Bruce Plenk and solar installer Duane Ediger, both members of Sustainable Tucson’s Energy Transformation Working Group.


“Chemical Recycling” of Plastic: A Burning Issue

Tuesday, June 13 at 6:00pm

As public concern grows about the plastic waste crisis, the petrochemical and plastic industries are promoting a suite of environmentally troublesome technologies that they misleadingly call “chemical recycling” (also known as “advanced recycling”) as a solution to the crisis.  Chemical recycling isn’t really recycling at all.  This supposed cutting-edge technology most often involves turning plastic into fuel. Here in Tucson, the Environmental and General Services Department has solicited seven project ideas for turning plastic or mixed waste into gaseous and/or liquid fuels that will be burned, using pyrolysis and gasification systems. The Department is also studying two proposals that would turn discarded plastics into chemical feedstocks to make new plastic.

Chemical recycling represents a dangerous false solution to the plastic epidemic. These high-heat systems most often use plastic materials to generate a limited amount of fuel in a one-time process, destroying them rather than giving them another material use. These processes, which are energy-intensive, generate greenhouse gases and toxic fumes. Some also produce hazardous waste. Chemical recycling will not solve the plastic waste crisis. What is needed instead are policies that reduce plastic production and waste, particularly single-use packaging.

Join us at our June 13 monthly meeting to learn about the health and environmental hazards of chemical recycling. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Veena Singla, Senior Scientist, People & Communities Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Time for Q&A will follow her presentation.

Dr. Singla, who is also an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, oversees a program that addresses health disparities linked to harmful environmental exposures. Her research investigates how toxic chemicals and pollution related to systems of materials use, production, and disposal threaten the health of impacted communities.

Dr. Singla currently serves on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, the National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors, the Board of Directors for Clean Production Action, and as associate director for the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice Program. 


Air Quality in Pima County

One of the key foundational issues for living in a healthy environment is ensuring that we can breathe clean air. We know that this is far from true for many places and communities around the world. But what about right here in Pima County? Do we enjoy the clean air we all desire? Or are there days when we experience poor air, and are there parts of the county that experience a risky degree of pollution? How can we all help to ensure our local air quality is the best it can be?
Join us for an in-depth look at “Air Quality in Pima County” at our next monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 9, at 6:00 pm on Zoom. We’re pleased that our presenter for this topic will be Natalie Shepp, MPH, Senior Program Manager for Outreach & Education at Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. She’ll focus on local air quality issues, and review local sources, health effects, and solutions to air pollution. Time for Q&A will follow her presentation.
And to prepare for what you’ll be hearing from Natalie, you can take PDEQ’s Clean Air Challenge, hosted on their website throughout the month of May <#ThisIsCleanAir Challenge>. For the Challenge, you’ll take a quiz to test your knowledge about air quality and how your habits protect the air we breathe. Quiz takers also earn a chance at winning a prize.

Young Advocates for Sustainability

Tuesday, April 11
6:00-7:30 pm

Watch the meeting:

Join us to hear a panel of young activists (teens to 20’s) who are working for a sustainable future. Panelists will share their key engagements in the community, other issues that are on their minds, and what they wish others would do to assure a brighter future. After they answer a few prepared questions, the floor will open to the audience. Bring your questions!
Panelists are Rocky Baier, recent UA grad, co-founder of Tucson’s Repair Cafe; Ali Soland, member of Youth for Blue Skies, a collaborative program of the Ironwood Tree Experience; Adriana Bachmann, Ambassadors of Sustainability, climate communicator; and Garrett Weaver, member of Tucson Climate Coalition.