Electrifying Our Lives

5 steps we can all take to lower emissions at home


June 11, 2024 • 6:00pm

What’s that Sustainable Tucson volunteer doing in my furnace closet?!

Helping mitigate climate change, of course!

Trained volunteer Home Electrification Coaches in ST’s new Go Electric AZ (GoEAZ) program are helping Tucsonans save money and reduce emissions by making their homes and transportation more energy efficient, eliminating use of fossil fuels, and solarize. “We’re not replacing dirty old gas appliances ourselves, but we’re giving folks pointers to help them know where to start, questions to ask contractors, find funding help from the IRA and other sources, things like that,” said Gordon Nuttall, who joined Sustainable Tucson’s Energy Transformation Working Group last fall and helped hatch the vision that has become GoEAZ.

Duane Ediger had already been tapped for advice. “People don’t always know what will work best for them when the time comes to replace an old gas appliance,” he said. “Lots of factors come into play. A water heater that actually cools your home can be pretty sweet in Tucson.”

Join Gordon, Duane, and Bruce Plenk at Sustainable Tucson’s June 11 Round Table presentation. You may just leave with a planned next step to clean up your home energy use. There will be a couple of group polls, time for Q&A, a few words about other work of Sustainable Tucson’s Energy Transformation Working Group, and some of the many ways you could get involved.

Our Presenters:

Duane Ediger is a solar technician and founder of Sustainable Tucson’s Energy Transformation Working Group. He promotes electrification and energy demand management to get carbon out of our lives for good.

Gordon Nuttall moved to Tucson in August 2020 from Fort Collins, CO after retiring as the CEO of the startup business he founded there. Here, he became a Naturalist at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, hoping to influence the future by interpreting nature for elementary students. Gordon believes that it is vital that people become educated about climate change so we can start acting in an impactful way, noting that household electrification is a prime example of individuals getting involved.

Bruce Plenk is an environmental attorney, a solar consultant, and the former Solar Energy Coordinator for the CIty of Tucson. He has worked for several local solar companies and frequently participates in proceedings at the ACC. His recent interest in heat pumps is part of understanding that now is the time to move forward with electrifying everything…..and powering that electric demand with solar!


Going Back to Our Roots

Perspectives on Tucson’s Rich Agricultural History

Tuesday, May 14, at 6:00 pm

Agriculture has a 4,000-year history in the Tucson basin. Join us at our May monthly meeting, when we will explore that rich history.

Duran Andrews, San Xavier Cooperative Farm Manager, and Kendall Kroesen, PhD, outgoing Outreach Coordinator at the Mission Garden, will offer views of Tucson’s agricultural history, sharing perspectives on its influence through the centuries on the region’s shape and development. They will consider how changes in population, technologies of agriculture, and climate have impacted agricultural development in our region and how they all weigh in the balance as we envision a sustainable future. Opportunity for questions and discussion will follow the presentation.


Reuse Wins

How the Reuse Movement is Building a Sustainable Future

Tuesday, April 9, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

While it’s still important to recycle and build better systems for it, more recycling will not solve our growing municipal waste problem and our over-reliance on single-use products and packaging, all of which are designed to be used immediately and then thrown away.  Somewhere along the way, we forgot that the first two R’s – reduce and reuse – are way more important than recycling for protecting the environment.  Unlike recycling, reusable products are in constant use and conserve existing resources, instead of using new materials.

Join us Tuesday, April 9, at 6 pm for a presentation on the environmental, economic, and social benefits of transitioning from the linear, throw-away economy to one that is regenerative, circular, and equitable.

Our speaker will be Melissa Jung, who serves as Reuse Networks Manager for Upstream Solutions.  Upstream is a leading change agency for the reuse movement in the US and Canada.  It works to spark innovative solutions and forge strategic alliances to help people, businesses and communities shift from single use to reuse.  This work includes normalizing reuse systems, growing and supporting the reuse industry, and creating an enabling policy environment for reuse. Based in Mesa, AZ, Melissa’s focuses most of her time on supporting the education and adoption of reuse systems at the local level.  She networks with a large community of reuse solutioneers that are working to activate change across business and policy sectors.  This includes engaging NGOs, entrepreneurs, local organizations, community leaders, and public officials.

Melissa has been involved in sustainability work for the past 10 years, with a foundation in plastic pollution science as well as a wealth of organizing and advocacy experience.  She is excited about working with reuse advocates in Arizona while enjoying all the outdoors that the state has to offer. 


Sustainable and Affordable Housing

Converging Trends in Social, Cultural, Environmental,
and Economic Well-Being

March 12, 2024 • 6:00 to 7:30

Developing sustainable and affordable housing is a long-term method to conserve the healthy functionality of livable spaces for the well-being of all.
Join us for a conversation with Ann Vargas, Tres English, and David Eisenberg, who have over 80 years of collective experience in the field of housing, from construction and codes to policy and management. These three panelists will illuminate the intersection of climate protection and housing justice, taking a systems view and identifying key steps that we can take for systemic change.


Shading Tucson: Trees to the Rescue

Tuesday, February 13, 6:00-7:30 pm

The weather keeps getting hotter and drier in southern Arizona.  In 2021, the EPA reported that Pima is the third fastest warming county in the US.  In 2023, July was Tucson’s hottest month on record.

We need more shade!  This was the chorus from Tucson residents as the City worked on its climate action plan, Tucson Resilient Together.  The Million Trees project is a big part of the community’s effort to cool the urban heat island.  A side-benefit:  according to a report in Science (Bastin et al, 2019), “Photosynthetic carbon capture by trees is likely to be among our most effective strategies to limit the rise of CO2 concentrations.”  Other benefits of city trees include:

  • Cleaning the air
  • Beautifying neighborhoods, business districts, parks
  • Calming traffic
  • Reducing risk of violence
  • Providing habitat for birds

Join us for a panel conversation on what we can do to expand the urban forest, especially in parts of Tucson that are currently sparsely shaded. 

Adam Farrell-Wortman, director of horticulture at Tucson Botanical Gardens, manages the care of a diverse palette of herbs, forbs, cactus, shrubs, and trees.  As a garden steward and educator, Adam specializes in regenerative practices such as composting and mulching.  Currently, he is overseeing a study of natural soil regeneration for the health and vigor of trees in the Gardens.
Ann Audrey, lead consultant on Tucson’s Urban Forest Master Plan and author of the guidebook, Native Trees for Tucson:  Ten Best Practices for Using Native Trees to Improve Urban Climate Change Resilience.  Other projects include a response guide to insect and disease threats in urban forests of Arizona and New Mexico, and editing the Rainwater Harvesting Manual, used throughout the US to train rainwater harvesting professionals.
Vikram Krishnamurthy leads the Tree Equity Alliance, a cross-sector initiative launched by American Forests to unite diverse national partners in supporting the national Tree Equity movement.  Prior to joining American Forests, Vikram served as Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Horticulture, an urban greening nonprofit based in Wilmington. In addition to reinventing DCH’s Branches to Chances® workforce and re-entry program, he helped to launch the Delaware River Climate Corps program.  He brings experience in urban forestry, land conservation and local food systems, all of which contribute to his commitment to equity and environmental justice.

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.


An Easy Step for Cleaner Air

Tuesday, December 12, 6:00-7:30 pm

Did you see the recent report on the impacts of landscape equipment, “Lawn Care Goes Electric”?  One finding:  “In the United States, lawn and garden equipment powered by gasoline and other fossil fuels released more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2020 – more than all the greenhouse gas emissions from the city of Los Angeles.”
There are other pollutants, too:  Using a commercial leaf blower for an hour, the report notes, emits “as much smog-forming pollution as driving 1,100 miles in a car.”
Come learn more about the costs  — to our climate and our health — of gas-powered landscape equipment and the steps being taken in Tucson and beyond to make the transition to manual and electric power.  A representative of Pima’s Department of Environmental Quality will provide context and describe a voluntary program that helps landscapers or households make the shift.