Local Climate Leadership: Salem Afeworki

Posted by

Salem Afeworki, LEED GA, ENV SP is the Founder of Value Sustainability, an Orange County consulting firm that provides sustainability, climate change, and community engagement advisory services headquartered. She is a United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Local Pathway Fellow, One Young World Ambassador, a member of the LA County Sustainability Council and serves on the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee.

Tell us about your work on climate.

As a program director at Value Sustainability, I work with public agencies, private sector and nonprofits to integrate sustainability and climate change consideration in a way that benefits their bottom line. We help our clients deliver on their GHG reduction/sustainability targets, mitigate future risks and educate on the opportunities and challenges related to climate change and clean energy.  

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

My first job was working for the United Nations in a peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Africa), where I learned the importance of multidisciplinary and holistic approach to problem solving. Once I joined the private sector after grad school, I easily saw the business case for sustainability — how it guarantees business continuity/competitiveness and early adopters benefit the most through cost reduction, revenue generation, risk mitigation and brand building.

I am passionate about sustainability and knowing that I am a small part of the solution (not making the problem worse) — gives me the energy and motivation to keep on going!

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

The greatest barrier in terms of getting my clients/communities to act on climate change/sustainability-related initiatives is lack of understanding how these actions benefit them or their families directly. Protecting polar bears is great, but it doesn’t inspire actions for the majority of the people. I believe highlighting the direct benefits (financial/economic), including how it helps create jobs and opportunities are key to advancing the agenda towards a sustainable and inclusive development.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  • A political will and adequate government incentives to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
  • More investment to incubate and develop small businesses/social entrepreneurship (blend business methods with environmental and social goals) to promote clean technologies and solutions.
  • More focus on social sustainability as much as we work towards environmental sustainability. Owners (public or private sector) to address issues such as equity and environmental/climate justice as they design and build  projects.
Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Path to Positive LA Recap: November 2017

Posted by

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2017

LA Climate Action Profile: Clare Fox of Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Posted by

Clare Fox is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, whose mission is provide healthy, affordable, fair, and sustainable food for everyone in Southern California. LAFPC fulfills this mission by working closely with LA communities and the City.

Tell us about your work on climate change.

We made great steps this year toward getting food out of landfills, where it is a major contributor to methane emissions locally. Nearly one third of our landfills are made up of food! This year, we made great progress through the City of LA’s new RecycLA program. This new commercial and multi-family residential waste program now offers food businesses the option to donate edible surplus food to hunger relief organizations. Whatever can’t be eaten will now be separated into green bins and eventually composted. My organization — the Los Angeles Food Policy Council — helped create partnerships between waste haulers and food recovery organizations, and produced a guide called “Reducing Food Waste: Recovering Untapped Resources In Our Food System.” We also helped the LA Board of Public Works move toward zero food waste at LA City Hall, including a new food scrap drop off for compost at City Hall’s weekly farmers market, and a new food waste grant challenge with a total grant pool of $100,000 available to the public.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I became inspired to work on food justice and sustainability after I was able to recover from health problems in my 20s by changing my diet. I realized that not everyone has that opportunity, and in fact, often low-income communities suffer unnecessary diet-related disease due to lack of access to fresh food. I see this as a human rights issue. Today, I am continuously inspired by people who grow their own food, tend to the soil and are creating a cultural awareness of regeneration. We need to move towards “closed loop” energy, waste and agricultural systems that regenerate natural resources, not deplete them.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

One of the greatest barriers I see is lack of access to capital for innovation and industry that is truly regenerative and equitable. From mid-sized sustainable farms and food manufacturers, to low-income entrepreneurs like street vendors struggling at the margins of our economy — some of the most creative, resourceful and cutting-edge entrepreneurs struggle to access capital that would help them scale, and often face immense regulatory barriers as well.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

1. Agriculture shifts to regenerative soil building to simultaneously sequester carbon from the atmosphere, better retain and spread water, and infuse our food with the life-giving nutrients of healthy soil!

2. Food waste becomes a thing of the past! All food is either donated, upcycled (think dehydrated snacks made from nut or juice pulp) or converted into feed, energy or compost. No more methane-emitting rotting food in landfills.

3. A just transition to a carbon neutral economy with good green jobs and economic opportunity as a means for eliminating racial and economic inequality.

Posted on Monday, October 30th, 2017
Path To Positive Los Angeles