Local Climate Leadership: Salem Afeworki

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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

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Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2017

A Holiday Gift Guide for Giving Better Stuff

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I heard someone joke about going to the local thrift store the day after Christmas to donate the just-unwrapped and unwanted bounty of gifts. Yes, we definitely have a collective problem with too much stuff (and too much waste), which is just one of the reasons why it’s great to give experience gifts or contributions to good causes in the recipient’s name. But sometimes the best gift really does come in a package you can hand to your loved one for opening. For gift-giving that’s more meaningful, ’tis the season to:

Give twice.

When you buy items from stores or auction sites that benefit nonprofits, your dollars support their work. Also, sites like Bidding for Good offer products and experiences that benefit a variety of organizations.

Another way to give back is by buying products from gift shops for museums and parks, in person or online. (A few local museum shops: LACMA, The Getty, MOCA, Natural History Museum.)

If shopping on Amazon, use Amazon Smile, which allows you to choose a nonprofit organization to receive a portion of sales. (Climate Resolve is a choice!)

Stay local.

Support the independent businesses in your neighborhood by shopping local—especially at book stores and places that sell the works of local artisans or products made sustainably. It’s even better if you can shop on foot or bike, leaving the car behind.

Be a maker.

Homemade gifts, including food and personal care items, are twice as nice. Extra touches: attach a recipe for the recipient and consider a vintage glass jar, container, or tin that can be reused.

Celebrate good taste.

Put another way: give tasty edibles. Choose locally grown produce, sweet treats, and other items for out-of-the-ordinary dining experiences at home. First stop: food vendors at your local farmers’ market. Bonus: adding a cookbook or favorite recipe. My grandmother always said, “Food is love.”

Make it an experience gift.

Give movie, concert or theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, or museum memberships and you’re giving the recipient an experience to enjoy. The same goes for magazine subscriptions, books, music CDs, and DVDs of movies or TV shows. Also consider giving games or a puzzle from a photo-printing service that allows you to create one with a personal photo.

Go green.

One size fits all: House plants, herb gardens, and seeds, or outdoor plants for loved ones with yards.

Divert waste.

It’s true about one person’s trash being another’s treasure—and when you buy from antique markets, consignment and thrift shops, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and other sources of second-hand items, you do your part to reduce waste to landfills. Think of it like the island of misfit toys from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”—there are worthy, good-as-new items out there looking for a home.

Buy better products.

Another factor to consider: the maker of the merchandise. Give from companies with responsible business practices—organic, Fair Trade, sweatshop-free, environmentally-friendly, etc. Look up B Corps companies and ones signed on to 1% for the Planet.


Posted on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
Path To Positive Los Angeles