Wednesday night, I was honored to be awarded Environmentalist of the Year by the California League of Conservation Voters. The award was specifically given for my work on advancing single-use bag policies and banning expanded polystyrene food containers (capped off by Tuesday’s Council vote to enact the ban in Sunnyvale on Earth Day, 2014).
This is a tremendous honor. I’m overwhelmed by it, and I feel somewhat inadequate. But it’s also very much a team award, and I wanted to discuss that a bit. Obviously, environmental advocacy is a big issue for me, and I’ve worked hard to promote responsible environmental sustainability. But any success I’ve had has come from a lot of other people, and not just me. Any environmental initiative starts with residents who come to me with ideas or concerns – people from Sunnyvale Cool Cities or MidPen Open Space or the Sierra Club, or just some environmentally conscious resident with an idea.
I never pursue an initiative without first talking with staff and getting the feedback of the subject matter experts. And I’ve been surprised by just how passionate many staff members are about making Sunnyvale a leader in responsible environmental sustainability, whether it’s in solid waste, water issues, advancing green construction, or just best practices for city operations. And that kind of enthusiasm is always a top-down mandate, so I credit our City Manager for fostering that attitude and encouraging our employees to be proactive in making Sunnyvale a better city.
And then there’s the simple fact that no initiative gets enacted anywhere without a majority vote, whether it’s the Sunnyvale City Council, neighboring city councils, the Recycling and Waste Reduction Commission, the Bay Area Water Supply Conservation Agency, the Board of Supervisors, or any other body. Tuesday’s EPS ban wasn’t just a majority vote – it was a unanimous vote.
Nothing gets done without the majority support of colleagues, and I’ve observed firsthand the frustration of a colleague in a nearby city trying in vain as a one-person minority to enact environmental policy against a resistant council. I’m lucky to serve with colleagues with long-term vision and pragmatism, and that’s what makes change possible.
I’m honored that my efforts have been recognized and appreciated. But it’s as much a reflection of the community that I’m a part of as any individual efforts of mine. And I accepted the award as such on Wednesday.