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May 22

ESD partners pursue technological breakthrough to recycling challenge

Posted on May 22, 2019 at 12:31 PM by Carlos Velazquez

ESD Director Kerrie Romanow and ESD staff discuss BioCellection chemical process with the company co-founders Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao
ESD Director Kerrie Romanow, third from right, and ESD staff discuss BioCellection’s chemical process with the company’s co-founders, Miranda Wang, second from right, and Jeanny Yao, right
BioCellection is heating up! The biotech startup – and ESD partner – is pursuing a solution to the global challenge of hard-to-recycle plastics, such as plastic film. And the world is taking notice.

Last month the company’s co-founders, Miranda Wang and Jenny Yao, participated in a panel discussion as part of the Women in the World Summit 2019, a prestigious event in New York City organized by former New Yorker editor Tina Brown and headlined by Oprah Winfrey. (See the video produced for the event.) While in New York, Yao was interviewed on People Now.

Now Wang is a finalist for the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, which recognize “exceptional individuals who have the courage and conviction to take on major challenges (and) extraordinary projects that make the world a better place.” (Learn more and vote for Wang on the awards webpage!)

The problem they’re tackling is huge. Scientists estimate there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Their approach is extraordinary: using chemical processes to break down problem plastics and transform them into raw materials for use in other applications.

ESD is proud to partner with these inspiring women, who are working with City hauler GreenWaste Recovery to test and refine their technological process. To learn more about how that process works, check out this helpful CNN article (and accompanying video) from 2018.

We can’t wait to see what happens next!
Oct 10

Native and Drought-Tolerant Plants Save Water, Generate Life

Posted on October 10, 2018 at 4:12 PM by Carlos Velazquez

Have you ever heard a hummingbird up close? San José resident Andy Pierce likens the sound to that of a gas-powered model airplane.

“I was out here walking around, enjoying the yard, I might have been pulling a weed or two, and I had what sounded like a locomotive come flying into my ear,” Pierce recalled on a recent sunny morning in the front yard of his Cambrian neighborhood home. “It was a hummingbird, I guess trying to get nectar out of my ear.”

Pierce was jolted, but pleased. It’s one of countless hummingbird encounters he’s had since replacing his front lawn with native and drought-tolerant plants. His yard, once sterile, now teems with life, particularly bees and butterflies.

“I used to see maybe one honeybee every now and then,” he said. “Now I come out here and I see honeybees all over the place – all kinds of bees, actually. It’s great – I got what I wanted and so did the bees.”

Pierce not only gets more enjoyment out of his yard but also saves money on his water bills and time on maintenance. (He hasn’t touched his lawn mower in two years.) He’s one of a growing number of San José residents who are embracing drought-tolerant landscaping to beautify their homes and reduce their water consumption.
Andy Piece enjoys the yard of his Cambrian neighborhood home
Andy Pierce enjoys the yard of his Cambrian neighborhood home.

“It’s really taking off,” said Sherri Osaka, owner of San José-based Sustainable Landscape Designs, who points to our second most recent drought (2007 to 2009) as a tipping point in the movement toward native and drought-tolerant plants. “Before then, I was trying sneak native plants in. After that, people began asking for them.”

San Joséans reduced their water consumption 29 percent in 2016 compared to 2013, showing they are up to the challenge of improving water efficiency, which is a key element of Climate Smart San José, the City’s new sustainability plan.

With climate change diminishing the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides roughly a third of California’s drinking water, and the state’s population continuing to grow, communities are recognizing the need to be water-wise. Ensuring we have a long-term water supply means embracing our California climate, with its bone-dry summers. Since outdoor irrigation accounts for half of residential water use in San José, adopting a low-water landscape is an effective way to cut consumption dramatically.

“If you have a high-water landscape, or lawn, you’re watering about an inch a week,” said Osaka, whose home water consumption has dropped from 138,000 gallons a year to 38,000 gallons a year since she converted her lawn. “If you have drought-tolerant plants, you’re watering about a quarter of an inch per week.”

There are plenty of resources for those interested in low-water landscaping. The Santa Clara Valley Water District offers rebates for landscape conversions. The Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency and other organizations offer free classes taught by experts like Osaka. For a list of classes near you, visit

Pierce saved money on his project through the Lawn Busters pilot program, a 2015 partnership between the San José Environmental Services Department, Santa Clara Valley Water District and Our City Forest.

For Pierce, the benefits of low-water landscaping go beyond saving money or improving his quality of life. He’s thinking longer term.

“We only get one shot at this,” he said. “I have two kids. And I want to leave them and their kids a healthy environment with a plentiful clean water supply.”

To learn more about Climate Smart San José, including tips to save energy and water and improve quality of life, go to
Sep 25

San José and Partners Celebrate Sustainability Success

Posted on September 25, 2018 at 9:04 AM by Vitaly Litvinenko

The City of San José joined community partners and stakeholders Sept. 12 in celebrating a year of remarkable progress toward a clean and sustainable future, achievements that will serve as a foundation for even bigger things to come.

City leaders gathered with advocates, nonprofits and representatives from the high-tech industry on Wednesday for “Leading Climate Innovation: The Silicon Valley Way,” the City’s official affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

The event served as an opportunity to brainstorm and build relationships. Representatives from businesses like Microsoft, Adobe, ChargePoint and Supermicro talked about sustainable practices, while leaders of GRID Alternatives, Acterra and other nonprofits shared their thoughts on inclusivity.

“Leading Climate Innovation” also highlighted a string of San José achievements born out of vital partnerships with community leaders, nongovernmental organizations and businesses.

Launch of San Jose Clean Energy
From left: San José Community Energy Advocates chairwoman Ruth Merino, Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, City Manager Dave Sykes and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow celebrate the launch of San José Clean Energy.
On Wednesday, the City ceremonially “flipped the switch” to launch San José Clean Energy, the largest single-city community choice energy program in the country. SJCE began serving municipal accounts Sept. 1 and will provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity to San José residents in 2019.

San José Clean Energy will be essential to the success of Climate Smart San José, the City’s ambitious new sustainability initiative. Approved unanimously in February by the City Council, Climate Smart commits the City to hitting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of the international Paris Agreement.

The strength of Climate Smart is one of the reasons the U.S. Green Building Council recognized San José this month as the first city in California to achieve LEED for Cities Platinum certification.

Mahesh Ramanujam of the US Green Building Council awarding San Jose LEED Platinum for Cities status
U.S. Green Building Council President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam discusses the City’s LEED for Cities Platinum certification as Mayor Sam Liccardo, Community Energy Deputy Director Zach Struyk, Community Energy Director Lori Mitchell and Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow look on.
“It’s cities like San José that are proof that the U.S. Green Business Council’s vision of a sustainable future for everyone and within a generation is not a far-reaching ideal,” Manesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the USGBC, told the “Leading Climate Innovation” audience in the City Hall Rotunda.

The City’s LEED Platinum certification is just the latest recognition of its sustainability leadership. In 2018, for the second year in a row, the San José-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area ranked No. 1 in the United States in the Sustainable Development Goals Index, a report produced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The City’s great strides in sustainability rely on a robust coalition of community members, nonprofits and businesses. Mayor Sam Liccardo thanked groups like Mothers Out Front South Bay, San José Community Energy Advocates and Center for Climate Protection for pushing the City to adopt San José Clean Energy.

“We’re blessed to be in the most innovative place on the planet with an incredible community,” Liccardo said Wednesday.

The City has helped build climate partnerships by connecting sustainability initiatives to improvements in the daily lives of the public. Liccardo spoke Wednesday about changing ideas regarding what it means to live “the good life.” People increasingly regard the good life as living in a walkable community, for instance, or “spending less time trapped in an automobile on an expressway.”

Jake Elder, Bloomberg Associates with Mayor Sam Liccardo
From left: Social Progress Imperative North American Regional Director Justin Edwards, Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice member Jake Elder and Mayor Sam Liccardo discuss the role of NGOs in sustainability initiatives.
Jake Elder, a member of the Bloomberg Associates Sustainability Practice, credited the City with emphasizing the human benefits of sustainability.

“Talking about climate change in terms of jobs, health or quality of life connects it to tangible issues that matter to people. This is key if you want to build a broader base of support,” Elder said the day after attending “Leading Climate Innovation.”

Though Wednesday was an opportunity to celebrate, the coalition that built Climate Smart San José is not going to rest on its laurels.

“Eighteen months ago, we didn’t have San José Clean Energy or (the Clean Energy Department) and we didn’t have Climate Smart San José,” said Kerrie Romanow, director of the City’s Environmental Services Department. “So, let’s think about what we can do in the next 18 months.”

Romanow announced several new goals Wednesday in collaboration with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of more than 90 of the world’s largest cities representing a quarter of the global economy. The director of ESD said the City has committed to:
  • enacting regulations and policies to ensure all new buildings operate at net zero energy by 2030 and all buildings by 2050
  • owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net zero carbon in operations by 2030
  • reducing municipal solid waste generation per capita by at least 15 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • reducing municipal solid waste disposed of in landfills by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2015
  • increasing diversion from landfills and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030
  • delivering inclusive climate action that benefits all citizens equitably

In addition, she noted that Mayor Liccardo has signed onto the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s “Diesel Free by ‘33” initiative to eliminate diesel fuel from City fleets by 2033 and pursue incentives that will upgrade private fleets. Diesel fuel is toxic and harms the health of children and other vulnerable populations.

“Let’s work together to help our youth have the future that was eloquently articulated and hoped for today,” Romanow said. “We simply can’t change the global climate here in City Hall, but, as we’ve seen by the remarkable events of today and the last several years, together we can create immense results.”