Sustainable Cleveland 2019 hits peak year but still driving forward

What must Cleveland and Northeast Ohio do to become more sustainable? For the past decade, hundreds of concerned and involved citizens and organizations have gathered in Public Auditorium for a day each fall to tackle this question.

Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is the brainchild of Mayor Frank Jackson, who enlisted David Cooperrider of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University to organize the event based on his Appreciative Inquiry approach to understanding and addressing significant leadership challenges to bring about positive change.

Since 2009, a number of committees and organizations have launched out of the annual summit to address specific areas such as alternative energy, trees, neighborhoods, clean water, and clean air.

“Overall, this is an important year for sustainability in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio,” says Matt Gray, chief of sustainability for the city of Cleveland. “At the summit and throughout the year, we are celebrating 10 years of progress but also working as a community to identify those key areas that require communitywide support to accelerate progress over the next one to three years.”

Plans for this year’s meeting, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, include acknowledging the successes resulting from one of the first concerted efforts in the country to evaluate sustainability for a city and region, while keeping the central focus on looking forward to consider all of the work that still needs to be done.

Key topics that will be addressed at the summit include:

  • Clean and Renewable Energy: Transition toward 100% renewable electricity while fighting poverty and creating opportunity;
  • Circular Economy: Address recycling challenges while also laying the groundwork to become a national leader in the circular economy;
  • Trees and Green Space: Providing access to trees and vibrant green space for all Clevelanders;
  • Vision Zero and Transportation Equity: Advancing safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation throughout Cleveland;    
  • Clean Water: Build off the success of Cuyahoga50 to create greater access to our most valuable asset – water;
  • The Movement: Looking beyond 2019, what's next for engaging Clevelanders in sustainability and climate action.

The summit will feature keynote speakers for each topic, including Richard Ezike, senior policy associate at the Urban Institute and an expert on mobility and equity; and India Birdsong, the new CEO at the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, who will discuss transportation equity.

Covering the circular economy will be Nik Engineer, North American president of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; and Michael Waas, global vice president of brand partnerships for TerraCycle.

Participants will also work together in groups to contribute their ideas and possible solutions.

“From the beginning, Sustainable Cleveland 2019 has been built from the ground up, by Clevelanders from all walks of life,” Gray says. “We’ve made significant progress, but much work remains. This summit is critical to getting the phase of creating a more sustainable Cleveland off on the right foot.”

If you would like to participate in Cleveland’s commitment to achieve sustainability, you can register here.

This story is part of our dedicated series titled "People, Planet, Progress: A Decade of Sustainable Cleveland" in partnership with Sustainable Cleveland. See the other stories in our series here.

Christopher Johnston
Christopher Johnston

About the Author: Christopher Johnston

Christopher Johnston has published more than 3,000 articles in publications such as American Theatre, Christian Science Monitor,, History Magazine, The Plain Dealer, Progressive Architecture, Scientific American and He was a stringer for The New York Times for eight years. He served as a contributing editor for Inside Business for more than six years, and he was a contributing editor for Cleveland Enterprise for more than ten years. He teaches playwriting and creative nonfiction workshops at Cleveland State University. He wrote The Way I Saw It, the memoirs of Marc Wyse, co-founder of Wyse Advertising. His book, Shattering Silences: New Approaches to Healing Survivors of Rape and Bringing Their Assailants to Justice (Skyhorse) will be published in February 2018.