The greener, the wiser (Sacramento News & Review)

Sacramento News & Review, March 29, 2012SN&R chats with Julia Burrows, new head of the mayor’s Greenwise Joint Venture environmental nonprofit

By Jeff vonKaenel

“Emerald City” is Mayor Kevin Johnson’s follow-the-green-brick-road vision for a clean air, smart water-use, green-tech and eco-minded future here in Sacramento.

But talking about an emerald city and actually becoming one are two very different worlds. The mayor launched his Greenwise Sacramento environmental campaign in 2010, and new executive director, Julia Burrows, now leads the charge. This past February, Greenwise Joint Venture even received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

But there’s still a mountain of work to be done. More than 100 action items, in fact. SN&R spoke with Burrows to get an update on the city’s sustainability campaign.

Some of our readers aren’t up to speed with Greenwise. So, why don’t you talk about its genesis, and what you’re up to now?

OK, so Mayor Kevin Johnson launched Greenwise in May 2010, and the purpose was to come up with a shared vision for our region to become the greenest region in the country and a hub for clean technology. He appointed a leadership council, and we had five policy committees that met over an eight-month period to develop a regional action plan. …

Today, we have four purposes as Greenwise Joint Venture. The first is to continue to convene, coordinate and align leaders in the region, so we’re going to keep the speaker series; we’re going to have working groups. … Second, to obviously implement the regional action plan, so we have this hundred-page document with 103 actions in it, in economy engagement and environment.

How do groups such as SMUD and Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Sacramento Tree Foundation, which have large staffs and that are doing big things, fit in with Greenwise?

In the case of the tree planting, for us it’s making more connections for them—and that’s an easy one to explain, because it’s kind of ramping up and making sure that because we have a common goal … we’re going to support them in planting trees and help with marketing, help with contacts for potential sponsors, and just trying to make sure that it’s on the radar of people like Mayor Johnson to show up at events.

When you have a project like “smart grid” and the region … if I’m meeting with somebody—if I know what SMUD is doing, if I know what [Sacramento] State is doing—I can be part of the storytelling, because I may come in contact with people that they don’t, I’m part of their marketing arm. …

I think that’s really going to be a great added value out of Greenwise, that we’re going to fund the “funder”—the funding scout—and we’re going to help edit grant applications and polish them.

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Greenwise Joint Venture