Sustainable Silicon Valley
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (December 2007)|
Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV) is a collaboration of businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations that are identifying and addressing environmental and resource pressures in Silicon Valley. As its first initiative, SSV engaged prominent Valley organizations, who are the SSV Partners, to work towards a goal of reducing regional carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. The SSV approach to reaching this goal is to facilitate strategies to reduce CO2 emissions through increased energy and fuel efficiency and through the use of renewable sources of energy.
Vision: A thriving Silicon Valley with a healthy environment, a vibrant economy and a socially equitable community.
Mission: To work with the Silicon Valley community to create a more sustainable future using an Environmental Management System.
Geography Served: SSV Partners are in San Mateo, Santa Clara, northern Santa Cruz and southern Alameda Counties. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from SSV's CO2 Initiative benefit local, regional, and global communities and cross all socioeconomic boundaries.
Sustainable Silicon Valley is a multi-stakeholder collaborative initiative to produce significant environmental improvement and resource conservation in Silicon Valley through the development and implementation of a regional environmental management system (EMS).
Sustainable Silicon Valley began in 2001 as a collaboration between:
- Business, led by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG)
- Government, led by California Environmental Protection Agency and political leaders
- Non-governmental organizations, led by the Silicon Valley Environmental Partnership (SVEP)
Representatives from these organizations formed a team to develop a project plan and introduce it to a wider group of participants. Participants were invited from the entire Silicon Valley region, including Santa Clara and San Mateo, Northern Santa Cruz, and Southern Alameda counties.
These participants identified 35 key environmental pressures, the top six being:
- Use of energy from non-renewable sources measured by CO2 emissions
- Use of fresh water
- Urban sprawl
- Habitat development and fragmentation
- Use of non-renewable raw materials
- Discharges of toxic chemicals to the air
Of the six highest priority environmental pressures, SSV's first focus is on reducing CO2 emissions. This compares to the Kyoto Protocol's goal of a 5% reduction over the same period, and to Governor Schwarzenegger's call for California to reduce emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. SSV's 20% reduction target was announced publicly in April 2003, and a first group of organizations and companies (SSV Partners) officially pledged to join SSV in March 2004 to work toward reaching this ambitious goal.
SSV provides educational forums for the public and technical assistance to member organizations and serves as a clearinghouse to share best practices through ongoing meetings and events. Participants are also publicly recognized and applauded for their accomplishments.
SSV was designed to move beyond the traditional command-and-control model of environmental regulation to one of collaboration and partnership. By focusing on the desired outcome, rather than compliance-driven standards, participants can choose the methods to reach that outcome that makes the most sense financially and technologically for each of them. Environmental benefits come from these outcomes, not the means used to achieve them.
Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV) chose CO2 emissions as a benchmark because it encompasses both energy use and its environmental consequences in a single measure. It reflects improvement in energy efficiency and transitions from more to less polluting fuels. CO2 is the largest contributor to human-generated greenhouse gases.
Recognizing the importance of the climate change issue and the area's drive to remain competitive in a location with high energy costs, SSV organized a regional voluntary initiative that has a visionary target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% below the region's 1990 levels by the year 2010. Partners in SSV choose their own baseline year and a CO2 percentage reduction goal to reach by 2010. Each pledging partner also chooses how to meet this target, whether by equipment efficiency improvements (e.g. new equipment), conserving energy (e.g. behavioral changes), increasing the use of renewable energy sources (e.g. photovoltaic systems), purchasing green power and/or promoting alternative commute options and supporting the purchase of low emission vehicles.
Most human-caused CO2 results from the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel and natural gas. In addition to burning fossil fuels directly in cars and appliances like home heating systems, people create CO2 emissions by using electricity, most of which in the United States is generated by burning fossil fuels. SSV pledging partners address this issue though increased energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy sources. Pledging organizations have enjoyed impressive cost savings through their participation in SSV.
The climate change resulting from the accumulation of human-generated greenhouse gases like CO2 is one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. The consequences of climate change are far-reaching and will affect all of us on many levels.
How does energy efficiency relate to the SSV's CO2 priority?
Renewable and other energy use, energy efficiency, and the resulting CO2 emissions, were chosen by the group as a key action opportunity, because:
Many Silicon Valley organizations had demonstrated significant energy savings, in part from the recent energy crisis, resulting in cost savings and environmental performance improvements. Other regions and organizations (Sonoma County, the City of Toronto, various Silicon Valley businesses) had already ‘signed up' to specific CO2 emissions reductions goals. The goal selected by the group was consistent with other existing regional emissions reduction goals and represents a stretch goal for the region. Reducing energy intensity (energy used per unit output) across the commercial, residential and transportation sectors was seen as having multiple benefits, including (but not limited to): opportunities for cost savings, success through broad participation and collaboration, reduction of the environmental impact of the region, and the demonstration of a leadership role on an issue of growing policy and economic significance.
WEST Summit (Water, Energy and Smart Technology) SSV’s annual conference. Jan. 27, 2012 WEST Summit, SSV’s annual meeting, goal is to catalyze a sea change in action towards long-term resiliency through distributed management of water and energy supply in Silicon Valley. Through panel discussions, special speakers and a lively exposition, this day-long event is a pivotal opportunity to build relationships among academics, local businesses, and community leaders already taking action on the important nexus between water and energy usage.
EcoCouncil Sustainable Silicon Valley has established an EcoCouncil™ for the senior level management of our Sustaining Partners to support these endeavors. The EcoCouncil Salon is a quarterly series of evening conversations aimed at catalyzing change at the highest levels within organizations. Often taking place at a “green” home in the Valley, these intimate networking events involve intellectual conversation, fine wine, food and an opportunity to converse with other senior level management. It is a gathering where creative, catalytic conversations can happen and where leaders meet across boundaries of sector, industry and perspective, to help foment the breakthrough solutions and partnerships needed to make the transition to the low-carbon economy. Upcoming 2011 dates: June 30, September 22 and November 17. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request an invitation.
Sustainability Leaders Forum (SLF)  Building the capacity and effectiveness of sustainability leaders by sharing best practices and presenting expert knowledge about sustainability. Forum meetings feature peer-to-peer learning, expert instruction and opportunities to network and explore issues of common concern.
SLF schedule of meetings for 2011: Metrics (March 11); Communications and Engagement (April 1); Peer-to-Peer (June 1); Design for Sustainability, Biomimicry (Sept. 8); Frameworks for Sustainability (Nov. 4); Annual Meeting (Jan, 27, 2012)
EcoCloud™ http://www.sustainablesv.org/ecocloud launched December 2010 EcoCloud™ is a virtual meeting place where you can work with local businesses, industry experts, academia and policy-makers to make your organization and Silicon Valley more sustainable. Drawing on the latest social networking tools, participants can collaborate, learn, plan, and make valuable connections. EcoCloud™ is intended to create a virtual industrial ecosystem that enables local leaders to work together to implement and share sustainable business practices, putting the principles of industrial ecology to work in Silicon Valley and beyond.
Smart Micro Grid for Santa Clara University SSV helped Santa Clara University and its utility service providers launch a campus-wide smart microgrid, as the university works towards it’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016, provides the basis for knowledge transfer among SSV partners as they also move to create their own smart micro grids – integrating smart buildings, renewable energy, storage and communications.