As millions of people around the globe move to urban areas every year, it has become imperative for cities to systematically develop sustainable practices. How can cities leverage human power and technology to meet the United Nations development goal of making every city “inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”
Sustainable by Design
Chris Castro is an award winning sustainability professional, eco-entrepreneur, and community organizer with a passion for accelerating the transition to a smart, resilient and sustainable future. Chris is most notably known for his work as the founder and president of IDEAS For Us, an international nonprofit and United Nations accredited organization working to develop, fund, and scale environmental solutions around the World; and co-creator of the renowned ‘Fleet Farming’ urban agriculture program that started in Orlando.
Among some of his recognition, Chris has been called the ‘Guru of Green’ by the Orlando Business Journal, selected as a GreenBiz ‘30 Under 30’ sustainability professional in the U.S., and recognized as a ‘Grist 50 Fixer’, one of the top 50 emerging sustainability leaders around the World.
Chris is currently the Director of Sustainability and Co-chair of the Smart Cities initiative for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando. In his role at the City, he works to develop cross-sector partnerships, policies, and programs that support the sustainability, energy, and climate-related goals of the “Green Works Orlando” initiative.
Over the last 10 years, Chris has consulted for governments, academia, business chambers, companies, nonprofits and communities to implement sustainability projects that include a wide variety of topics, specifically smart cities, solar energy development, building efficiency, electric vehicles, local food systems, water quality, ecological restorations and more.
In 2012, Chris co-founded a clean energy consulting and development firm called Citizen Energy, specializing in custom clean energy solutions for small and mid-sized commercial and multifamily buildings in Florida and the Greater Washington DC-area. Chris also sits on several nonprofit boards, including the US Green Building Council of Florida (USGBC-FL), Florida Green Chamber of Commerce (FGCC), Florida Renewable Energy Association (FREA), FL Solar United Neighborhoods (FL SUN), and the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. Chris also recently joined the Advisory Board for the Orlando Science Center, University of Central Florida’s clean energy research institute known as the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), and the Valencia College’s Engineering and Computer Science department.
Chris holds a B.S. Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Energy& Sustainability from the University of Central Florida, and has several technical certifications including LEED accreditation.
Sarah Yeager is the City of Pittsburgh’s first climate and energy planner. In this position, Sarah developed the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan 3.0 and compiled the third Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the city. Following City Council’s adoption of the Climate Action Plan in 2018, Sarah transitioned to overseeing its implementation. And as the city strives to achieve ambitious carbon reduction goals, much of Sarah’s work is focused on getting to 100 percent renewable electricity, improving energy efficiency in city facilities, promoting district scale solutions, and achieving a fossil fuel-free city fleet. As a part of the Department of City Planning, Sarah also oversees the inclusion of energy planning and the climate mitigation goals into the department projects such as Institutional Master Plans, Neighborhood Plans, and the Pittsburgh’s first Comprehensive Plan.
Douglas Melnick was named the City of San Antonio’s first Chief Sustainability Officer in March 2014. He oversaw the development of the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan and is leading the development of the SA Climate Ready Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, San Antonio’s first plan designed to meet the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement. He has fifteen years of local government experience and previously served as Director of Planning & Sustainability for the City of Albany, NY, the capitol of New York State. Mr. Melnick serves as a core member of the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network (USDN), serves on the Board of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), the San Antonio 2030 District, and is Chairman of the Board for Build San Antonio Green. He is member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a CNU-Accredited Professional, and an ISSP-Sustainability Associate.
Natalie Jakub graduated with her bachelor degree in Marketing in 2010, and continued her education at Eastern Michigan University completing her Master’s degree in Social Foundations – Eco-Justice Education. After finishing her education, Natalie started as a Volunteer Coordinator at Green Living Science through the AmeriCorps VISTA program – spending two years building the organization’s database of volunteers. Natalie has progressed in her 6 years with Green Living Science, and now serves as the organization’s Executive Director. In addition to her role at Green Living Science, Natalie serves as the chair of the Recycling and Waste Reduction subcommittee with the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force. She is also a certified TRUE Advisor – helping facilities achieve zero-waste.