California Clean Air Day is a unified day of action across the state to increase awareness and encourage simple solutions such as turning off lights, not idling your car, or planting a tree to improve air quality. As a partner of the Coalition for Clean Air and advocate for cleaner air, SDG&E is encouraging employees to hop on board this week by pledging their support to reduce air pollution.
But this is not the only week that SDG&E is taking action for clean air. In fact, many of our employees are making a difference every day to improve our region’s air quality, both on and off the job. This week, we will shine a light to some of the employees who are living our company’s values.
A Tree a day keeps the pollution away – Sydney Furbush
If you have ever been out to Valley Center, you may have noticed that the city is filled with properties covered in fruit orchards. What you may not know is that one of those orchards is owned and operated by SDG&E’s very own Sydney Furbush, manager of supplier diversity.
Covering two-acres of land, Sydney’s orchard carries upwards of 120 stone fruit trees. From peaches, plums, pluots to cherries, pomegranates, and persimmons, Sydney has more fruit than his family alone can consume. When asked what he does with all of the excess fruit, Sydney is happy to share that most of it goes to his community – family, friends, neighbors, and his local church. He also uses those connections to donate fruit to local organizations fighting hunger insecurity.
With ten years of experience under his belt, Sydney has become an expert in growing and harvesting fruit. During that time, he’s made it his personal mission to sustainably manage the orchard with targeted drip irrigation watering, natural weed abatement, and no use of pesticides. Additionally, he uses all-natural fertilizers, soil amendments and mulch that he purchases from the San Pasqual Valley Soils in Escondido.
Fun Fact: Did you know that 1/3 of SDG&E’s green waste from Vegetation Management’s tree trimming operations go to San Pasqual Valley Soils where it is turned into high-quality mulch? Sydney’s fruit tree orchard might just be mulched with SDG&E green waste, without him even knowing it!
Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive your car for 26,000 miles. Some might say Sydney’s orchard is offsetting the carbon his car would typically emit on his commute to Kearny Mesa every day for work. However, as an EV driver, Sydney is contributing no vehicular emissions to begin with! He is checking the box in more ways that one with actions to improve our region’s air quality.
And this year, Sydney is taking his everyday commitment to clean air a step further with the Clean Air Day pledge, vowing to plant at least one tree yearly and establish a home vegetable garden by 2021.
Leading the charge on electric vehicles – Lianna Rios
It’s no secret that SDG&E has a heavy adoption rate when it comes to employees driving electric vehicles, but wouldn’t you like to know who some of the early adopters are?
Lianna Rios, clean transportation customer solutions project manager, has been a long-time Electric Vehicle enthusiast even before joining the Clean Transportation team. With twenty-one years under her belt at SDG&E, she has spent most of her career in Customer Programs running energy efficiency programs but Lianna always had her eye on Clean Transportation.
In 2013, Liana took the leap and got her first EV, a Nissan Leaf. And she’s never looked back! Today, Lianna and her husband are each proud owners of a Chevy Bolt. Between landing her dream role in the Clean Transportation group in 2016 and her overall affinity for EVs, Lianna has been dubbed the ‘EV guru’ of her household.
The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California’s carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog-forming pollution and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions. By driving electric, Lianna and her family are taking direct action to reduce emissions and improve our region’s air quality.
Driving EVs isn’t the only thing are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Together, Lianna and her husband, an energy consultant, have adopted a number of energy efficiency practices at home including the EV-TOU5 rate at home; being more cognizant of energy peaks and using energy during super off-peak times, and setting timers on washing machines, the dishwasher, beverage refrigerators and EV charging. Lianna’s family has even done a full retrofit to reinsulate the house and install a white, highly reflective cool roof, and energy-efficient windows, they compost food waste for their garden and has an extensive 3,500-gallon rain capture system.
When asked if Lianna thinks there is more she can do within her household to support Clean Air Day and improved air quality her answer,
“We can always do more," Lianna said. "This year, I and my family pledge to eat Vegan at least once a week.”
Going vegan to help the environment – Mackenna Kull
What do beans, tofu, and beyond meat burgers all have in common? They produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than animal products. Also, they are the three main foods for sustainability specialist, Mackenna Kull.
When Mackenna started college, she left San Diego a carne asada fry connoisseur. As she advanced her education, Mackenna began to learn about the heavy burden that the production of meat and other animal products have on the environment. Different classes and a new group of friends introduced her to the environmental and health benefits of veganism. Having been a vegetarian at various points in her life, Mackenna opted to try it out. Here we are six years later and Mackenna is not only vegan, but she is also committed to sustainability in every aspect of her life – from her role in Environmental Services and leading the SDG&E Green Team to aspiring for a zero-waste lifestyle by skipping single-use plastics and shopping at local thrift stores.
“I wanted to find a way to partake in the fight against climate change so I made a conscious decision to eat less meat, be less wasteful, and think about where our food is coming from which eventually lead me to a vegan lifestyle," Mackenna said. "There are certain things in your life you should make changes for, but nobody’s perfect. What is important is that we are always trying to strive for improvement."
For Clean Air Day, Mackenna is continuing to improve by adopting Clean Air Day pledges:
· Switch to using natural all-purpose cleaner only.
· Buy produce locally.
· Plant a tree.
· Plant an indoor plant in my home office.
· Reduce vehicle emission by telecommuting & avoid idling my vehicle.
What is your Clean Air Day pledge?
California Clean Air Day is Oct. 7 and SDG&E wants our employees, customers, and the San Diego Community to hop on board by pledging their support to reduce air pollution. Everyone is encouraged do their part to support clean air and take the pledge by committing to one or more Clean Air Day sustainability actions. You can even make up your own!