Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Conservation, Innovation and Collaboration Creates Jobs in Rural Oregon

    As a forester, I have always believed that smart, common sense initiatives to conserve our lands and waters go hand-in-hand with growing our economy and creating jobs. Under President Obama's leadership, the health of our natural treasures and the communities and economies that they support has seen robust advancement. On a recent fact finding trip to John Day Oregon, I saw this support firsthand. On the Malheur National Forest, a collaborative partnership between local businesses, local government, the Federal Government and conservation groups has restored forest health and reduced wildfire threat while sustaining the local forest products industry and starting a local clean energy market. This allowed a local lumber company to add infrastructure and retain and create new jobs equal to six percent of the non-farm workforce in Grant County. This new clean energy industry is estimated to reduce energy costs by $4.4 million across the regional economy. 

    This rural economic development success in John Day demonstrates the interdependence of a healthy environment and a strong economy and the good things that happen when local communities and the Federal Government work collaboratively to solve complex problems. This approach is a cornerstone of the President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO), a 21st century conservation agenda built in partnership with the American people, and reinforces the work of the White House Rural Council

    Established to improve rural economic opportunity and quality of life, the Rural Council is tasked with finding opportunities to enhance collaboration for Federal investments so that innovative developments like the one in Oregon can find success across the country. Throughout August the President and the White House Rural Council have been engaging local leaders in rural America to hear directly from them about the issues and actions that matter to them most. 

    Rural Americans arguably have one of the strongest ties to, and often live off of, the land which motivates innovative solutions to complex problems. This infrastructure success in John Day represents what the President’s Rural Council will learn and build from and look to repeat across the country: an amazing bottom line of protecting the environment, reducing wildfire threat, creating clean energy, promoting energy independence, and adding local jobs, all while diversifying and strengthening the regional economy. Below local residents in Oregon share their views on how this collaboration with the Federal Government has made a difference for their communities and economy. 

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the White House Council on Environmental Quality 

    Oregon Truck

    Chair Sutley and Jay Jensen greet the camera before exploring the public-private partnerships that are helping to make Grant County, Oregon, a leader in advancing our Nation's clean energy future. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Northwest)

    Posted by Cassandra Moseley:

    Grant County is a dramatic, arid landscape where, for generations, people have made their livelihoods working the land. But by the late 1990s, battered by a changing global economy and a two-decade conflict over federal land management, businesses had closed, jobs disappeared, and many families had left. In the early-2000s, looking for new solutions, community leaders decided it was time to talk instead of yell. They reached out to their neighbors, environmentalists, and timber industry representatives. These conversations turned into collaboration and then into innovation. They found a willing partner in the U.S. Forest Service. In 2009, the Forest Service's Malheur National Forest began awarding innovative stewardship contracts to implement their restoration projects. Federal investments in forest restoration in Oregon create jobs and these investments create even more jobs when the byproducts of restoration – small trees – are turned into value-added products and energy. 

    With ecological goals at the forefront, the harvested trees are small. To take advantage of this new timber supply, folks again innovated. The Malheur Lumber Company partnered with an energy company to integrate a new pellet and biobrick facility into their sawmill. With little private financing available, they used a USDA Recovery Act grant, New Market Tax Credits, and other federal programs to fund construction. Today, these products are helping to cleanly heat homes, the local airport, and hospital, while reducing heating costs, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and creating jobs.

    The President's proposed fiscal year 2012 Forest Service budget would accelerate similar innovation in communities like Grant County. By combining line items that contribute to restoration, this modernized budget structure would allow the agency to break out of its silos, address complex problems, integrate restoration and job creation, and improve partnerships.

    Cassandra Moseley is the Director of the Ecosystem Workforce Program and Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon

    Grant County

    Chair Nancy Sutley visits the Malheur Lumber Company to witness how its innovative pellet and biobricks are created. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Northwest)

    Posted by Maia Enzer and Chad Davis:

    Transforming our economy while stewarding vast landscapes requires local, regional and national partnerships. That is why Sustainable Northwest and our partners launched the Dry Forest Investment Zone, an initiative catalyzed by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities' $2 million investment to build strong forest-based rural economies.

    Public and private partnerships are critical to achieving results in rural communities. The addition of a pellet mill at Malheur Lumber Company in John Day is a great example. Supply is secured through forest restoration projects. Pellets are being used as a source of renewable energy to provide heat at several community facilities. The use of wood pellet fuel reduces energy costs and offsets the consumption of imported petroleum-based heating fuels keeping dollars spent on local energy.

    Throughout our history, rural America has been a stronghold of innovation and resilience. We hope the Rural Council will glean successful models from the entrepreneurial vision of communities like John Day. We need strong conservation-based rural economies. Rural America is where our food, fiber and energy come from, it's where we vacation, and it’s these places that our art and music celebrate. Ultimately, it's these places that will define the future of America.

    Maia Enzer is the Policy Director and Chad Davis is the Forest Stewardship Director at Sustainable Northwest

  • Sprint Declares Commitment as E-waste Impacts Grow

    E-waste is the largest growing waste stream in the country. Americans generate 2.5 million tons of e-waste a year— more than enough to fill a line of dump trucks from our Nation's capital to Disney World. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 140 million cell phones – 65,000 tons – are discarded in the U.S. each year. Some are shoved into drawers, others end up in landfills. Today, only about 10 percent are collected for reuse or recycling.
    On July 20 the EPA invited Sprint, along with Dell and Sony, to Austin, Texas to be among the first corporations to publicly commit to follow a new national e-waste strategy. We were honored to join EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, General Services Administrator Martha Johnson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley as they issued the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.
    The collaborative work of the EPA, General Services Administration (GSA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the dozen additional agencies represented on the e-waste task force that developed the National Strategy over the past eight months is an example to all who manufacture and distribute electronic products. Sprint commends the Federal Government's commitment to ensure that all electronics it uses are reused or recycled at a certified recycler. An e-waste solution will require on-going collaboration, shared commitment, accountability and meaningful action from companies in all sectors. I am proud that Sprint – along with Dell and Sony – has implemented sustainable business practices early on.

    The E-Waste Gang

    (Left to right): GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson; Round2 Recycling CEO Randy Weiss; Mark Small, Vice President for Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics Inc.; White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley; Sprint CEO Dan Hesse; EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell. (Photo by Eric Vance, US EPA)

    Sprint's Electronics Stewardship Policy sets aggressive e-waste goals, including the collection of nine phones for reuse or recycling for every 10 sold by 2017. To date, Sprint has collected more than 25 million mobile phones— keeping them out of landfills, helping to conserve resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing air and water pollution.
    For the second year, Sprint received the Sustainability Leadership Award from the International Electronics Recycling Conference for our full-lifecycle product approach. On the design end, we have more environmentally-friendly devices and accessories than any other carrier. We recently launched our fourth green device and first eco-friendly Android phone – the new Samsung Replenish. It's made with 82 percent recyclable materials, and is the first phone in the U.S. with a solar battery cover.  And it's the first mobile device to receive UL Environment's Platinum certification. 
    At the other end of the lifecycle, Sprint's industry-first Electronics Stewardship Policy gave us the opportunity to work with environmental organizations like BSR, Basel Action Network and ABI Research to develop goals. The new national e-waste policy will enhance progress in the area of sustainable electronics management. Sprint's commitment to the new national strategy will boost our goals in several areas including greater transparency in our operations.
    Sprint is honored to be among the first companies to sign the new sustainable electronics management policy and to make our commitment public.

    Dan Hesse is CEO of Sprint

  • America's Great Outdoors: Homegrown Community Revitalization

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Sally Prouty, President and CEO of The Corps Network, which mobilizes hundreds of thousands of youth and volunteers each year to improve their community and environment through service.

    Corps Network

    Community activists and Mr. Peanut roll up their sleeves at the Washington, D.C. Planters Grove. (Photo courtesy of Planters)

    Recently, I had the pleasure of joining forces with White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and several other leaders in Washington, D.C., including Mayor Vincent Gray and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, to open a new urban park in the Northeast community of Lincoln Heights. Once an unused and overrun piece of land that attracted illegal activity, the space has been transformed into a sustainable and welcoming outdoor park through a partnership between Planters and The Corps Network, the national nonprofit I lead that represents the country's service and conservation corps.

    For the past month, we have brought together our local member Corps including Washington Parks & People, Earth Conservation Corps and the Student Conservation Association to work in tandem with the private sector, city government, community organizations and local residents to bring the vision of the park—called a Planters Grove—to life. Borne out of the ideas and goals laid out in the President's America’s Great Outdoors initiative, it is so much more than simply a new park. It is a nexus of neighborhood revitalization, community service and outdoor activity, and proof that public-private partnerships can seed community transformation and growth.

    We know this transformation of community transforms lives. Built by the local member Corps noted above, the park has already contributed to the employment and training of young people in Washington at a time when we know our country's youth face tremendous challenges and disadvantages. For example, one young woman who helped us build, Ashley, is originally from the Lincoln Heights neighborhood. After an abusive childhood, she has recently graduated from the Earth Conservation Corps, is now attending college and preparing to be a social worker and, through motivational speaking, is giving peers and youth inspiration through her story. Just one of several Corps members involved in the project, Ashley is representative of the powerful and lasting change these young people are driving in their communities and in themselves through this project.

    Service and learning will continue to define the Planters Grove for years to come. The opportunities to engage the community are endless. We hope the re-imagined urban park will soon be used to teach community members green job skills and offer opportunities for residents, especially local children, to spend time outdoors and take part in healthy-living activities. The Planters Grove is truly a model for the broader city of Washington, D.C. and the nation for connecting residents of urban communities to nature and each other.

    Sally Prouty is President and CEO of The Corps Network

  • The Health of Our Lands and Waters and the Health of Our Economy

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar at the Economic Rural Forum

    Chair Sutley and Secretary Salazar engage with stakeholders at a breakout session on conservation, tourism, and the economy at the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. (Photo by Tami Heilemann - Department of Interior)

    From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been a champion for the wise stewardship of America’s natural treasures, understanding the strong connection between the health of our lands and waters and the health of our economy. Smart, community-led conservation presents a tremendous opportunity to improve quality of life across America, and to build and grow local jobs in industries like recreation and tourism. In fact, one in every 20 jobs is related to outdoor recreation, making conservation integral to a thriving American economy. 

    Beginning very early in 2009 with the President’s historic signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, this Administration has invested in land and water protection by creating the most important conservation initiative in more than a generation. Through his America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the President has announced an action plan, built with ideas from the American people, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that communities care about, and to reconnect people – especially children – to the outdoors.

    In our most recent travels throughout the Northwest and the Northeast, we saw firsthand the intersection of conservation and economic growth in rural communities. Below are just a few of the highlights from our trips:

  • A Student Goes to Washington

    Teirra Scott

    Teirra Scott, Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden

    I am Teirra Scott, an incoming freshman at Howard University. I've been an employee at the Green Youth Farm in Chicago for three years, starting as a crew member and now a  crew leader. Recently, our organization had the pleasure of hosting White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley at our farm and showing her our organic gardens. With approximately 20 high school students working at each of our four sites every year, Green Youth Farm (GYF) harvests and sells sustainably-grown produce throughout the City of Chicago and neighboring areas.

    When I first heard of the opportunity to work at GYF, my initial reaction was "Yes! I can make some good money this summer!" But after starting, I realized that the work I did motivated me more than the pay I received. It felt good to grow healthy, organic produce for a community where obesity is too common. This is why I have returned to the Farm every year. Though I know I am still young, I want to help as many people as I can. GYF has taught me that anyone regardless of his or her age can do just that. In addition, I have learned many gardening skills that I hope to apply when I plant my own garden (or perhaps at the White House garden) in the future!

    Leaving high school, I'm glad to have been a part of GYF where I have developed leadership and communication skills and, most importantly, learned more about myself. I know that in college next year I will be better equipped to live in a new community and talk to people about the importance of eating healthy and sustainable food.

    Teirra Scott, age 18, is a Green Youth Farmer for the Chicago Botanic Garden


  • Fostering the New Green Economy

    Editor's Note: This post introduces readers to Fred Walti, Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited LACI prior to its official opening.


    Chair Sutley visits the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator that is being launched to accelerate the development of innovative clean technologies in Los Angeles. Chair Sutley and to her left, Fred Walti, Executive Director of LACI, are joined by representatives from UCLA, Community Redevelopment Agency/Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Senator Feinstein's office, Senator Boxer's office, and JPL.

    White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley visited Los Angeles to discuss the Obama Administration's commitment to harnessing clean energy opportunities to create American jobs on Friday, July 22. She met with business leaders, city officials and top educators from UCLA and other institutions and toured the new LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), at the future site of LA Cleantech Corridor. Los Angeles is committed to leading the charge toward a new green economy, and it is LACI's mission to support that growth and be a central resource for the cleantech sector. It was a great opportunity to connect with an Administration official and to hear how President Obama’s initiatives, along with our work here in LA, will create thousands of local family-supporting jobs in green sectors in the years to come.

    Years in the making, Los Angeles launched its new cleantech business incubator to accelerate development of startups focused on sustainable solutions that can create both efficient clean technologies and green jobs. The incubator offers flexible ready-to-go office space, lab facilities, and a supportive environment where startup teams can share ideas with other entrepreneurs and fuel innovation. LACI also gives each startup the chance to work with a dedicated mentor, as well as access to a growing network of cleantech and business experts and introductions to prospective investors. LACI is the business equivalent of baseball's farm system: identifying local talent, nurturing it, and preparing the best prospects to perform on a global stage, resulting in more jobs and a bigger green economy in Los Angeles and beyond.

    LACI currently has partnerships with UCLA, USC, Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and will help accelerate the commercialization of their clean technologies in addition to championing and nurturing the growth of local entrepreneurs. Currently the largest market for electric vehicles and solar installations, Los Angeles is a great place for cleantech companies to make their homebase.

    LACI 2

    Chair Sutley and Fred Walti stand in LACI's permanent location, under construction now. The 25,000 square foot La Kretz Innovation Campus is located at the heart of Los Angeles's Cleantech Corridor.

    LACI offers its portfolio companies three game-changing services: (1) Fully built-out, furnished, and equipped office/lab space at flexible terms; (2) CEO coaching and mentoring from highly accomplished, senior advisors who have created and managed highly successful companies; (3) Access to our large and growing network of potential customers, industry experts, investors, and public leaders.

    Statement of Support from Alexandra Paxton, Project Manager, Downtown Region, Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles:

    It was very gratifying to hear from Chair Nancy Sutley firsthand about President Obama’s initiatives to foster innovation for the clean energy economy of the future. As a redevelopment agency, our vision is that the young companies fostered here will move into the surrounding industrial area, revitalizing the district as a place to live, work, innovate, and manufacture. In this way, partnering with education and workforce development, we will be able to build opportunities and jobs for the people who live in our communities, as well as solve our environmental problems. Ambitious? Yes. Achievable? Absolutely!

    To find out more about the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, please visit

    Fred Walti is Chief Executive Officer of the new Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)