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On May 12, 2023, we hosted our 10th annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Join us as we imagine visionary and inspiring possibilities that inform, empower, and motivate our actions to create a more vibrant, equitable, and thriving region. With the pressure to address the climate crisis with increased urgency, it is natural to feel climate anxiety and grief. How can we acknowledge the challenges we face while moving beyond perceived limitations to find optimism and active hope? What kind of world is possible if we get this right?

This year’s theme of “Imagine What’s Possible” invites us to come together in collective hope and renewed resilience amidst the climate crisis. We hope this conference can be a spark for connecting, learning together, deepening our resolve, and joyously finding our places in the mighty “we” rising to secure a just and livable future.

Schedule of Events

8:00 am   Breakfast

8:30 am   Welcome Remarks 

8:45 am   Keynote Speaker 

10:00 am Break/Expo

10:30 am Morning Breakout #1

11:30 am  Morning Breakout #2

12:30 pm Lunch

1:00 pm  Plenary Panel

2:00 pm  Break/Expo

2:30 pm  Afternoon Breakout #1

3:30 pm  Afternoon Breakout #2

4:30 pm  Short Talks

4:40 pm  Roundtable Discussion

5:00 pm  Reception


2023 Keynote Speaker

Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, is a bestselling author, climate strategist, and teacher, working to heal the planet we call home. Her books include the anthology All We Can Save, The Drawdown Review, Drawdown, and Between God & Green.

She is the executive director of The All We Can Save Project and co-hosts the podcast A Matter of Degrees. Her TED Talk on climate and gender equality has nearly 2 million views, and she has been featured by Time magazine as one of 15 women who will save the world.

Plenary Panel
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Climate Action, Everywhere, All at Once: Possibility at the Local, Regional, and National Levels

Grand Ballroom 

This year's plenary will dig deep into climate justice action and possibility at the neighborhood, metro, and national levels. Three prominent sustainability leaders will join our keynote speaker and share key insights into how neighborhood-level action can support more resilient metro-regions, how regional action can support a more resilient nation, and how national action can support neighborhoods and regions across the Midwest. We'll explore what's possible when each of these levels align and work together to make a transformative impact.


Paula Brooks

Environmental Justice Director - Hoosier Environmental Council

Paula Brooks (she/her) is the Environmental Justice Director at the Hoosier Environmental Council, an environmental advocacy organization in Indiana. Driven by the strong belief in the universal human right to live in a clean, healthy, and safe environment, she has led successful campaigns to stop projects that would expose marginalized communities to pollution and noxious land uses. She is deeply committed to mentoring students interested in careers in environmental justice. Brooks earned her BBA in finance and MA in development policy from Howard University, and is an Environmental Leadership Program Senior Fellow and chair of the Indianapolis NAACP Branch #3053 Environmental Committee. She serves on the Marion County Tree Board and the Indiana Community and Urban Forest Advisory Council. Brooks has received numerous awards for her work and was a 2021 Hoosier Resilience Hero via Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.


Edith Makra

Director of Environmental Initiatives - Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

Edith Makra (she/her) is the Director of Environmental Initiatives at the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, a coalition of 275 mayors in the greater Chicago region. In this role Makra developed the Greenest Region Compact, a consensus sustainability pledge now adopted by 148 Chicago-area communities, forming the largest regional municipal sustainability collaborative in the US. She has led the creation of the first climate action plan for the Chicago region and is now leading municipalities to prepare for transportation electrification. Makra previously served as the first environmental advisor to Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley and directed state-wide and regional environmental programs in Illinois and Massachusetts. She has a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Illinois; an Executive Sustainability Certificate from Harvard University; and is an International Society of Sustainability Professionals –Sustainability Excellence Professional; and is a Climate Change Professional, Certified by the Association of Climate Change Officers.


Peyton Siler-Jones

Program Director Sustainability & Resilience at National League of Cities

Peyton Siler Jones (she/her) is the Sustainability and Resilience Program Director in the Center for Municipal Practice at the National League of Cities. In her current role, Peyton and her team lead research and provide technical assistance on energy decarbonization, infrastructure resilience, and municipal capacity building for collective and just climate action. Previously, Peyton worked as a Climate Resilience Planner at Linnean Solutions where she worked with municipalities on equitable resilience planning. Prior to that she also worked for the City of Boston's Climate Ready Boston Program where she served as a Climate Resilience Project Manager. She has a master's degree in urban planning and environmental policy from Tufts University. She lives on Wabanaki land in South Portland Maine with her dog Emmy Lou.

Joined by:

Dr. Katharine Wilkinson

Climate Strategist, Author & Executive Director of The All We Can Save Project
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Savannah Sullivan (Moderator) 

Climate Action Director at Green Umbrella

Savannah Sullivan (she/her) is the Climate Action Director at Green Umbrella, where she leads the Greater Cincinnati Regional Climate Collaborative. She has extensive professional experience across the fields of public policy, research, and environmental sciences, and has previously led climate, equity, and community engagement initiatives for public institutions such as the City of Cincinnati, Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute, and US EPA. She currently serves as the Director for the Climate Safe Neighborhoods Partnership, a collaboration with Groundwork Ohio River Valley. She holds a Master of Public Affairs and Master of Science in Environmental Science from Indiana University's O'Neill School for Public and Environmental Affairs, and Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Environmental Studies from Oberlin College.

Short Talks
4:30 PM - 4:40 PM

Grand Ballroom 

Pre-Fabulous! Re-Imagining Vacant Lots as
High Performing Affordable Housing

Within the vacant lots of existing neighborhoods, a modular affordable housing strategy has the potential to:

  • Enhance and stabilize neighborhoods with healthy homes, while building equity and generational wealth

  • Significantly improve energy efficiency and comfort through high-performance, prefabricated building components

  • Utilize Passive House design strategies to reduce energy consumption and energy costs by 70% while remaining economically viable

  • Shorten construction timelines and reduce development costs

  • Minimize the environmental impact of new construction by reducing waste.

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Tiffany Broyles Yost

Director of Sustainability & Resilience, Associate Principal - GBBN

As GBBN’s Director of Sustainability and Resilience, Tiffany provides strategic leadership for sustainable design across the firm’s portfolio of projects and spearheads initiatives related to resilience and well-being, including the GBBN Sustainability Action Network. Her work includes sustainable design on projects from international supertall mixed-use to existing building renovations in 20+ countries. Tiffany is focused on creating low-carbon, healthy spaces at GBBN and advancing a circular economy regionally. She practiced architecture, worked as a sustainability consultant, and developed education for the green building industry, for over 15 years in New York City before returning to the Midwest. She also earned an M. Arch Sustainable Environmental Design from the Architectural Association in London, complimenting her B. Arch from the University of Kentucky. Tiffany serves on several non-profit boards and committees including the Greenbuild Summit Advisory Board, Fitwel Advisory Council, Louisville Sustainability Council, and Cincinnati 2030 District Health Strategy Committee.

Grand Ballroom 

Education and Eco-Citizenship,
the Keys to a Sustainable Community

Our society is based on principles that are passed down from generation to generation through education. Hence, education is key to developing a global mindset. As we seek to address climate change, pollution, and over-consumption of natural resources, we must rethink our daily behavior. Shifts in our daily behaviors, when put together collectively, have a great impact on the environment and help create a sustainable society.


Educating young people about environmental issues is key to the fight against climate change and our global sustainability challenges. Young people are members of our society who will be the future leaders. They will be adopting behaviors and making decisions based on their education and training. “Imagine What’s Possible” if everyone receives environmental education. Imagine a society in which everyone has an environmental-friendly mindset and set of behaviors.

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David Nedingam Naibei

University of Cincinnati Law Student - Legal Extern at AltmanNewman Co. - LPA

A native of Chad—one of the hottest countries in the world—David has more than a decade of environmental activism experience. David earned a master’s degree in business law in Senegal, and a second master’s degree in environmental law in France. In 2022, David was accepted to pursue a Masters of Law at the University of Cincinnati through the Fulbright scholarship. David’s experience as an environmental activist and leader includes membership in the association Espaces Verts du Sahel where he has trained several thousand primary and secondary school students in several regions of Chad. David participated in several international conferences such as the 2012 RIO+20 conference in Brazil, the COP21 and COY 11 in 2015 in France and the 2018 One Young World Summit in Bogota, Columbia. He is currently a legal extern at the AltmanNewman law firm where he fulfills his dream of working with environmental lawyers.

Roundtable Discussion
4:40 PM - 5:00 PM

City of the Future:
the Green Cincinnati Plan in Action

Grand Ballroom

Sustainability is the future of cities, and Cincinnati is leading the way with the 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan. The City’s plan makes recommendations to lift up frontline communities, drive innovation and create jobs, increase greenspace and tree canopy, build dense, walkable neighborhoods, and so much more. In this session, policymakers will discuss the development of the GCP and how they will utilize it in the coming years as a guide for the growth and development of Cincinnati across multiple sectors: community and equity, jobs and innovation, and even as a tool to address the housing crisis.

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Meeka Owens

Council Member - City of Cincinnati

Councilmember Meeka D. Owens was born and raised in Cincinnati. She is currently the Chair of the Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, one of the first local government committees in the country to prioritize climate change. Her fervent belief that a community cannot be changed until it elects leaders who supports its values led CM Owens to run for City Council in 2020. Her goals for the City are to increase safety in our neighborhoods, including from gun-violence; increase support for human services; create quality, affordable housing; provide basic services with efficiency and care; create a more sustainable City; and help the unique arts and culture of Cincinnati to thrive. CM Owens is dedicated towards working with members of the community to achieve real solutions and will always advocate for the people of Cincinnati.

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Liz Keating

Council Member - City of Cincinnati 

Liz Keating is a member of Cincinnati City Council, focusing her efforts on basic services, economic growth, innovation, and youth programming. Liz serves on the Budget and Finance, Equitable Growth and Housing, and Public Safety and Governance Committees. Partnering with Cintrifuse, Liz launched an annual hackathon to innovate around sustainability. Liz has worked with Cincy Rec to create a youth e-sports league, increase youth jobs, and is a volunteer summer lifeguard at city pools. Outside of City Council, Liz serves as the Marketing Director of The Jim Stengel Company, a marketing consultancy and think-tank. Liz has a degree in International Relations from UCLA, where she competed on the swim team. Liz serves on the UC Lindner College of Business Advisory Council and on the boards of Honor Flight Tri- State and Cincinnati Para-Swim Open. Liz is married with two young children.

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Denise Driehaus 

County Commissioner - Hamilton County, OH

In 2016, Denise Driehaus became Hamilton County’s first elected woman to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Since joining the BOCC, Commissioner Driehaus founded the Commission on Women and Girls, which has driven policy changes in areas of pay equity, access to period products, and combating domestic violence. She has also advanced the work of Hamilton County’s Addiction Response Coalition (HCARC), which has saved countless lives by helping connect county residents to treatment and long-term recovery for those suffering from the opioid outbreak. Before being elected to the BOCC, Commissioner Driehaus served four terms as the State Representative for Ohio’s 31st district. Commissioner Driehaus is a strong advocate for environmental initiatives, including her support for bike trails across the county. She has also encouraged economic development in our smaller and larger jurisdictions with a focus on strengthening partnerships with businesses and our regional community.

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Oliver Kroner (Moderator)

Director of Environment and Sustainability - City of Cincinnati

Oliver Kroner is the Director of the Office of Environment & Sustainability for the City of Cincinnati. His work focuses on climate science and urban policy, including energy, transportation, waste, and food systems. He leads collaboration of government and community partners to advance and track the sustainability, equity, and resilience strategies of the Green Cincinnati Plan. He is a published researcher, and has presented at over 100 conferences and events, including the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, ICLEI World Congress, Smart Regions Conference, DesignBuildCincy, Project Drawdown, International Congress on Sustainability Science & Engineering, and more. He has served on numerous non-profit boards, including the Green Partnership for Greater Cincinnati, Mill Creek Alliance, Cincinnati 2030 District Working Group, Northside Community Council (President), Fuel Cincinnati, and PAR Projects. He is a graduate of Miami University and Northeastern University, and a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Thank You to Our 2023 Sponsors!

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