2021 Summit Program


In 2021, we are excited to explore the theme “Accelerating Action: The Path to 2030.” Collectively, we will discuss the unique role each sector plays in envisioning and creating a resilient, sustainable 2030. The year 2030 has been cited as a deadline by which the impacts of catastrophic climate change will be irreversible. But what if we imagine innovative solutions for healthier people and communities? Launch green policies that lead to stronger, more resilient regions? Create a built environment that lowers rather than increases our climate footprint and support a vibrant, thriving landscape? It is both possible and attainable. Join us in considering how to make this our reality.


Program will include:

  • Keynote by author and climate policy expert Joan Fitzgerald

  • Plenary panels exploring local, regional and national climate strategies

  • An interactive virtual expo with businesses and organizations

  • Virtual networking opportunities via chat and video

  • Dozens of breakout sessions

  • 3 in-person field trips

Conference Schedule:

Wednesday, May 12

  • 3:00-3:45 pm - Get to Know our Exhibitors with a Lightning Round Session (exhibitors will each have 3 minutes to present)

  • 3:45-5:00 pm - Dedicated Expo Time (connect with exhibitors in the virtual expo)

  • 5:00-7:00 pm - Break

  • 7:00-9:00 pm - Opening Plenary & Keynote with Joan Fitzgerald

Thursday, May 13

  • 11:00 am-12:00 pm - Dedicated Expo Time

  • 12:00-1:30 pm - Lunchtime Plenary Panel

  • 1:30-5:15 pm - Breakout Sessions

Friday, May 14

  • 11:00 am-12:00 pm - Dedicated Expo Time

  • 12:00-1:10 pm - Lunchtime Plenary Panel

  • 1:15-4:00 pm - Breakout Sessions

  • 4:05-4:15 pm - Closing Remarks

  • 4:15-5:00 pm - Reception

This year’s Summit will feature two plenary panel conversations in addition to our opening keynote lecture. The panels will feature speakers from national and local government, business and advocacy organizations, all dialoguing about how we can ensure climate actions benefit everyone in our communities. 


May 13: What could a transformation of the Midwest look like with climate actions that invest in communities and infrastructure? Join us in visioning the potential growth in quality jobs, improved infrastructure, environmental quality and resilience if we are ready to embrace climate-forward policies and practices.


May 14: After hearing from national leaders in plenary 1, our second panel will create conversation between city-focused leaders. They will reflect on how metro regions can prepare to take full advantage of federal opportunities to drive long-term investments that benefit all members of the community. 

Here is a preview of some of the sessions:

Touring the Lick Run Greenway Field Trip

Sara DiLandro

Human Nature, Inc

Human Nature and a multi-disciplinary project team identified comprehensive wet weather strategies for reducing one of MSDGC’s largest-volumetric combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the Lick Run Watershed. The recommended wet weather strategies focus on MSDGC’s Communities of the Future program, which pairs the goals of CSO reduction with economic development, urban renewal, and long-term community sustainability. Central to this comprehensive wet weather strategy are restoring the historical Lick Run stream within a vibrant landscape, constructing green infrastructure controls, and providing a catalyst for community redevelopment. As part of the efforts to revitalize the community and promote redevelopment, new parking areas, a multi-use access path, additional lighting, transportation improvements, and educational signage will be used to create and promote access to the new space adjacent to the open channel. This site tour will highlight each of these components and allow attendees to see how this plan has come to life.

Growing In and Outside the Box Field Trip

Peter Huttinger

Turner Farms

Towards a sustainable future home vegetable and community gardens are a means for people to grow healthy food in addition to sequestering storm water on a modest scale. As with the compounding effect of catching stormwater in rain barrels to moderate stormwater, vegetable gardens absorb rainwater and slow run off. Recalling the saying “Many Hands Make Light Work” the culmination of multiple vegetable gardens can be part of the larger mosaic of small acts to help grow food and moderate stormwater. The workshop will review and offer practical “How To” construction techniques for building vegetable garden beds for use at home and in community gardens.

Engaging Political Leaders to Make Biking Better Field Trip

Wade Johnston

Green Umbrella

Advocates can raise awareness of the obstacles and challenges to building better active transportation infrastructure, but it often requires policy changes to see real improvement—which means engaging and persuading elected officials and other leaders about what needs to happen. Tri-State Trails has developed two effective ways of appealing to officials. The first is our Active Transportation Policy Platform, a blueprint of effective policies that candidates can adopt. The second is experiential learning on a bike ride, so they gain an on-the-ground understanding of the need for better bike infrastructure. Taken together, these techniques are creating better-informed decision-makers, leading to better active transportation policies and infrastructure.

Accelerating the Transition to EVs


Michael Peter

Sway Mobility

Dr. Shelley Francis

EVNoire Mobility
Intelligence Consulting

Dominic Matthew

Fund for Our
Economic Future

This panel will share their experiences and findings from innovative programs including community-based EV carshare in Oberlin, the “Transforming Transportation in Communities of Opportunity” EV adoption study in Cleveland, two shared EV programs through the Paradox Prize (Elyria and Cleveland), and creating distributed EV charging hubs in Columbus.


Linda Arbogast

City of Oberlin


Andrew Conley

Clean Fuels Ohio

Good Food Belongs to the People of Greater Cincinnati


Julie Shifman

Last Mile Food Rescue


Moxie John

Last Mile Food Rescue


Kai Stoudemire-Williams

Naturally Homegrown

A panel on two innovative solutions that lead to healthier people and communities while lowering our climate footprint. It is estimated that 40% of prepared food gets dumped, causing both landfill to fill up and producing large amounts of greenhouse gasses. In fact, The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 30.6 million tons of food enters landfills and represents 22% of overall municipal solid waste. Also, much food is not locally grown having to travel long distances to get to those who need it and for some communities, in food deserts, they don’t even have access to fresh food on a regular basis. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people in Greater Cincinnati are food insecure, (effecting the minority community disproportionately). This leads to reduced mental and physical health and quality of life. We believe that food is a basic human right so why aren’t we doing a better job getting food to people.


Thomas Federl

Castellini Company

Communities of Faith as Seedbeds of Transformation

In a sustainable world humanity and nature would flourish in mutually enhancing ways.  People would care for one another without impairing the health of future generations or other life communities. Because sustainability is a complex problem, it requires deep social change, and we believe that churches and communities can become seedbeds of transformation.


The Earth Care Leadership Team at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church presentation will include how our community of faith became a catalyst for social change and green outreach that has fostered informed and progressive action—in our individual lives as well as our church life. We will share our experience successfully retrofitting our historic building to reduce our carbon footprint, the design and implementation of an eight-month course on “Becoming Carbon Neutral” for our households, and the integration of earth care into the worship, education, justice seeking, administration, and facilities of our faith community.


Attendees should expect to hear specific examples of solutions to problems such as transforming individual and corporate practices, financial investment in green infrastructure, and fostering ongoing commitment to Earth Care and carbon neutrality.

Our Health, Our Buildings - Connected


We spend approximately 90% of our lives indoors. There is growing evidence that buildings can foster better health and healthier behaviors. Imagine we are supported by the space around us, where our workplace fosters a sense of wellbeing and promotes the very behaviors that lead to better health. Well explore these concepts and learn how our buildings can collectively become learning labs and instruments to address the greatest health challenges we face as a community.


Dawn Schwartzman

Enriching Space

Partnering to Create Climate Safe Neighborhoods


Climate change is a global issue with local solutions. Climate Safe Neighborhoods is a partnership with Groundwork Ohio River Valley, the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, and Green Umbrella with neighborhoods seeking to mitigate the effects of climate change through intentional and focused community engagement. Session will be a panel discussion with partners to discuss creating a climate resilience plan on the neighborhood level, how the needs of the community can be addressed through city mechanisms, and how to change city processes to better serve neighborhoods.

Savannah Sullivan

Green Umbrella

Sophie Revis

Groundwork ORV


Ollie Kroner

City of Cincinnati


Cynthia Winston-Ford

LPH Community Council

The Case for the Green Innovation Ecosystem in the Midwest


Pete Blackshaw



Antony Seppi

HCDC Business Center


Irina Filippova



Oleg Kaganovich



Emily Williams


Pitchbook recently suggested that Climate Tech is a $2.5 trillion dollar opportunity. The Midwest barely has a seat at this table, but that’s about to change! Midwest regions are fast becoming dynamic hubs for startups, industry, and research institutions that are providing the foundation for sustainability innovation. We'll explore the many advantages of the the Midwest: the presence of large corporations embracing sustainability as a growth strategy, the flood of tech, talent, and institutional investment that’s surging back from the Coasts, especially in the wake of the pandemic, and economic benefits that make it dramatically less expensive to launch and build a business than virtually any other region in the country.

Community Solar; District Heating and Cooling Systems


Chuck Lohre

Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy

Community Solar; District Heating and Cooling Systems are central plants that distribute
electricity, steam, hot or chilled water to nearby buildings for power, heating and cooling. They are typically used for municipalities, universities, airports and industrial facilities. Central solutions are also economically viable as a standalone business to service customers in areas with dense concentration of large commercial buildings. This session will introduce these to companies, institutions and municipalities that would like to consider these systems to increase their energy use efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.


Building the Green Collar Economy through Education & Inclusion


Geoff Greenfield

Third Sun Solar

More than 3 million US workers are employed in well-paying clean energy jobs. In fact, Solar Installer has been at the top of the labor statistics fastest growing jobs for several years. It will be vital for cities to take advantage of this job potential by training a workforce to meet the growing demand. How can we utilize this momentum to create jobs where jobs are needed most? By building out free vocational resources. Participants will learn about peer organizers doing this work now in different states.

At Fifth Third, Elevated Sustainable Design = Design for People


Daniel Lessing

BHDP Architecture


Jeremy Faust

Fifth Third Bank

Using real project experiences at Fifth Third Bank, Daniel Lessing and Jeremy Faust will demonstrate how organizations can design their future spaces to impact the health, wellbeing, and productivity of their people—and, ultimately, the planet. They will share how to ensure future designs achieve sustainability goals—including consuming less energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting wellness, and more.

Sustainable Policy: A Utilities/Company’s Role in Promoting Clean Energy

Duke Energy

A panel to discuss how Duke Energy and large energy users are embracing the climate challenge and developing policies and initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Duke Energy will engage a panel of large energy users to discuss topics to include: Climate action planning, sustainability, and clean energy policies. The panelist will present on current and future plans related to how each entity is working to reduce its carbon footprint while embracing new technologies, sustainability practices, and green policies. Panelists will also explore the role that diverse stakeholders can and do play in developing these plans. 

Tomorrow Transformed: How to Build an Authentic Sustainability Brand


Susan Heinking

Pepper Construction

The future of the built world must support a healthier and sustainable environment to thrive. But pointing organizations toward this goal can be daunting. How do you gain leadership buy-in? How do you make change authentic and empower reticent employees? What commitments do you make? How do you bring alignment through partnerships? From our own experience, we will show you how Pepper is transforming ourselves and influencing our industry. We will take you through the steps from investing in people, technology and new ideas, to developing a mission statement and marketing strategy, to unveiling them to the public.

Planting the Seeds of Tomorrow:
Utilizing Public/Private Partnerships to Revitalize Vacant Lots


Brandon Saurber

City of Hamilton, OH


Jeff Gambrell

Butler County Connect


Alfred Hall

City of Hamilton, OH


Felix Russo

New Life Mission

As overhead expenses continue to rise in relation to the management of city-owned residential lots, learn how public/private partnerships may be the solution to not only a departmental financial stressor, but also a global environmental crisis. Join the City of Hamilton’s Department of Neighborhoods’ Director as well as local leaders in conservation as they discuss the plight of declining pollinator populations and how restoring lost habitat may be the key to a more sustainable, diversified future.

Growing Local Knowledge and Social Ties through Sustainable Stormwater Management: Partnerships in Design and Planning

Three urban design case studies address aging, out-of-compliance stormwater infrastructure and provide unique lessons in technical and partnership strategies. In Hoboken, NJ, teaming with the local sewer authority demonstrated the efficacy of green infrastructure through smart sewer technology. In Atlanta, GA, working with local not-for-profits informed problem statements and design solutions for a living laboratory stormwater park. In East Harlem, NY, developing a curriculum with a local school taught the next generation of advocates alongside professionals planning a resilient future for the neighborhood. These case studies provide relevant lessons for many Midwest communities working to adapt existing storm conveyance infrastructure.

Sustainable Zoning/Legalize Sustainable Housing for Growth


Mark Samaan

Legalize Housing


Nick Keeling

Legalize Housing

Zoning codes have a tremendous impact on so many facets of land use.  They are the primary drivers of, or barricades to, sustainable built environments.  In this presentation, Jonathan Rosenbloom will discuss the Sustainable Development Code, a database of zoning recommendations that achieves more sustainable outcomes in the built and natural environment.  ZoneCo will introduce its Zoning Sustainability Diagnostic tool, which scores zoning codes based on whether they are promoting or hindering sustainability goals.  We will describe real-world examples of sustainable zoning provisions.  Attendees will be encouraged to share the session’s lessons with local legislators and urge the adoption of more sustainable local ordinances.


Jonathan Rosenbloom

Vermont Law School

All Hands On Deck: How Local Governments Build Regional Resilience


Savannah Sullivan

Green Umbrella

Tom Carroll

Village of Silverton

Andrea Webster

Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute

Policies and programs to address climate impacts are often most effective at the local level. Local action can be further strengthened by regional collaboration. This session will feature leaders from four forms of local government and a regional perspective to discuss successes and challenges in climate action and collaboration.


Rhonda Ritzi

Kenton County Parks & Recreation


Geoff Milz

Colerain Township


Sheila Fields

City of Covington

Creative Solutions for Community Solar in Ohio


Cathy Cowan Becker

Simply Living

David Dwyer

American Renewable

As cities like Columbus move to Community Choice Aggregation for 100% renewable energy, utility-scale solar projects are starting to take off in Ohio. But what about community solar? Ohio does not have enabling legislation that allows multiple customers (neighbors, for example) to share a single solar array – so how can we do community solar here? Fortunately our state has a wide array of creative thinkers who have figured out how to make community solar happen. This session will explore projects and programs that generate solar energy on the community level, highlighting small towns and communities of color.


Tristan Rader

Solar United Neighbors


Jonathan Welle

Cleveland Owns

Cincinnati’s Path to Carbon Neutrality

Oliver Kroner

City of Cincinnati

Michael Forrester

City of Cincinnati

Carla Walker

Think Big Strategies

Cincinnati has been measuring our greenhouse gas emissions since 2006. At that time we set forward a goal for reducing our emissions 80% from that baseline by 2050. In the last decade, our tools for measuring carbon, and strategies for reducing carbon have improved significantly. This session will focus on what our modeling tells us and how that informs Cincinnati Climate Action. Where are we making progress? Where are we stuck? What key strategies are available to help us meet our climate targets? Are our targets ambitious enough?

Accelerating Regional Climate Action through Public/Private Partnership

Organized by Smart Columbus

Zach McGuire

Clean Technology Solutions, Columbus Partnership

Jenna Tipaldi

Climate Advisor, City of Columbus

Chiquita Gardner

Director of Energy Efficiency & Housing, IMPACT Community Action

Regional climate action improves quality of life, business stability and economic growth, and cross-sector collaboration can accelerate change and impact. Join public, private and non-profit sector leaders from the Columbus Region to hear how they have collaborated to develop the City of Columbus’ Climate Action Plan, accelerate electric vehicle adoption, institute building energy use benchmarking, improve residential energy efficiency in opportunity neighborhoods and initiate residential renewable energy aggregation and a renewable energy procurement program for corporate and industrial customers. Discover how their aggressive collaborative approach – the “Columbus Way” -- can be applied in your community to drive for climate neutrality by 2050.

Rebecca Karason

Senior Vice President, Director of Energy & Sustainability, Huntington

Art and Artists Accelerating Change


Arynn McCandles

Cincinnati Museum Center

Robert Alan Wight

Christ College of Nursing


Prince Lang

Walnut Hills Community

Artists and art play key roles in creating vibrant landscapes and healthier people. This panel explores the power of art and intersections with ecological sustainability showcasing programs, projects, and partnerships that are transforming and beautifying our communities. Art-activists re-frame conversations, deconstructing dominant paradigms and providing fresh canvases for future creation. From found art, nature as muse, to garden installations and biodegrading sculpture parks - join us to learn about the artists (and their art projects) working with the Wave Pool Arts Center, Cincinnati Museum Center, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, and Green Umbrella to create a healthier, and more resilient region.


Calcagno Cullen

Wave Pool Arts Center

Scaling a Successful Pilot to Create a National Carbon Neutrality Organization

Carbon Neutral Indiana

Volunteers founded Carbon Neutral Indiana in April 2020. The non-profit helps households and businesses measure, offset, and reduce carbon emissions. With no grants, in the middle of a pandemic and economic recessions, in a conservative state, this 100% volunteer network grew 76% monthly for six months. They've helped 120+ households and businesses clean up their "carbon trash," averting $766,000 in social costs of carbon. When just 1/5th of 1% of the Midwest (23 people out of 10,000) are carbon neutral through organizations like Carbon Neutral Ohio, revenues will be $88M employing 700 people full-time. Video of Q3: https://bit.ly/36KPGWb Full report: https://bit.ly/2VFiRUa

Youth Advocacy Now: Students Sparking Sustainability


Zach Newton

Eco Earth Friends


Levi Grimm

JEE Foods


Gus LaValle

JEE Foods

Creating a thriving and sustainable future will take collaboration and innovation. Learn from high school students across the country who have stepped up to work with community leaders and stakeholders to create resilient communities. Panelists come from diverse backgrounds, from food waste warriors in rural communities, to environmental nonprofit founders in California. These students have worked on small scale projects at their schools to have implemented community-wide programs focusing on education and action. Learn how the younger generations are becoming sustainability changemakers and how we all can work together for a brighter future.


Mallika Shah

The Tomorrow Project


Alie McDougal

The Tomorrow Project


Jack Galloway

Youth Climate Action Coalition

Indigenous Knowledge & Resilience


Dawn Knickerbocker

Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition

Robert Rice

Community Organizer

Jheri Neri

Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition

In our workshop, we will describe and work though the Indigenous and Native American knowledge, methodologies, characteristics, conversations, and contexts that will save the planet from colonial practices that are out of balance.


Homer Shadowheart

Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition


Shane Creepingbear

Antioch College

Living Into Transformative Change Short Talk

Daniel Hart

University of Cincinnati

How does social change happen? At the root of our environmental and social problems, are the ways that we work with each other, and fundamentally the way that we live our own lives. This session will explore a few models and frameworks for diving deeper into thinking about how social and organizational change happens, starting with the self as a foundation for change-making. Although large scale, structural forces significantly impact Healthy People, Policy, the Built Environment, and Physical Landscapes, Daniel Hart outlines the importance of intentionality for the way that we design our own lives and for the way that we work with others based on principles from ecology, fractal theory, and natural systems.

Sustainability: Why Is It Invisible to Some Communities? Short Talk

Dr. Tyra Oldham


Real sustainability is power to harness the tools and processes of its people, places and things yet some communities are invisible to this technology. Sustainability has a connection to all communities, yet communities can be inviable to its benefits, value, outcomes and needs. The inability to attract and produce sustainability in some communities is a disadvantage to the sustainability of a city therefore; this presentation addresses invisible communities in cultivating sustainability today to accelerate action. The role of bridging sustainability to invisible communities as sustainable professionals work to deliver climate rich change, connected solutions and greener spaces.

The Adaptive Place Toolkit Short Talk

Joshua Pine

Yard & Co

We have created a toolkit that helps places respond not only to today’s needs but build adaptability into urban design, development planning and operation strategies. The toolkit includes an adaptive capacity audit, immediate response measures, adaptive design and planning approaches and organizational needs such as public engagement, events, marketing, safe + clean and commercial tenant support. We will walk through it using Cincinnati as the primary case study and then work in real time with participants to assess their place's opportunities. See the Toolkit and case study here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/e47a12eff4824766be732816b996da6c

Humanizing Climate Change: Cincinnati and Climatically Displaced Populations Short Talk

Michael Roman

University of Cincinnati

We have created a toolkit that helps places respond not only to today’s needs but build adaptability into urban design, development planning and operation strategies. The toolkit includes an adaptive capacity audit, immediate response measures, adaptive design and planning approaches and organizational needs such as public engagement, events, marketing, safe + clean and commercial tenant support. We will walk through it using Cincinnati as the primary case study and then work in real time with participants to assess their place's opportunities. See the Toolkit and case study here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/e47a12eff4824766be732816b996da6c

Combining Corporate and Community Benefit: Using Local Carbon Offsets to Meet Corporate Sustainability Goals Short Talk

Madeline Fleisher

Dickinson Wright PLLC

One key to accelerating climate action over the next decade will be maximizing collaboration across multiple sectors, particularly in order to ensure climate efforts have equitable impacts (positive or negative) across communities. This presentation is aimed at highlighting one pathway to foster cooperation between corporate citizens and local communities in pursuing global climate action while also incorporating local priorities and concerns.

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