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Leadership Santa Maria Valley- Sustainability and Natural Resources Topic Day

On Friday, April 14, 2023, the Leadership Santa Maria Valley class of 2023 embarked on another Topic Day, this time, centered around Sustainability and Natural Resources. 

Starting off the day, the class met excited to travel to their first stop, Engel & Gray (E&G), where they were able to tour the facilities and learn about some of the composting efforts taking place right here in Santa Maria. Among many topics, the class learned about recycling efforts, agricultural waste, and even the process for building an ideal environment for microbes to work and break down bacteria. So much takes place at E&G– the class left enriched and certainly thankful for Mr. Bob Engel and his team’s hospitality.

 In green fashion, the class commuted to their second stop in two vehicles just east of town at the Santa Maria landfill. A truly spectacular sight, the class learned about the orchestration of landfill practices and some of the challenges facing the landfill; specifically, space limitations whereby capacity will likely be exceeded by 2028. However, solutions are in place and expansion efforts are well underway with land having been purchased at Los Flores ranch back in 2006.

The class headed back to the CoastHills Credit Union Board Room where they were able to have a “Lunch and Learn” session with PG&E’s Chris Benjamin, Director - Corporate Sustainability. Mr. Benjamin and his team presented the class with some of the incredible efforts taking place at PG&E to provide safe, reliable, affordable and most importantly, clean energy to its customers. He touched on many topics– educating the class on some statewide clean energy goals, PG&E’s role, and even some of the things the class, as individuals, can do to support the efforts. 
After a short break – the class was joined by Mark Funkhouser – Director of Sustainability / Custodial Services, Facilities Department at Chumash Casino Resort. Mr. Funkhouser provided the class with an incredibly insightful window at how Chumash Casino underwent their journey to become the first casino in the world to earn TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). Mark touched on some of the strategies and operational changes that he and the team implemented to achieve this goal, and provided insight as to how other organizations can also make progress towards a smaller carbon footprint. 
For this Topic Day’s leadership presentation, the class was honored to have Lee-Volker Cox – retired Colonel of the United States Air Force and Doctorate in Organizational Leadership. Mr. Cox eloquently delivered a powerful and informative talk – “Are you on your Personal Path for success?” An interactive session, the class received a glimpse of a much larger topic but gained powerful knowledge in understanding one’s focus and motivation. This sparked an introspective journey for many and pushed each participant to a higher level of self-awareness and leadership.
The class continued the afternoon to their last destination for the day and traveled to Solomon Hills to learn about some of exciting plans for a 100% sustainable community.  The vision for this community is currently under review and subject to public hearings beginning Spring 2023.

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