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ESD discusses climate solutions with Adobe

Post Date:04/02/2018 6:20 PM
In February, the San José City Council adopted Climate Smart San José, an ambitious new plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and save water. Now the hard (and fun) part has begun: ushering this bold vision into reality.

Some of the critical first steps in implementing Climate Smart San José, which charts a course to meeting the GHG reduction targets of the international Paris Agreement, include raising public awareness of the plan and building partnerships to promote community action.

For Climate Smart San José to succeed, the entire community will need to participate. That means not only residents but also businesses changing their behavior and doing what they can to reduce their fossil fuel and water consumption, with the City acting as an enabler.

So, it was with great anticipation that Environmental Services Department staff visited Adobe earlier this month to discuss Climate Smart San José with members of the company’s San José Sustainability Action Team, a volunteer-based group of employees who bring awareness to colleagues about how to be more sustainable in their daily lives.

Adobe is a global leader in corporate citizenship and sustainability, with sustainability being a core value of the company since its inception. Over 70 percent of Adobe’s employees come to work each day in LEED certified workspaces, including 100 percent of San José employees, who work in a global headquarters that is certified at the platinum level. A fourth tower at Adobe headquarters, scheduled to break ground in 2019, will also incorporate cutting-edge green technology. In addition to green building principles, the company has committed to running its sites and delivering its products with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 — without purchasing carbon offsets or unbundled renewable energy credits to reach that goal.

“Our goal is not to simply offset our carbon footprint, but to fundamentally change it,” said Vince Digneo, Adobe's sustainability strategist. “When it comes to the environment, working together with other companies, NGOs, employees, and the broader community allows us to make bigger strides toward our shared sustainability goals. Collaboration is the only way forward, and programs like Climate Smart San José are an important step in the right direction.

Serena Zhao is the Adobe Headquarters Sustainability Champion, leading the San José Sustainability Action Team, which has a membership list of more than 200 employees and a core group of 10-15 volunteers. The team’s current campaigns include: educating Adobe employees on how to push for renewable energy at home and in their community; improving overall waste reduction and pursuing “zero waste to landfill” by encouraging employees to move away from a disposable mindset; and making sustainable investments.

The San José resident said she is excited about Climate Smart San José because it will provide structure for people who support the concept of sustainability but don’t know how to put those ideals into practice.

“I think that people need a focal point to rally behind,” Zhao said. “Just telling people to be more environmental, or think about the Earth, or save the polar bears, it doesn’t really work.”

Zhao is particularly interested in San José Clean Energy, a new community choice energy program that will deliver a greener mix of power to customers at rates that are competitive with those of PG&E. The program launches to municipal agencies this fall and residents in 2019. San José Clean Energy is a key contributor to Climate Smart San José, because it will eventually zero out fossil fuels as a source of power for the city’s residential and commercial buildings.

San José residents and businesses will be automatically enrolled in the new program, with the ability to opt out. Customers may elect during the first few years to pay extra for 100 percent carbon-free electricity. Ultimately the goal is for the GHG-free plan to become San José Clean Energy’s default offering.

Zhao said she and her team will consider launching an awareness campaign encouraging San Joseans to choose 100 percent GHG-free power right from the start. The team and ESD will look for other opportunities to collaborate in coming months as the City raises awareness of Climate Smart San José and encourages energy- and water-efficient practices.

ESD Director Kerrie Romanow applauded Adobe’s Sustainability Action Team for its leadership.

“Forging community partnerships will be vital to realizing the goals of Climate Smart San José,” she said. “We’re honored to work and share ideas with such a smart, dedicated and passionate group.”

Asked why sustainability is so important to her, Zhao thought of her family.

“I have kids,” she said. “I want to make sure they have options and the opportunity to lead happy lives, and a livable world is essential to that.”

To learn more about Climate Smart San José, visit

If you would like ESD to give a presentation on Climate Smart San José to your community or business, email
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