2023 Summit on Sustainability Connects 600 Community Leaders to Explore, Share Sustainable Solutions

Event honored leaders in sustainability and regional projects, unveiled sustainability and environmental survey findings, and heard from national leaders on sustainability initiatives

A sold-out crowd of 600 attendees gathered today at the Hilton Downtown Columbus for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s (MORPC) annual signature environmental conference, the Summit on Sustainability. This year’s Summit brought together leaders to explore and share sustainable solutions and to celebrate individuals and collaborative efforts making a difference in Central Ohio. This year’s event theme − Collaborate. Innovate. Inspire. − featured breakout sessions in which speakers explored sustainability through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Keynote speaker Todd Brady, Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Intel Corporation, discussed Intel’s global sustainability initiatives, including climate, energy, water, green buildings, and circular economy. The luncheon speaker Mitchell Silver, who serves as the Principal, Vice President of Urban Planning at McAdams, discussed urban planning, land use, parks, and public space planning with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Events like this can be a launch pad for conversations which spark new ideas and partnerships – especially as our region grows. This Summit is a testament to the fact that change begins with collaboration, innovation, and inspiration. Our region continues to feel the impact of growth, and communities from Licking County to Lancaster are working to solve our most pressing needs. Community leaders are building stronger neighborhoods, preserving environmental resources, and building resilience in water and energy needs.”

Each year, MORPC recognizes individuals and organizations demonstrating leadership and a commitment to sustainability, planning, and practices across the region. This year’s Regional Sustainability Awards recognized Aryeh Alex, Sustainability Manager with the City of Columbus, recipient of the 2023 Leadership in Sustainability Award; the City of Columbus & IMPACT Community Action for their Solar Workforce Development Programs, recipient of the 2023 Collaborative Achievement in Sustainability Award; and Geno Tucker, founder of Remember US Urban Scout, recipient of the 2023 Leadership in Mobility Award.

“The work of these honorees underscores the significance of sustainability, and their work strengthens our initiatives. The work across our region, whether it’s showcasing how leadership can drive change, proving that collaboration can fuel sustainable solutions or illustrating how personal commitment can transform the way we move and connect, serves as a reminder that when we come together with purpose, we can change our communities for the better.”

Energy, water quality, housing, active transportation, social equity, and economic development were some of the topics featured at the day-long summit. The event included an attendee favorite, Pecha Kucha-style presentations from Mary Mertz, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Brandi Whetstone, MORPC’s Sustainability Officer; and Ivory Levert and Angela Mitchell, founders of Black Women in Nature.

Additionally, MORPC unveiled its newest survey in the “Leaders Listen” series, in partnership with Measurement Resources Company and The Columbus Dispatch, to gauge Central Ohio residents’ opinions on experiences and services related to sustainability and the environment. Survey participants included more than 2,000 residents across the 15-county region. For the first time, the survey was available in Spanish and Somali. Key findings included:

  • Respondents were largely consistent across different demographic and political groups in supporting “Conservation of green spaces and waterways” as the highest priority.
  • Two-thirds of Central Ohio survey participants indicated that they were moderately to extremely worried about climate change.
  • Among all survey participants, nearly two-thirds support large-scale commercial solar power developments in their communities, and,
  • More than 70 percent of respondents feel that leaders are “not at all” to“moderately” addressing our environmental quality needs.

A report detailing the complete findings of the survey will be released by MORPC later this fall.

This year’s summit was made possible thanks to the Presenting Sponsor NOPEC; Plenary Sponsors Open Road Renewables and SWACO; and Supporting Sponsors ADS; AECOM; City of Bexley; City of Columbus, Office of Diversity and Inclusion; City of Dublin; Columbus State Community College; COTA; Energility; Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Economic Development & Planning; Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; Ohio University, Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Service; SOPEC; Sustainable Columbus; and The Ohio State University. Breakout Session Sponsors included American Farmland Trust; Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority; COTA; Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District; Grove City Ohio; Kegler, Brown, Hill + Ritter; MurphyEpson; Ohio Air Quality Development Authority; Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; Ramboll and The Ohio State University, College of Public Health.

Presentation materials from the 2023 Summit on Sustainability can be viewed on MORPC’s website at Summit on Sustainability – MORPC.org. To view a copy of MORPC’s Regional Sustainability Agenda, visit REGIONAL SUSTAINABILITY AGENDA – MORPC.org

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Níel Jurist

Sr. Director of Communications & Engagement

Melissa Rapp

Public Information Manager

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