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20 May 2016updated 09 Sep 2021 11:54am

​Innovation and collaboration are the keys to a sustainable energy future

Technologies that once sounded futuristic now offer us hope of beating climate change.

By Christine Harada

Electric Vehicles. Solar Powered Communities. Smart Appliances. At one time these technologies sounded like something out of a futuristic movie, but today, these innovations are common in many of our homes and workplaces.  

While they aren’t in every home, the costs associated with sustainable technologies continue to decrease and in very little time, these innovations will go from cutting edge to mainstream.

From generating your own power sources in your home, to having control over when your appliances consume the most energy, sustainable energy innovation is on its way to a home near you, and it will give you more control than ever before in how your home uses energy and contributes to your carbon footprint.

In our new world, electric cars can actually feed energy back into the power grid—and one man’s trash can truly become another’s treasure, as waste-to-energy technology allows trash to be repurposed into fuel for power generation. This is an exciting time for technological innovation, as the products we use every day become our own personal tools for saving energy, saving money and preventing climate change.

President Obama has made creating a more sustainable future a top priority, recognizing that innovative technologies are the key to success.

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As the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, I have a unique charge—reduce the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025.

In order to deliver on that promise, we work to make the federal government a leader in sustainable action by promoting energy efficiency across our agency buildings, fleet and purchased goods and services. We also work to promote clean energy, increasing federal use of renewable and alternative energy sources, in order to cut carbon pollution. This work is an incredible opportunity to lead by example, as the federal government’s sustainability efforts serve to showcase how innovation and environmental stewardship go hand-in-hand.

Fighting climate change requires all–hands-on-deck. There is no one person, organization or country that can create the change and this needs to be tackled worldwide. That’s why we are committed to working directly with manufacturers, business leaders, NGOs and other stakeholders, to support the development of sustainability-focused innovation.  Cross-organizational collaboration is paramount to enacting sustainable policies, and that is a key reason why we work to engage with stakeholders early and often in the pursuit of sustainable policies on both the national and regional levels.

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This all may sound simple; but simple isn’t always easy. Working in step with those who are developing this technology, and with those who are charged to deliver it to consumers, is invaluable in this fight to prevent climate change. Beyond this environmental success, this work has a material financial impact that translates into increased organizational performance and bottom line results. 

As we look forward to the next chapter in our global environmental story, the goal of a sustainable energy future is one that is best realized when government, industry and everyday people work together. This week, I am working with hundreds of young leaders from across the globe at the first One Young World expert event on the environment to find innovative solutions to tackling climate change issues. The collective impact of our actions will lead to a game-changing effect on the climate for generations to come.

Christine Harada is the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She is a Counsellor for One Young World, the world’s premier global forum for young leaders.