Monday, February 19 , 2018, 4:26 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 
SIGRID WRIGHT

CEC’s Sigrid Wright Focuses Energy on Environmental Conservation

Among her achievements, she's the master planner behind next weekend's Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival

Climate change has gained momentum as a nationwide debate topic in recent elections. Sigrid Wright has spent the past 20 years preparing for that conversation and building the infrastructure to bring environmentalists to the table with information and action plans.

Wright was raised in Eugene, Ore., which she calls the heart of environmental consciousness.

“I was steeped in the ideology of energy conservation — it’s in my fabric,” she said.

Early on, Wright felt a calling toward teaching and communication, leading her to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

She graduated into the 1980s recession, which was compounded by a halt on logging in Oregon to protect the endangered spotted owl. Wright witnessed local tensions over unemployment and the logging ban boil into angry discourse. She said she wanted to partake in the discussions, but felt she needed more skills to do so effectively. Her solution was to complete a master’s degree in communications management from the University of Baltimore.

Wright notes the stark contrast of Eugene to Baltimore: “It was the first time that I witnessed anti-environmentalism. The city ran with no consideration for recycling or systems of sustainability. It was a complete absence of consciousness.”

During her time in Maryland, Wright was labeled an environmentalist, and as she finished her communications management studies, she stepped into those conservationist shoes.

Her next few years were spent in Washington, D.C., with the Alliance to Save Energy and the National Wildlife Federation.

“I needed to gain public policy experience, and D.C. is the headquarters for much of that discussion with national environmental groups,” Wright said.

Next, Wright fell in love with a Santa Barbara local and moved back to the West. She joined the Community Environmental Council in 1995. In her capacity as associate director, she oversees CEC’s public outreach and fundraising teams — managing events, electronic media, marketing and publications. She also leads the annual Earth Day production team and is program manager for the South Coast Energy Efficiency Partnership (SCEEP).

During her tenure, Wright has helped guide the CEC from its previous service-oriented mission to its current focus on climate change and energy use. The CEC of old built a recycling center, organized hazardous waste collection and planted community gardens, but it realized each of those services were at a point where they could be handed off for other organizations to run. So the CEC made the transition to its new mission and catchy slogan: Fossil Free by ’33.

Armed with a new board and staff, the CEC set out to move Santa Barbara to be free of fossil fuel use by the year 2033. It has plans to help reduce energy use in buildings and improve transportation while meeting the needs with renewable energy such as sun and wind power — resources Santa Barbara has in great supply.

Wright spends a good part of her year planning the Earth Day Festival, which will run April 16-17 in Alameda Park. The festival began in 1970 as a reaction to the massive offshore oil spill that tainted the coastline the previous year. The modest festival ran for nearly a decade, before falling dormant during the 1980s. A committee formed from 1990-1995 to oversee the festival’s rebirth, and in 1995 it found a permanent home at the CEC under Wright’s watchful eye. Santa Barbara’s Earth Day is one of the largest in the country and last year expanded into two full days of activities.

Wright has enlisted the help of event companies that coordinate logistics and volunteers, as well as local organizations such as the Learningden Preschool, which helps with the Children’s Enchanted Forest Theatre, and Traffic Solutions, which coordinates a Green Shorts Film Festival that runs all week at the Lobero Theatre.

Wright focuses on the programming and sponsorships, which include the Power House life-size home energy demonstration and the Green Car Show with ride and drives in a variety of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Attendees are encouraged to travel by bike or foot to the festival. There will be a free bike valet service and complimentary bike tune-ups by local shops. Click here for a full schedule of this year’s activities or for information about volunteer opportunities at Earth Day Santa Barbara, themed Powered by the People.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow her on Twitter: @jennkennedy.

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