Kendra Tupper - Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer, City of Boulder

Kendra Tupper - Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer, City of Boulder

Kendra is a licensed Mechanical Engineer with over 15 years of experience in the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors and is currently serving as the Chief Sustainability & Resilience Officer for the City of Boulder. In that role, she oversees the city's climate, energy and zero waste policies and programs and leads a city and county wide Resilience team.

Her current work includes exploring future carbon taxes and pricing mechanisms, as well as designing and piloting innovative new climate, energy, and resilience programs. Prior to joining the city, Kendra was a Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), where she led projects ranging from deep energy retrofits, industrial process efficiency, efficient data center design and operation, and the development of carbon neutral plans for cities, campuses, and Fortune 500 companies. 

Kendra Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • 80% GHG reduction goals by 2050

  • Carbon pricing mechanisms

  • B Corp movement in Boulder

  • Resiliency and sustainability work at the city level

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Kendra's Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

Focus on relationship building. I think this was a lesson I learned over the years starting on the technical side in engineering. I think I always thought that if I had the right answer and the data behind it, that's all I would need to create change. What you really need is to develop the relationships with the people whose partnership support and behavior change you need to occur. I think that that would be one piece of advice. The other thing would be for sustainability professionals that are maybe starting out, to focus on broader issues than just sustainability, like resilience, equity and economic vitality. This kind of ties into the relationship building, but those are kind of the big ticket items that I have seen come up, in just the last two or three years, focused around sustainability. A successful sustainability effort is only going to be successful when it addresses resilience, equity and economic vitality.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I think I'm most excited about what I'm seeing as a recent shift in focus or attention on food choice and food systems and the impact that that actually has on the global carbon footprint. I think that the recent IPCC report that came out in October of this year really did a great job in opening people's eyes to the fact that it's not enough to just transition from fossil fuels to clean renewables, but we have to address how we manage our forests, how we manage our lands and the choices that we make about food. I think that that's been a very taboo topic even in the world of sustainability, and definitely with cities and local government, not wanting to even talk about people's personal food choice. But I think that that taboo is going away a little bit now and it's opening some really interesting conversations about how our food is produced, how sustainable that is in the long-term and what can we do about it?

What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?

I'm going to cheat because I have two. The first one, which is the actual academic answer is Paul Hawkens Drawdown book. That's amazing. If you don't want to spend the time reading the entire book, there's a great website called Drawdown. They actually did all these studies and ranked the most impactful actions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. You'd be really surprised that three out of the top five have to do with food and land management. It's not just all energy. The other one I would say is a Sci-Fi book, Ready Player One by Ernest Klein. It's one of my all-time favorite books, but the entire premise of the book is that climate change has occurred and the world is incredibly different from how we now know it. So, people are forced to live in this alternate video game reality. I'm definitely going back to my math team roots here and you're going to see what a dork I am by books, but I love that book. It's such a fun read. It's exciting, but it also has serious undertones of what our world could look like when climate change occurs to a level that climate science is now predicting. I love that one and I think it's a great way to reach wider audiences about this problem.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in your work?

The Paul Hawkens Drawdown website I use constantly. Also, the networks that are available for local governments such as 100 Resilient Cities, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. All of these websites for local government, or the public in general, they have great resources, great ideas about quick, actionable things to move the needle. That RMI Low Carbon Cities Guide that I mentioned is great. And then also the GreenBiz newsletters. I find those really useful for just staying up to date on the current news in climate and sustainability.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you are leading at Boulder?

You can go to our website which is bouldercolorado.gov/climate. That will take you to our home page on climate where you can learn a lot more about all of our programs and projects.