Chris Castro - Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando

Chris Castro - Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando

Chris is currently the Director of Sustainability and Co-chair of the Smart Cities initiative for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando. In his role at the City, he works to develop cross-sector partnerships, policies, and programs that support the sustainability, energy, and climate-related goals of the “Green Works Orlando” initiative.

Over the last 10 years, Chris has consulted for governments, academia, business chambers, companies, nonprofits and communities to implement sustainability projects that include a wide variety of topics, specifically smart cities, solar energy development, building efficiency, electric vehicles, local food systems, water quality, ecological restorations and more.

Chris Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Sustainable food systems

  • PACE Financing and its success in Orlando

  • Meeting GHG reductions through energy management

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Chris Castro's Final Five Responses:

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

First and foremost, I'd say build a network and be a part of the growing network of sustainability professionals. So specifically for local governments, there's a group called the Urban Sustainability Directors Network or USDN for short. And this has been an invaluable resource for me as a director of sustainability in the city to better learn and share best practices among some of the largest cities, including Las Vegas, Boston, Austin, Boulder, Chicago, DC, New York, you name it. Each one of these major cities are collaborating together through the USDN or sharing policy and program resources. We're at the end of the day making not only our cities, our regions, but the entire country and the world, a more sustainable place. So I'd say get connected with these networks. It's going to be extremely valuable. As you look to implement your solutions.

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

It's hard not to be excited about a lot of things that are going on. I think that there's a growing interest in the private sector and in governments around the world that are really prioritizing these issues and they're advancing sustainability because they realize that it's directly tied to quality of life, to public health and to long-term sustainable economic growth. And the more that we see that type of momentum, you see corporations that are moving to a hundred percent renewables for their operations, Google and Apple and Microsoft, large banks like JP Morgan Chase that are making commitments to move their entire operations to carbon neutrality and to renewable energy. This is an amazing time to be alive and to be in this field. And no matter what focus area you're in, whether it's food systems, whether it's livability, water, energy, transportation, each one of them has essentially come to an interesting point where technology has become economically feasible. And at the same time, it's making significant impacts. So it's probably the most exciting time to be in the field of sustainability than ever before.

What is the one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

Wow. There's a number of them that I use as guidance. And I'll tell you, the most recent one that's been impactful for me is Paul Hawkins Drawdown, the recent study that he pulled together with over a hundred different scientists and researchers around the world to truly identify the top 100 strategies to address the climate crisis and to advance sustainability. It's phenomenal because it's not only economically sound, but it's scientifically sound. It's very much founded in hard science and facts. And it really is a fantastic guidebook and roadmap for cities and corporations and communities to follow, to lower their environmental footprint and to create a more regenerative future for all of us. So Drawdown, I'll have to say, is one of the top ones in my book right now.

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

Yeah, that's an interesting question. I go back to use USDN. That's one of my favorite resources out there. It's again a kind of an intranet repository of different policies and programs that other cities have implemented. It has a forum that allows for sustainability professionals to share these resources and to answer each other's questions and so that resource is valuable, I highly recommend it, especially for people working in cities. And then, depending on the actual initiative you're working on, there's a series of different tools for those working on energy, water and waste within buildings, one of my favorite tools is the Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. This is a free web based tool that's offered to specifically track and monitor energy and water consumption as well as waste consumption within buildings. And it helps to quantify what the economic, social and environmental impacts are from that consumption. So it's using real world data. It's normalizing that data to your facility and it's helping you get a better understanding of how you compare to other facilities, the same size, of the same year that was built and the same climate region. And so Energy Star does a fantastic job of providing that kind of portfolio manager tool for buildings. Buildings, in my opinion, are one of the most important and greatest opportunities we have to improve. In Orlando, they are 72 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. In most cities buildings contribute to the greatest environmental impact. So if we can start to drive energy efficiency within our buildings, if we can drive a better operations and even onsite renewable energy generation, we can significantly impact the environment in a positive way. We can drive jobs, we can lower costs. At the end of the day we can be a more efficient and resilient city.

And finally working our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading with the city of Orlando.

I'm quite active on social media, so find me on Linkedin, find me on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Those are the main outlets that I use and really encourage you to also look up the city of Orlando's website. It's just, that will route you directly to the webpage on the city's website and you can dive into each one of the focused areas I've been talking about. You can look at our goals or targets. You can download our action plans. I really encourage you, if you do have any questions or comments, to reach out to me directly and share what your thoughts are and how we can continue to really make Orlando a showcase leader in the movement towards a better, more healthier, sustainable future.