Cool Davis 2015 Eco Hero and Climate Solution Awards – Part II

cool-davis-logoEach year Cool Davis recognizes “Eco-heroes” – Davis residents who model how to incorporate sustainable practices into their work, civic, and everyday lives. Acting out of personal conviction, they do “the right thing” for themselves, our community, and our planet.

The Cool Davis Climate Solution Awards go to local businesses, groups, or organizations for exemplary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As they model ways to reduce their environmental impact, they become leaders in creating options to conserve resources, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and stabilize the climate.

In its efforts to work with our community on greenhouse gas emission reduction and sustainability issues, Cool Davis focuses on three topics: Buildings (energy efficiency), Consumption (reducing consumption and waste of food, water, etc.), and Transportation (shifting to non-fossil fuel vehicles and other modes of transportation).

Orhan Orgun: From Lecture Hall to Farming Call

By David Abramson

In 2012, Orhan Orgun decided he needed a change. He had been feeling the itch for some time to move away from theoretical studies towards what he called a “world of action” and that is exactly what he did when he decided to pack up his career as a linguistics professor at UC Davis and dedicate his life to growing food for underserved populations. Originally from a small village in Turkey, he immigrated to the U.S. as a young man, and now wanted to till the soil again.

At his retirement party, he had the good fortune of meeting a farmer connected with FARM Davis (, a group that grows food for houseless and food-insecure people in Davis. He soon began volunteering with them, and hasn’t looked back since.

Orhan ended up removing his own front lawn and donating the area to start the third FARM Davis site, now full with an abundance of fruit trees, vegetable rows, and their signature “hugelkultur” mounds. The mounds, made by digging a deep holes and filling them with woody tree debris and soil, help to save water and replenish the soil with vital nutrients. Orhan’s garden, even as the smallest of the three, produces over 600 pounds of produce per year.

There is certainly a social and political component that seems to motivate Orhan. He sees food as “not just a commodity but a basic human right” and noted that there are some serious issues with the food system in America, mostly regarding to how food is distributed amongst the people. Orhan explained that “we grow more food than we eat as a country” but most of that food ends up wasted and not getting to the people who need it.

Orhan volunteers 10-15 hours per week between the three FARM Davis properties and also help fund the projects by purchasing irrigation supplies and other needed gardening materials. Cool Davis celebrates Orhan’s efforts with an Eco-hero award.

If you want to farm with Orhan and get involved with FARM Davis, email

Holmes JHS Green Team

Interview by Michelle Millet

Science teacher Martha Quenon formed the Green Team at Holmes Junior High 6 years ago with the intention to raise awareness of environmental issues among students. Since that time, the group has evolved into one that has taken a hands on approach to reducing the amount of waste generated on their campus, and is receiving this year’s Cool Davis Eco-Hero Award for their efforts.

Ninth-grader Green Team member Hailey Shapiro is receiving special recognition for, as Quenon describes, her tireless work towards implementing a sustainable composting and recycling system throughout the Holmes Campus. Hailey says one of the biggest challenges she faces is getting other kids to care about recycling. In an effort to do so, she and Green Team members developed a classroom presentation designed to teach fellow students about the recycling and composting programs.

Keri Hawkins, a para-educator on campus, took over the reins of the Green Team in January. In support of the Green Team’s efforts, Keri has designed garden beds that are accessible to students with disabilities, written and received grants that help fund the gardening and recycling program at Holmes, and facilitated the Green Team’s recycling efforts by instigating their participation in the Keep California Beautiful K-12 Recycling Challenge, a state wide school competition promoting waste reduction and recycling.

Keri and the Green Team members have taken several steps to improve diversion rates on the Holmes Campus. They color coded collection bins to be consistent with the City of Davis’ and stream lined the bin locations. They also created 3-D posters to help educate students staff about what items can be recycled in which bins.

Hawkins hopes that recycling and composting programs will at some point be integrated into the DJUSD strategic plan and that their efforts at Holmes can serve as model for other schools to follow. Cool Davis is pleased to recognize the work of both the Green Team and its leaders with a Climate Solution Award.

Dan Sperling, Pivot Point to a More Energy Efficient Future

By Claire Black-Slotten

Dan Sperling is a busy man. He is a Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy, and founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis (ITS-Davis) as well as interim director of the UC Davis Energy Institute. He also serves as the “car guy” on the California Air Resources Board, and this year, he is also chair of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies in Washington DC.

Dan is leading the way to an environmentally sustainable transportation technology. When asked, “What are we waiting for?” Dan answers, “The revolution is underway but not evolving in a predictable way—in large part because it depends on consumers and policy.”

Where there is work on cleaner transportation, electric vehicles or advanced bio-fuels for transportation, he is there. As the founder of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, he has helped develop the ideas that have moved California to leadership in environmentally friendly transportation systems. In short, Dan is looking for “air quality benefit, climate change benefit, and advanced replacements for oil”. Currently, he is on a campaign to direct the new Uber-like mobility services toward the public interest—to make sure it reduces overall vehicle use and greenhouse gases, and leads to greater access by those economically and physically disadvantaged.

Dan is known for combining high tech with high “touch” – by building strong partnerships with industry, government, and the environmental community, integrating interdisciplinary research and education programs, and connecting research with public outreach and education. He also teaches classes at UCD, inspiring the next generation of engineers and environmental scientists.

Dan walks the walk. He lives close to everything in Central Davis in a highly energy efficient (zero net energy) home. His only vice is excessive air travel.

At Cool Davis, we can’t think of anyone we would rather see leading the charge.

Clifford Contreras, UC Davis Transportation Services

By Judy Moores

On Earth Day 2015, Cool Davis will honor UCDavis Transportation Services and its Director Clifford Contreras with a Climate Solution Award in the transportation category.

Transportation Services (( not only promotes modes of transportation that have less carbon impact on our air, it has found ways to get people out of their cars. While in 2007 the first campus travel survey reported 38% of commuters biked to campus, the most recent survey of from 2014 indicated that percentage had climbed to 47%. Currently, the green transportation program at UC Davis, called the “goClub,” has more than 4,000 members and is growing. The goClub provides a variety of incentives and support to students and employees who choose to commute by bike, walk, bus, train carpool or vanpool rather than use a single occupant vehicle.

While much of its work focuses on UC Davis, Transportation Services’ online Bicycle Safety Course ( is freely available to anyone, any time, and is free of charge. This course is a great resource for organizations and businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging biking as well as for individuals who are new to biking or need an up-to-date refresher course.

As Transportation Services” Director Clifford Contreras, says, “Through its goClub efforts and promotion of preferred modes, Transportation Services has become a leader in the state and the country for its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for the benefit of all people and the environment.”

It is no wonder that the League of American Bicyclists has awarded UC Davis with Double Platinum national recognition – both as a business with 20,041 employees and as a university with an enrollment of 33,300. Cool Davis thanks Director Contreras and all those who work with him to reduce the environmental impact of UC Davis.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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