Brief History of Sustainable Marin 


dawned on the late Harry Moore, then a Marin County Supervisor, and a few other Marin-North Bay progressives.  They formed "Sustainable North Bay", originally intended to cover Marin, Sonoma and Napa Counties.  Grant funding and 501(c)3 status were obtained, and in due course Marie Kerpan, Mill Valley, became executive director. Ann Hancock, later a founder of Sonoma Climate Protection Campaign, was a SNB Board member. Sustainable Fairfax, founded independently by Rebecca Collins and others, obtained its own 501(c)3 status.  Sustainable Mill Valley took root, led by the late Charles McGlashan, now a Marin Supervisor, and Carol Misseldine, who later became Mill Valley's Sustainability Director, and others.  


By the late 1990s sustainability outreach in Marin gained political traction through a series of Marin-wide community meetings and forums and by 2000 was effective enough to have culminated in the Marin Board of Supervisor's directive to make "sustainability" the central guiding theme of their revision of Marin County's master plan (not completed until six years later). This plan was reported to be the first "sustainable" municipal guidance document in the United States. Meanwhile, Sustainable Sonoma was created and Napa activists had drifted into their own orbits. SNB gradually became inactive as local groups carried on. 

So in view of the new circumstances, by 2003 SNB's Board at the time resigned and was replaced by individuals who also served as the leadership of Sustainable Novato, founded in 2002 by Harry Moore, Ed Mainland, and Eliot Hurwitz.  By December, 2003, SNB was retitled "Sustainable Marin", its focus exclusively on Marin was confirmed, and its new name subsequently registered with the state Secretary of State. SM's tax exempt status IRS 501(c)3 remained identical. Harry Moore, president, SNB, carried over as president. Sustainable Marin held meetings conterminously with Sustainable Novato; its leadership was the same.

Photo by Ed Mainland

Photo by Ed Mainland

Sustainable Marin got renewed visibility with successful large Marin-wide town meetings in 2004–5 on global warming (Ross Gelbspan) and sustainability stewardship (Robert Kennedy), and a "Waterwheel Workshop" in 2006 on sustainable water actions with MMWD and College of Marin. Sustainable Marin and Sustainable Novato had become more distinctly separate entities in 2005 as Kiki La Porta, SM's president, began to hold regular separate meetings with a separate Board of Directors. Sustainable San Rafael was formed in 2005 led by  Kiki and Sue Spofford. It is currently chaired by Bill Carney. About this time, Sustainable Mill Valley became inactive.  

Beach Party. Photo by Bob Spofford

Beach Party. Photo by Bob Spofford

The main achievement of Sustainable Marin, since 2004, has been to establish its "brand" as a distinctive voice for sustainable solutions at the County level — in energy, water, toxics, waste, green building and related issues -- supplementing Marin's traditional environmental organizations by applying the "Three E's" (environment, economics, equity) directly to Marin's political and media world.

Sustainable Marin’s central concern has been climate protection and clean power. Sustainable Marin was a leader in persuading County of Marin to set up California’s first Community Choice electricity program, Marin Clean Energy (MCE) in 2009.  SM’s activists joined many other environmental and civic organizations in lobbying city councils and County supervisors.  MCE’s founding has been followed by 19 more Community Choice programs now operating throughout California, bringing cheaper and cleaner electricity to ratepayers.  SM has helped Marin’s campaign for MCE’s “Deep Green” 100% renewable option. 


Resilient Neighborhoods is Sustainable Marin’s most successful grassroots program to save the climate.  Since 2012, under the leadership of Tamra Peters, RN has mustered more than 70 teams in Marin neighborhoods, businesses and families to cut local carbon emissions by more than five million pounds.  RN is funded by private donations and a California state agency grant.

Sustainable Marin and Resilient Neighborhoods, both members of the coalition “Lead on Climate,” have sponsored public education events throughout Marin County attended by many hundreds of people during the past several years. Sustainable Marin is the fiscal sponsor. These events have featured leading climate scientists and local political leaders. More than 700 turned out for our big climate event September 15, 2018, “Getting to Paris without Stopping at Washington,” at College of Marin. 

Getting to Paris

Getting to Paris

In 2018 Sustainable Marin became the fiscal sponsor for VisionSGV, a grassroots citizens group advocating for Regenerative agriculture in the San Geronimo Valley; specifically as an element of the land restoration of the land currently known as the San Geronimo Golf Course.  It’s ultimate fate is still pending as it is owned by the Trust for Public Lands.

Drake Transit race.png

Transportation has been Marin’s chief carbon polluter. In 2007 SN’s Kiki LaPorta organized a County-wide action meeting to address carbon emissions from transportation, but pollution keeps rising.  In 2018, Sustainable Marin challenged Transportation Authority of Marin to use its AA Measure funds to “get real” about what needs to be done to reverse climate-devastating pollution from gasoline-powered vehicles.