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Laura Spanjian

Meet Laura Spanjian, the new Director of the city’s sustainability office. She has some ambitious goals.

Most ambitious, but most important, to Spanjian is getting every Houstonian access to single-stream, curbside-pickup recycling. You may have heard happy tales of those big green bins-on-wheels that you can throw anything that you even suspect is recyclable into, and have picked up at your door. Well, they’re real. And Spanjian wants them on your street.

“In cities that have it, recycling rates skyrocket,” Spanjian says. “We’re cutting-edge when it comes to compost, but not recycling. We’re kind of funny about that.”

As for her most pressing goal, Spanjian is bent on preparing Houston for the electric cars that will be hitting the market at the end of the year. That effort includes adding fast-charging public charging stations, which Spanjian hopes will encourage car companies to supply Houston with more electric cars and make residents feel more comfortable buying them.

Although she’d ideally like to reduce the use of single-occupancy vehicles and improve public transportation, “we do have a car culture, and we have to work with people where they’re at.”

Spanjian’s focus is on a comprehensive program to reduce energy, water and waste, and she’s rolling out one program next month: The Green Office Challenge, a yearlong program with different monthly themes that allows building tenants and managers to compete with one another in green initiatives. The competition is divided into management districts, and will also make use of new energy-efficiency loan programs.

Also on Spanjian’s radar? Establishing a weekday farmers market downtown, getting Houston into the top five cities for LEED-certified buildings (we’re No. 8) and promoting the environmental work Houston’s already doing.

Good luck with the downtown farmers market, especially on a weekday. It’s a tough nut to crack. As for the rest of it, as far as I’m concerned, if she can help speed up the broader rollout of single-stream recycling, I’ll consider her tenure a success no matter what.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Sullivan says:

    Laura’s goals are commendable, but I think too narrowly focused. Let us not forget that they are other “green energy” options in the market place besides electric cars. Frankly, those other options are peforming quite well and are being implimented across the country.

    We need to explore and promote natural gas vehicles as well, especially with respect to municipal, commercial, and heavy transportation markets. We are, in fact, the energy capitol of the world. We should promote our own energy sources while cleaning up our environment, reducing our operating costs, and promoting multiple options for the market place. Natural gas accomplishes those goals.

    Thank you.

    Mike Sullivan
    Houston City Council Member, District E

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