The Energy and Sustainability Services Manager For Costa Mesa Tells Us About Her Role

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

The realities of the global climate crisis can seem overwhelming. Every day, there’s new information about how the environment and human health are being threatened. And the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic has people wondering about possible parallels.

But there are plenty of Orange County residents fighting to make positive change. We highlight that great work here—from green businesses and university researchers to volunteer groups and civil servants. Passionate locals are working together to create a sustainable future; let them inspire you to take action in ways large and small.

Salem Afeworki is the energy and sustainability services manager for Costa Mesa.

Why was your position created?
There was a growing need. California is known for setting very aggressive goals, whether it’s on energy efficiency, greenhouse-gas reduction, (or) how many electric vehicles we should have. Then we have to actually achieve those goals. There is a top-down requirement to do these things, and you have to have that skill set in-house to do them. Second is the residents are asking for it. People are going to council meetings and saying, “We want energy efficiency, we want to be responsible with our funds, with our expenditure as a city—so what can we do to be more energy efficient to cut down costs?”

Tell us about your role.
We look at everything related to sustainability, including energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and community choice energy. Also transportation, including electric charging stations, electric buses, all those things, because we’re going to be moving to more electric.

What about waste management?
The state has a very aggressive goal for waste management. We have to increase our recycling and do a better job with composting, which is organic waste. We have to do a few things first to make it easy for people. We have to provide the infrastructure needed, and then education is another big piece.

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