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August 15, 2022

Sustainable from the Start

by Cheri Chastain, Director of Sustainability at Somers West

As a new town, we have the opportunity to start with a blank slate and create a community that outperforms even the most sustainable cities. Over my past 20 years as a sustainability professional, I have had to unwind and rewire long-established systems – often finding resistance to change along the way.  However, those barriers simply don’t exist at Braden because we have the ability to build from the ground up rather than attempting to retrofit existing systems.  We can take a whole new approach to development, thinking outside the conventional box, and challenging the status quo.  We can partner with other innovative thinkers to meet head-on the challenges of our time. 

I’m grateful for the broad depth of perspectives and skills I’ve gained from my prior roles building the sustainability programs at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and at Chico State University, as well as my long stint serving on the City of Chico’s Climate Action Commission, and as a board member of a bicycle advocacy non-profit. To achieve Braden’s forecasted 2.5 metric tons of CO2e per capita, I am calling upon all my past experiences as we lay the foundation for what will be a model for how new communities can and should be built.

Building in California makes this easier, of course. The state is a leader in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. The state building and energy code requirements as well as ambitious targets from Sacramento County and service providers like SMUD, go a long way. However, unlike other planned communities, Braden is thinking beyond carbon credits to achieve climate balance through actual performance.

Bar graph showing Braden's path to carbon reduction
Braden’s carbon reduction strategy relies upon additional investments and key decisions to intentionally drive down greenhouse gas emissions

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical if we are to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.  At Braden, we are curbing emissions by focusing on decarbonizing our energy systems, improving access to and use of alternative modes of transportation, and protecting and preserving carbon sequestering open spaces.  

But another concerning climate change consequence is acute weather events. Like the entire region, Braden will continue to experience increasingly frequent extreme heat, prolonged droughts, threats of wildfires, and intermittent periods of floods. Our climate action strategies include investments that will help Braden remain resilient to these events.  Stay tuned for my future posts outlining the specifics of Braden’s holistic approach to greenhouse gas reductions and climate resilience.

Braden is taking a holistic approach to achieve climate balance by focusing on factors that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implementing strategies to build resilience to climate events

Braden’s fine-grained mix of housing, corporate tenants, retail, restaurants, and small businesses—together with those involved in our schools and recreational amenities – will introduce a variety of stakeholders with diverse priorities and perspectives. We are already building relationships and partnerships with individuals and organizations who are aligned with Braden’s ethos of sustainability, inclusivity, and community. Through cooperation and collaboration, our aligned community will find ways to maximize efficiencies of scale, and work together in adapting to and living with our changing climate and weather patterns. 

Over the course of my career and through my community involvement, I have sat on virtually every side of this multi-faceted sustainability table. No matter what my role has been, patience and persistence are always at the core of my work. Getting it right takes time and hard work, but I’m confident we can create a place that helps all stakeholders meet their own environmental, economic, and social aspirations — and am excited to be part of the Braden team.

Stay tuned for more updates on Braden’s climate action implementations.