Never Stopping: Forum Spotlight on Lauren Riga
At age 27, Lauren Riga isn’t stopping: She’s been appointed the Director of Green Urbanism & Environmental Affairs for the City of Gary, Indiana; she teaches sustainability courses at Valparaiso University’s Graduate School of Business; and, she was selected for the 2012 Urban Sustainability Leadership Academy (USLA).
Lauren also won a Sustainability Best Practices Award for the City from the Great Lakes Cities Initiative and Wege Foundation. She writes a column for Energy Biz – an award-winning energy industry publication, and she even hosts her own radio show called Sustainability 101.
In addition to this impressive roster, Lauren was also one of 17 young future leaders participating in the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030. Many might recall her presentation on enhanced geothermal power alongside Dr. Robin Batterham, former Chief Scientist of Australia, at the conclusion of the Summit.
One year after the event, we asked Lauren how her life is post-Equinox and what she has been working on.
Q: What has been your biggest learning experience during the past year?
My biggest learning experience this past year is learning how to maintain my own “sustainability”; figuring out how to balance my professional and personal life. It’s easy to get immersed in work when you’re doing something you love.
Q: Can you tell us about your current position and responsibilities?
I am the director of Green Urbanism and Environmental Affairs for the City of Gary, Indiana. My department is responsible for regulating activities that affect our air, land and water; as well as advance sustainability initiatives such as smart growth, renewable energy and green building to help transition into a “green economy” and improve citizens’ quality of life. Some of the new initiatives we’ve launched are: green infrastructure programs, energy efficiency, urban agriculture, “green jobs” and repurposing vacant lands.
I am responsible for educating our internal and external stakeholders on breaking down silos and plan efforts in a comprehensive approach. Full spectrum sustainability addresses environmental, social and economic matters cohesively. I also build relationships with local, regional and national stakeholders to advance sustainability initiatives and share experiences.
Q: What are some of the current projects you are working on relating to energy and sustainability?
I am working with the city administration and partners on a potential waste-to-energy facility. I am also working with local utility company on energy efficiency awareness campaign and energy reduction strategy for the city. Our local utility company is very progressive when it comes to their green initiatives, which include energy efficiency campaigns, development of comprehensive energy efficiency and demand-side management strategy for the city’s municipal, commercial and residential buildings, and the promotion of incentives for renewables and so on.
Q: Moving forward, what would you like to do in the energy space? What is your dream project?
There are a few dreams I have related to the future of energy. Broadly speaking, so much energy is wasted during production and consumption, I would like to improve technology to capture, store and use that energy, as well as work on the policy initiatives needed to make that happen.
Q: Any other thoughts you would like to share?
I think that an interdisciplinary approach to 21st century issues is needed to effectively tackle the problems and potential pathway solutions. WGSI truly understands the importance of this and how to convene the right combination of individuals for an impactful journey into addressing major global issues.
Photo: Lauren Riga at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) [Credit: Jhayne Holmes]