OPINION: SSCC’s 20th anniversary time for reflection and thanks

All Americans benefit when we support domestic fuels. Reducing dependence on imported oil strengthens the nation’s energy security and improves air quality. In many ways, it helps us all breathe a little easier.

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Each June as Father’s Day approaches, I think back on the lives of my two now-adult sons with joy and thankfulness at being able to say I’m their Dad.

Reflection and thanks are always important, but it often takes an event – be it happy or sad — to make them happen. We are marking a professional milestone this month that is cause for reflection and thanks. South Shore Clean Cities (SSCC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. I’ve been privileged to serve as executive director for the past 14 of those 20 years and am thankful for the blessings that have come from it, especially the friendships that have formed along the way.

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SSCC is a nonprofit, member-based coalition dedicated to promoting sustainable transportation in Northern Indiana. It was designated as the 71st Clean Cities coalition on June 15, 1999 and is now one of nearly 100 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalitions. The organizations partner with members in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to increase the use and implementation of sustainable transportation methods and their infrastructure.

SSCC began as an idea by leaders at NIPSCO, who provided the support necessary to incorporate as a nonprofit in 1999. I had the pleasure of becoming co-coordinator of South Shore Clean Cities in 2005 with my wife, Lorrie. In 2011, Lorrie was named executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities — which covers the entire state of Wisconsin — leaving me the sole coordinator for SSCC.

SSCC has seen tremendous growth over the past 20 years. Our membership is now five times what it was in 2005. We’ve assisted members in successfully acquiring more than $90 million in grant funding. In the last decade alone, our members have reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 175,000 passenger vehicles from the road for one year and eliminating the use nearly 2 million barrels of oil.

Seeing electric vehicles charging today at any of the 159 public charging stations we helped NIPSCO deploy in 2013-14 is a great feeling. Passing municipal vehicles on the road running on clean-burning compressed natural gas and knowing we helped acquire the grant funding needed to make them a reality is rewarding. Watching children riding on propane-fueled buses funded by the BP Cleaner Air through Diesel Emissions Reductions (BP CADER) grant program we managed brings a great sense of pride. Seeing ethanol pumps at area fueling stations made possible through grants we helped write is fantastic.

But the joy we feel isn’t for ourselves. In some ways, it isn’t even about organizations that implemented the projects. We know the sustainability initiatives cut fuel and maintenance costs, support local jobs and the local economy, but the reality is, the projects help all of us far beyond the our own backyards.

All Americans benefit when we support domestic fuels. Reducing dependence on imported oil strengthens the nation’s energy security and improves air quality. In many ways, it helps us all breathe a little easier. I think that’s something we can all be proud of.

As we stop to reflect on the last 20 years, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of our members, partners and board members past and present for their work in achieving these successes. You can thank them as well. Please go to our Website at www.southshorecleancities.org, look at our member listings and consider patronizing their businesses, supporting their nonprofits and spending time and money in their communities. Supporting them supports the sustainable initiatives that benefit us all.

A SSCC 20th Anniversary Celebration will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 18 at Avalon Manor, 3550 E. Lincoln Highway in Merrillville. The event is free thanks to the generous support of sponsors, but registration is required. Registration is available online at https://conta.cc/2W6Dbf6.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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