San Francisco

Climate Summit a Golden Opportunity for Bay Area Innovators and Activists

The influx of climate change leaders provided an international stage for local entrepreneurs and nonprofits to show off their latest green solutions

What to Know

  • The Global Climate Action Summit was centered at the Moscone Center, but "affiliate events" sprawled out across San Francisco
  • Green transportation companies showed off their innovations by shuttling delegates to and from hotels in style
  • Talks and exhibits around the city showed off new solutions to save energy and reduce waste

Though elected leaders and Hollywood stars graced the stages of San Francisco's Moscone Center during the Global Climate Action Summit, it was outside the heavily-guarded gates to the event that the city transformed for three days into a veritable utopia of environmental advocacy.

Dozens of "affiliate events" each day clamored for the attention of dignitaries and influencers in the fight against climate change, offering food for thought and solutions to a warming planet.

Perhaps the biggest event — literally — was the presence of a 35-foot-tall polar bear standing guard over Harry Bridges Plaza along San Francisco's Embarcadero. The hulking creature's "skin" was actually made of scrapped car hoods — including a few with the Chevy logo still on them.[[493359581, C]]

City Hall played host to a flurry of demonstrations and protests, while across the street in Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco's Department of the Environment gave away reusable coffee mugs in an effort to get people thinking about paper cup waste. Steps away at the public library, the Natural Resources Defense Council spoke to a packed house about how food waste is linked to climate change.

Bay Area green tech companies came out in force, including the normally-secretive autonomous car maker Zoox. Along with electric bus maker Proterra, Zoox helped shuttle delegates from the Fairmont Hotel to the Moscone Center. Proterra hoped to show off the ease with which its buses climb San Francisco's infamous hills, while Zoox was more interested in demonstrating how its robots dodge double-parked cars and wayward pedestrians.

A pavilion full of electric vehicles filled a gallery at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, where Charge Across Town brought together car makers with the companies working on new charging solutions. Those include a giant battery on wheels to charge cars literally anywhere, and a flat device that looks like a manhole cover, but is actually a wireless charger for the car parked above it. [[493359311, C]]

Greener housing was the subject of a tour offered in the city's Potrero Hill neighborhood, where a new condo building called Sol Lux Alpha generates twice as much energy from the sun as it uses. The designers have dubbed it a "housing and transportation" solutions, since the excess power can be used to charge electric vehicles in the garage. The building is off-grid capable, so in a neighborhood power outage, everything keeps running as normal.[[493359531, C]]

A few of the delegates were younger than the rest — winners of Our Climate's Youth Step Up competition for new solutions to climate change. First place winner Michael Wong, a college student from Oakland, invented a magnetic snap-on motion sensor for light switches. The $30 device, now being sold to school districts, turns the lights off for you when you leave the room.

Watch the video above to see how the Bay Area's innovators and activists painted the town green during this international event!

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