The Urban Alliance for Sustainability: A United Front for Change

integrate and Inspire the Sustainability MovementThe main mission of the Urban Alliance for Sustainability is inherent in its very name.

“Our goal is to integrate and inspire the sustainability movement” added Melissa Plotkin, volunteer coordinator of the Urban Alliance for Sustainability (UAS).

Melissa and I met on a sunny Tuesday morning last week over a jolt of coffee to discuss the growing organization, it’s mission, the challenges UAS faces, and their work building community and helping unite the oft-times far-flung sustainability movement in the Bay Area.  

In practical terms the goal of UAS is to connect individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups as a means of sharing resources, fostering collaboration, and reducing overlapping efforts. A kind of “efficiency of purpose”.

Instead of a single-issue advocacy group, the UAS is an umbrella organization designed to educate and enable a more “united front” amongst businesses, individuals, and advocacy groups interested creating a sustainable society.

That’s a pretty tall order and Melissa attests to the difficulty at times in explaining the UAS mission to folks accustomed to one-cause sound bites  -the elevator speech doesn’t always come quite as easily.

Nonetheless, Melissa had it well in hand with “integrate and inspire”.

The job of UAS is to bring to bear the resources of the entire environmental and sustainability movement… from educating people interested in lightening their eco-footprint, to promoting greener building design or encouraging greater innovation and use of renewable energy. Whatever it may be, there are unseen and mutually beneficial relationships that UAS can bring to light and help cultivate.”

But how? 

One Database Entry – One Community – One Relationship – at Time

One of the core efforts of UAS is the Mapping the Ecology of the Sustainability Movement (MEM) project. 

MEM consists of a database of more than 650 organizations, including non-profits, civic departments, neighborhood associations, green businesses, and other organizations that dedicate their time and energy to one or more aspects of sustainability.  The database is a work in progress, where the MEM staff is constantly talking to organizations in the sustainability movement updating their profiles and facilitating connections that will strengthen their missions.

In particular, MEM seeks to:

  • Determine the core needs of organizations, overlapping efforts, unrealized relationships, shared policy priorities, surplus resources
  • Reconnect with all the organizations over time to report on currently unrealized relationships, helping to direct action and policy allies
  • Facilitate connections between allies for more effective, aligned policy advocacy and action 

In addition to the MEM project, UAS is developing three overall programs to help achieve its goal to “integrate and inspire” including

  • Community Facilitation – bringing people. business, and organizations together
  • Community Education – through its newsletter, website, and what UAS calls “playshops” or learning opportunities for individuals and businesses
  • Convergence Centers – showcasing sustainable living and business practices, and organizing sustainable business partnerships

UAS is structured as a cooperative with a Board of Directors and currently is run by a core group of committed volunteers (like Melissa).

UAS’ community building efforts include numerous events it sponsors or promotes including their monthly “Green Movie Night and Forum”.

Memberships to UAS range from Active Ally (free) on up to Sustaining Ally ($240+). Benefits include “Eco-nnect” that provides “timely answers to all your sustainability questions” and a one-on-one “Sustainability Consultation” that can include anything from ways of reducing your personal footprint to advice on finding a green job.  

UAS is an organization founded on a positive vision and an enthusiastic desire to make a difference – and to actually do something about that desire. Melissa embodied the spirit of UAS for me and I came away from our meeting feeling just a bit more integrated and inspired myself.

If you’re interested in the MEM project or wish to have your business or organization listed in the MEM database, contact Katrina at ‘katrina[at]’.

UAS depends on the spirit of volunteerism to advance its mission of creating sustainability. If that spirit is calling you, there are many opportunities available to offer your time and talent to the cause.

For more information on how you can help please contact Melissa at ‘melissa[at]’ – she’d love to here from you. 

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

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