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The start of a new year is filled with optimism, a time to begin anew with a clean slate and hope for a better tomorrow.

Those of us in the environmental sector are in the business of hope. Much of our work in the sustainable transportation and clean energy sectors is focused on long-term, cumulative solutions. While the results are undoubtedly measurable — in emissions reductions, cost savings and improved air quality — they aren’t always easy to envision. What do improved air quality and domestic energy security look like?

Hope is what keeps us moving forward, that belief that tomorrow will be better than today, that our work is making a difference, that future generations will benefit from our efforts.

It’s people like the small business owner who can more easily make budget thanks to grant funding for implementing green practices. They cement our hope for a better tomorrow.

These are the members and partners we tend to know well, the people we work with one-on-one to implement new programs.

But the true hope comes into play with those we, our members and partners will likely never see face to face. It’s the mother not having to worry about supporting her family because her job in the clean energy sector is secure. She feeds our hope.

We haven’t met her, but we know she’s there.

We may never know the little girl who no longer has to carry an inhaler to control her asthma every day thanks to our members’ clean air efforts.

But we know she’s out there. We’re certain of it.

The American poet Lucy Larcom wrote, “He who plants a tree, plants hope.” Every time you choose sustainable modes of transportation and fueling or clean energy options, you are planting the seeds of hope for a better tomorrow.

South Shore Clean Cities celebrates our members in the public, private and nonprofit sectors each year at our Annual Meeting & Awards. This year’s ceremony, set for Feb. 20 is expected to draw more than 300 of the top industry leaders and elected officials in the Midwest.

The event will include information about the latest sustainable technologies, details about grant funding opportunities for future projects, a wide variety of displays of the latest models of sustainable transportation vehicles and green products and services.

The South Shore Clean Cities Annual Meeting & Awards is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Blue Chip Stardust Event Center, 777 Blue Chip Drive, Michigan City.

Registration is $35 for an individual and $300 for a table of 10. Sponsorship and vendor/exhibit booth opportunities also are available.

Registration, sponsorship and vendor/display booth reservations are available online at

Anyone is welcome to attend: anyone with hope for a better tomorrow; who wants to be part of something bigger than themselves; who wants to hear directly from those who have benefitted for their businesses, taxpayers and nonprofit agencies by getting involved; and who is ready to begin their legacy (it’s never too late).

Also welcome is anyone who thinks it’s all a bunch of hooey. They’re welcome, too. We have hope we can convince them otherwise.

Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.