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For nearly 50 years, CEC has incubated and innovated real life solutions that directly impact climate change. Our programs lead to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems and reduction of single-use plastic. We educate and activate the community by producing events like the annual Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.

Our Work, Our Impact

  • 100% renewable energy – After successfully working with the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta to set goals of 100% renewable energy by 2030, CEC is now connecting local governments with tools and partners to help reach these commitments.
  • Single use plastic
    We’ve successfully worked with the cities of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria to advance ordinances to ban Styrofoam containers, both for food service and retail sales. The Santa Barbara law goes into effect January 1, 2019. We are close to a plastic straw and stirrer ban in Santa Barbara and are assisting with business outreach in Goleta as part of our advocacy work for these laws there. We believe these laws are necessary to provide meaningful source reduction and to further protect our coast and wildlife from the negative impacts of single use plastics.
  • Climate resilience – As the Central Coast recovers from multiple fires and weather-related disasters, CEC is advocating for a more holistic look at the climate risks to our region – including slow- and fast-moving impacts that can affect critical infrastructure, human health and safety, and economic drivers such as agriculture, tourism and small businesses. This spring we’re building coalitions, hosting public events and engaging at-risk communities.
  • Food rescue – With about 40% of food produced in the U.S. going into landfills before it’s eaten, CEC and our partners have launched a food recovery network connecting restaurants and caterers that have excess high-quality prepared foods with charitable organizations that serve people in need.

We invite you to join our movement to create a healthy, prosperous and green Central Coast.

Download our 2018 Annual Report

Download a PDF of the accomplishments listed below.
See our History page for past achievements.


“Having the Ocean Guardians speak about their love for the ocean and the Skip the Straw campaign at a City Council meeting was truly inspiring. That night I re-watched their presentation with my two sons and we talked about the importance of kids their age taking action to protect our ocean and wildlife.”

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Eric Friedman on a CEC campaign.


“We’re proud to be a net-zero, solar-powered facility.”

Ed France, SBBike Executive Director on CEC’s new Solarize Nonprofit program, which helped install 25 solar panels on his building at no cost.


“By collaborating with CEC, we’re able to reach wider audiences and create a unified voice to demand policies that prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks. This is key in making our communities more resilient and equitable.”

Joanna Kaufman, Program Director, COAST


“The biggest energy device that a family will purchase is the automobile. We’re showing what’s available on the market today to lower your energy footprint.”

Arjun Sarkar, Green Car Show Coordinator at CEC’s Earth Day Festival 2018, where 248 people took a test drive of an electric or fuel cell vehicle, and 1,056 people took a spin on an electric bike.


“There are so many seniors in need of good food in our community, and we are thrilled to be the recipients.”

Pam Gnekow, Executive Director, Buellton Senior Center on a CEC-led food rescue network in which 200 pounds of excess high-quality food from the Chumash Casino are delivered by Veggie Rescue to the senior center each week.


“Since 1970, CEC has been a leader in creative solutions to tough environmental problems, and has acquired a well-known reputation for social change and community engagement.”

Former Vice President Al Gore, in a video praising CEC’s Earth Day Festival

Our Work

Since 1970, CEC has led the Santa Barbara region — and at times California and the nation — in creative solutions to some of the toughest environmental problems. We are often referred to as a “think-and-do tank” — deeply analyzing a problem and then applying creative, real-world solutions to it.

CEC’s process for creating social change is:

  1. Identify a critical community need,
  2. Raise awareness about that need (often by setting a challenge goal for the community),
  3. Push state and local government to change laws and regulations that affect the issue,
  4. Take direct action ourselves toward that need, and
  5. Spur the community to adopt new behaviors.

Our Vision

CEC seeks to move the Santa Barbara region away from dependence on fossil fuels in one generation – Fossil Free by ’33. We are aggressively pursuing this goal by educating and activating the community around sustainable practices, advocating for environmentally-sound policies and laws, and building partnerships with other organizations to open new pathways for sustainable transportation, energy, and food systems. Our five initiatives – Drive Less, Drive Clean, Go Solar, Ditch Plastic, Rethink Food – offer accessible pathways for the community to connect with and take action on CEC’s vision for a cleaner, healthier future.

Our Blueprint

cec-blueprint-cover-2014In 2007, CEC published a groundbreaking report, A New Energy Direction: a Blueprint for Santa Barbara County, in partnership with UCSB Economic Forecast Project, UC Berkeley, and CalPoly San Luis Obispo. This was one of the first regional carbon-neutral plans developed in the country. CEC and our partners performed an in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of our region becoming “Fossil Free.” Our five initiatives work collectively to achieve the goals set forth in the blueprint.

We found that transitioning away from fossil fuels would actually save money over the long term. The savings come mostly from avoided energy costs through energy efficiency and conservation, but also from the fact that renewable energy can cost less than fossil fuels even today (wind power, in particular) — and in the future renewable energy technologies will become even more cost-effective.  While there are some uncertainties, our economic advisors maintain that transitioning away from fossil fuels pays off through avoided energy, lower electricity costs, and job creation.

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