Paul Relis became the founding Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council in 1970, a year after the infamous Santa Barbara Oil Spill of January 28, 1969. Along with wife Kathy and other colleagues, he established the Santa Barbara Ecology Center that included a bookstore featuring the outpouring of new environmental literature, a public meeting center and environmental displays. The Ecology Center was the headquarters for the CEC magazine, “The Survival Times” that offered readers in-depth stories on local, regional and national environmental literature.
In quick succession, Paul led the CEC to establish the Chapala Garden, an organic garden in the heart of the downtown, Santa Barbara Earth Day, and the El Mirasol Polyculture Farm, an environmental education center. In the mid 1970s Paul worked with CEC’s then co-director and later Santa Barbara Mayor, Hal Conklin, to develop recycling in Santa Barbara and later an environmental think tank, the Gildea Center. It was CEC’s pioneering work in developing recycling programs and policies that led Governor Pete Wilson to appoint Paul to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, an executive position in the California Environmental Protection Agency where he oversaw the implementation of California’s far reaching recycling and composting programs from 1991-1998.
Since 1998 Paul has served as Senior Vice President of an environmental services company in Southern California where he has led the development of technology to convert the organic portion of municipal waste to renewable natural gas and soil products–a zero waste technology. He has written many articles on a wide range of environmental topics and remains very involved in California’s recycling and renewable energy programs.
He has been a Lecturer at UCSB, his alma mater, since he was appointed to that position in 1996.
Paul served as a Board Member of the CEC from 1998 until 2010, and served as Board President from 2005-2006. He resigned from the Board in 2010 after forty years of involvement in all aspects of CEC’s endeavors. He continues to provide financial support and expertise to the group.