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Claremont’s sustainability ace receives congressional award

For Freeman Allen, reducing his carbon footprint and living sustainably has driven his lifestyle. It’s a philosophy he has shared with the city of Claremont for decades.

As a result of his constant effort to create a greener community, he was recently recognized as a community activist of the year by Congressmember Judy Chu.

Mr. Allen’s love for the environment began while studying at UC Berkeley. During his time there he was heavily involved in outdoor activities and sustainability efforts.

In 1954, he accepted a position in the Pomona College chemistry department, and he quickly discovered the water and air quality in Southern California was not up to par.

“The air quality was so bad,” said Mr. Allen. “All that led to me getting involved with air quality issues.”

In light of his observation, Mr. Allen began lobbying to implement sustainability into the city’s general plan and had been reading about transition towns that were being formed in England.

The transition town movement was grassroots and aimed to help increase a community’s self-sufficiency.

“They worked independently from the city but worked very close to the city,” said Mr. Allen. “And they promoted a lot of community sustainability, which was one thing that really attracted me.”

Mr. Allen was working closely with Ms. Chu and he proposed the idea of starting an environmental nonprofit in the city of Claremont.

This lead to the birth of Sustainable Claremont.

“Freeman’s leadership was instrumental,” Ms. Chu said.

Sustainable Claremont began with the concept of selecting a handful of issues and then working closely with the city to get them resolved through action groups.

“We found people that wanted to take on those groups,” said Mr. Allen. “Some of the action groups are still in existence today.”

Mr. Allen has dedicated a large part of his time to air quality and water issues in Claremont, but more recently, he has been exploring food waste and composting models that he hopes will be implemented in the city in the coming years.

“I would like to see the city move forward with food waste and composting,” Mr. Allen said. “ It seems like a great model to use here in Claremont.”

In addition to Mr. Allen’s efforts with Sustainable Claremont, he has been a contributor to the Claremont COURIER through launching the column “Demystifying Sustainability,” with colleague Sue Schenk and by launching the popular dialogue series on environmental issues.

In addition to his work with Sustainable Claremont, Mr. Allen has been active with the Citizens Advisory Committee of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area.

Mr. Allen, who turned 90 this year, is pleased with where Sustainable Claremont is heading and how well the community has responded to it.

“I’m most proud that sustainability has prospered and the Sustainable Claremont staff is working with the city,” said Mr. Allen.

—Jacqueline Pinedo

intern@claremont-courier.com