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The Future of Higher Education's Role in Saving the Planet

Published September 13, 2018

Join us for an inspiring evening in preparation of Beach 2030 with guest speaker Matt Petersen, CEO of Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator (LACI) and former Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of LA. A CSU alum himself, Petersen will share lessons learned from his long career on the front lines of the environmental movement, and insights about the emerging clean technologies and green jobs that will reshape our tomorrow.

Don’t miss these other Sustainability Month events happening throughout October! 

About Matt Petersen

bradFor nearly three decades, Petersen has worked to find innovative solutions to some of the Earth’s most pressing problems. Having spent 25 years working at the top levels of city government, nonprofits, and campaigns, Petersen recently turned his focus to help mobilize business solutions to tackling climate change as President and CEO of the nonprofit organization the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which is creating an inclusive green economy through incubating startups (currently 32 companies), transforming markets with partners in transportation and energy, and bringing the benefits of clean technology to low income communities.

Previously, Petersen was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013 as the City of Los Angeles' first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer. In that role, he was the architect of the award-winning Sustainable City pLAn, a comprehensive roadmap for improving Los Angeles' environment and economy while improving social equity. In his final months in the role, the City had already met 90% of their 2017 targets ahead of schedule, including record water conservation solar power, and EVs. He also helped Garcetti create Climate Mayors, a network of U.S. mayors who are adopting the Paris Climate Agreement in their cities.


Petersen is a national environmental leader and social entrepreneur who previously headed Global Green USA for many years. While at Global Green, Petersen turned his “crazy idea” for the green rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina into the construction of the Holy Cross Project, a sustainable village of 5 LEED Platinum homes and a LEED Gold community center in the Lower 9th Ward—the design came from a design competition he chaired with Brad Pitt. Matt also secured a $2 million grant from the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund that led to all new and rehabilitated schools to meet LEED Silver or better.

Petersen later mobilized resources to help in the Haiti rebuilding (i.e., 2 containers full of solar used by World Vision, Habitat for Humanity and others in Haiti), as well as Solar for Sandy which led to 5 solar battery backup systems being installed in community centers. Petersen was also an instrumental force in connecting the power Hollywood to bring attention to solutions to climate change and worked with Pitt, James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Salma Hayek, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rosario Dawson, and many others.

Petersen has long called for individuals to reclaim their role as citizens, and take responsibility for a corner of their world. Recently, Petersen launched Citizen E on his 50th birthday to find and support citizen entrepreneurs who are championing catalytic projects in their community, while connecting to the bigger issues in the world.

An authority on energy, sustainability, and social innovation, Petersen has lectured around the world and has appeared on Oprah, the TODAY Show, CBS Morning Show, ABC Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, ABC News, CNN, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, E!, and numerous other programs. Petersen has been quoted in the New York Times, the Guardian, LA Times, Washington Post, AP, Christian Science Monitor, PeopleAtlantic Monthly, and dozens of other outlets as well as having been featured in TIME, Angeleno Magazine, Green Biz, Outside Magazine, Architectural Record, and others.

He currently serves as board chair of Climate Mayors and Citizen E, & sits on the boards of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, the Center for Environmental Health, and The Hillary Institute. He's also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Pacific Council on International Policy. Petersen lives in Santa Monica with his teenage son and is a retired AYSO soccer coach.