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Meet Common Current Bios

Warren Karlenzig with Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, author of United Nations "Our Common Future" (or "The Brundtland Report"), which introduced the concept and definition of "Sustainable Development" to the world in 1987.
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has catalyzed sustainable, smart and resilient city development policy and programs in Asia, North America and the European Union, as well as has advised the United Nations and the World Bank in global urban innovations.

  • United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs / People's Republic of China (Shanghai Manual: Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century);
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/ China Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (national "Low-Carbon Eco-City" Key Performance Indicators, 663 cities)
  • Global Forum on Human Settlements (Shenzhen, China);
  • Guangzhou Planning Agency (Nansha Ecocity sustainability master planning);
  • US Department of State (diplomatic tours of Austria, 2014, and South Korea, 2007, presenting to national + urban leaders on sustainable/ smart cities);
  • Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (Seoul, South Korea);
  • The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (sustainability planning, nation's first LEED Platinum, net zero building);
  • United Nations Center for Regional Development (sustainability planning and management training for mayors from 12 Asian nations);
  • UNCRD/ Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs ("Tohoku Tsunami Region Green Reconstruction Master Planning");
  • Nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics");
  • European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative");
  • Eco-City Builders (International Ecocity Framework and Standards);
  • State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans");
  • Major cities; and the world's largest corporations (development of policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities).
Warren has appeared in media including The Wall Street Journal, China Daily, CNN, CNBC, Forbes, The New York Times and The Washington Post. The former Chief Strategy Officer of SustainLane, he devised, planned, designed and directed both the SustainLane US City Rankings and the SustainLane Government knowledge base for sustainability best practices in state and local governments. As Lead Strategist for Dimension Data/ Proxicom, Warren led executive-level strategy engagements for clients including General Electric and Chevron. His area of expertise included developing corporate knowledge management initiatives directly impacting corporate governance, supported by systems utilizing complex intellectual property information and data management. Warren previously served as editor-in-chief for Knowledge Management magazine. He has been a consultant with clients including the White House Office of Science and Technology, for which he helped plan an eco-industrial park; the US EPA Futures Group and the US Department of Energy. He authored A Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, the first substantial work on the subject (Global Green USA, 1999) and he co-authored San Francisco's influential Sustainability Plan, which was adopted by the city in 1997. The section he co-authored ("Economy and Economic Development") was directly cited in San Francisco's 1999 and 2003 green building ordinances.

How Green is Your City?, which Warren authored, was published in 2007 by New Society Publishers, and he contributed sections to The Post Carbon Reader (University of California Press, 2010) and Growing Greener Cities: Urban Sustainability in the 21st Century published in 2008 by the University of Pennsylvania Press and the Wharton School of Business. Warren is on the Boards of The Climate Change Center and the Korea Green Foundation. He has an MFA from Naropa University and a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has lectured at Stanford University, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Seoul National University, and regularly lectures at UC Berkeley (Haas School of Business and Environmental Science Department). He is a Fellow with The Post Carbon Institute.

What People are Saying About Common Current:

"Warren Karlenzig of Common Current has been a tremendous help in teaching our students about sustainability. Warren gave a stimulating and highly informative guest lecture for my Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering China Energy Systems class. Through his network, Warren also helped us plan and facilitate a visit of our 30-student field trip to China, for a special tour of China's Tianjin Eco-City."

--Consulting Associate Professor Karl Knapp,
Stanford University

"It's great to know that green cities leadership is right at our doorstep."

--Gene Schnair, Partner: Skidmore,
Owings + Merrill urban planners
and architects

"Warren Karlenzig of Common Current is a great resource for sustainable urbanization trends and solutions. He was a productive collaborator with the United Nations in the development of the Shanghai Manual on sustainable urban development, and serves as a valuable trainer in capacity building workshops. His considerable experience in indicators for sustainable cities can help ensure accountability in urban planning and projects. He is insightful, pragmatic and media savvy."

--Mohan Peck, Focal Point for Sustainable Cities
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations, New York

"(The Shanghai Manual on Sustainable Cities co-authored by Common Current's Warren Karlenzig) details the experience and practices of cities across the world in addressing common challenges and achieving harmonious development ... and is therefore of great theoretical and practical value."

-- Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng (at the publication's

"(The Shanghai Manual) is the most precious legacy of the 2010 Shanghai Expo."

-- Vicente Loscertales, Secretary
General, World Expo Bureau

"Common Current has its finger on the pulse of complex urban sustainability issues worldwide. Warren Karlenzig is able to both access and assess this rapidly evolving field with clarity and confidence. His analysis and recommendations for Ecocity Builders' International Ecocity Framework and Standards Initiative helped us quickly analyze the full range of options and opportunities available to us and enabled us to chart the best course forward."

-- Kirstin Miller, Executive Director, Ecocity Builders

"NRDC has chosen sustainable communities as one of its strategic priorities for the next five years. Karlenzig’s advice seems right on target as we further refine that agenda."

--F. Kaid Benfield, NRDC Smart Growth Director

"Warren is the creator and lead author of SustainLane's US City Rankings. I've been in the sustainability business for 15 or 20 years now. And these types of rankings have been tried dozens and dozens of times and this in my opinion is the best one in terms of its rigor and how much care they've given to apples-to-apples comparisons. A lot of that comes from Warren's commitment."

--Steve Nicholas, Vice President of Climate and
Environmental Programs, Institute for Sustainable
Communities; former Seattle Sustainability Director

"How Green is Your City? is the first systematic report card measuring city quality of life combined with resource impacts....I believe the methodology will become international, and none too soon."

--Paul Hawken, author of Ecology of Commerce
and Blessed Unrest

"How Green is Your City? provides the first benchmark quantifying and qualifying management innovation and the performance of American cities as they seek to define what sustainability is."

--Hunter Lovins, Founder, Natural Capitalism, Inc.;
   co-author of Natural Capitalism

"Warren is one of the country's leading experts on sustainable planning. He has been instrumental in helping the California Department of Conservation choose our recycling communities using sustainability criteria. I have found his work to be really helpful, thoughtful and thorough."

--Bridgett Luther, Executive Director of Cradle-to-Cradle
Institute, Former Director of California Department of

Ken's photo Kenneth Ott (Associate) is a sustainability metrics and trends researcher. Originally a suburbanite, he learned about sustainability firsthand while working in Asia, seeing how people in other countries managed their far less abundant resources -- primarily fossil fuel energy but also metal, wood, food and so on.

Throughout the region -- in Japan, China, Thailand and Cambodia -- Ken discovered the joys and perils of bicycling and taking the ferry, bus and train as socially ordinary transportation options for the majority of the populace. Walking of course, and water transport, proved the most sustainable of all transport modes. Elephants were novel, though not scalable, mass transit options. These experiences coupled with travel in Europe and South America have provided insight into how the US should improve its historically wasteful management of energy, water and other key resources to "set a better example for other countries" and strengthen its own economy.

Upon returning stateside Ken set out to start a restaurant grease collection company to produce biodiesel. Instead, he joined Bay Area Biofuel, an existing startup of like-minded entrepreneurs. Later, he sold his last remaining car in 2006. (At one point, Ken owned three cars and a moped.) Additional sustainability work has included stints as a consultant to the California Department of Conservation, consulting for a large real estate developer; and, US city sustainability research, project management, and reporting on sustainability trends for SustainLane by working with the largest US city mayors and their staff. Current and past side projects include: selling organic ice cream at farmers markets and forageSF, blogging about urban planning and suburban sustainability retrofitting efforts, operating a cycle rickshaw business in downtown Oakland and organic farming.

Ken earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a Board Member for Urban Releaf, an urban forestry research and tree planting organization based in Oakland, California, since 2008.

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