Faced with a political climate in which environmental protections may be rolled back, more than 200 people turned out Wednesday to learn about how to create a more sustainable economy, not only for the planet but also for the profit column.

Speakers at the 12th annual Sustainable Enterprise Conference held at Sonoma State University’s Student Center noted that despite current federal efforts, the overall trend in the economy is going green, especially at the state and local level.

“California has long set an example for other states to follow,” said Robert Girling, a business professor at Sonoma State University. “We are clearly now, as California, the keeper of this nation’s future.”

For instance, the state is the nation’s leader in solar energy, generating 13 percent of its electricity from the sun, while wind power now accounts for more than 6 percent. Also, more than 50 percent of all electric car owners in the U.S. live in California.

“Smart resource usage is good business,” said Carolyn Pistone, president and managing director of Clear Blue Commercial, a Petaluma property management company dedicated to environmentally responsible real estate practices.

In fact, the conference was held the same week that San Carlos-based Tesla, maker of electric cars, surpassed Ford Motor Corp. in market value.

While environmental issues typically are at the forefront of sustainability efforts, the term also encompasses areas such as labor issues and charitable efforts. One commonly cited reference, by the United Nations’ Bruntland Commission, called it “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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