Unsung hero: Arlis Reynolds puts her energy into ‘green’ living

The power of one person pursuing a cause can be just as powerful as a group working together.

You could say Costa Mesa resident Arlis Reynolds, 32, is proof of that when it comes to being “green.”

She limits her driving time, recycles what she can and composts green waste. While California residents typically pay about $95 a month on their electricity bills, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Reynolds says she forks over less than $5 monthly. She even stopped using single-use straws.

“You try to be conscious of it all,” said Reynolds, an engineer for Cadmus Group, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm that specializes in energy efficiency and clean energy programs.


Editor’s note: This is an installment of Unsung Heroes, a new annual feature that highlights otherwise overlooked members of the community.


Reynolds grew up in Costa Mesa. Her parents instilled habits such as recycling, hanging clothes to dry and conserving water.

“We’re not materialistic,” said Olga Reynolds, Arlis’ mother. “They were raised without a TV, so they had to go out and create their own entertainment.”

That led Arlis and her older brother to develop a love for nature and the outdoors.

In 2002, Arlis Reynolds moved to Boston, where she attended MIT and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Though she wasn’t consciously making choices to promote sustainability, she did a lot of things out of habit, like turning off the lights and having the windows closed with the heater on, she said.

“It’s certainly admirable. Kids these days can do lots of things,” said Olga Reynolds, of Costa Mesa. “But Arlis chose to spend her time and energy helping other people see how important it is to save what we can of nature before it’s too late.”

When it came time to choose a job, Arlis Reynolds looked for something in which she felt she could do social good. Reynolds stayed on the East Coast, working in energy efficiency for a utility company in Massachusetts. A few years later, she joined Cadmus Group.

When she moved back to Costa Mesa, Reynolds joined a local effort to halt a development proposal at Banning Ranch in Newport Beach.

“Arlis was glue that held the group together,” said Costa Mesa resident Bill McCarty, an independent video producer.

In September, the California Coastal Commission denied a plan to build 895 homes, a 75-room hotel, a 20-bed hostel and 45,100 square feet of retail space on part of the 401-acre coastal property. Two months later, developer Newport Banning Ranch LLC filed a lawsuit challenging the denial and requesting damages of at least $490 million.

“Every individual every day has a chance to influence somebody, and over time that creates change on its own,” Reynolds said. “Everyone can make a little dent.”

That isn’t to say it’s easy, she said.

“The doubt creeps in. ... Do we really have what it takes? Can I really do this as an individual?” she said.

“But little victories are so important. ... Those provide the chain of evidence that you can do something.”


Nuran Alteir is a contributor to Times Community News.

Twitter: @whatnuransaid