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All real change is local. You can help provide sustainable projects to Central Coast communities.

Sustainable Cities - The Role of Local Governments

Local governments are a little challenged these days, worried about their budgets, or gangs, or fundamental infrastructure. So who has time to worry about sustainability? It's a concept out of the comfort zone, cities don't even know what department ought to be paying attention to sustainability. Does it fit in environmental health or public works or the building department? What the heck is a climate action plan anyway, and who is going to train "green building" inspectors? Whatever sustainability requires, if it takes money. it'll have to wait.

But those who have been pestered by citizens or prodded by enlightened leaders have pursued progress in the sustainability direction anyway. Some cities have signed the Urban Environmental Accords and the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement initiated in Seattle. These lay out progressive steps for cities, making the path clearer. Some cities are working with the international non-profit called "Local Governments for Sustainability" (, which offers a good toolbox to help cities figure out how to do this. Others hire consultants experienced with measuring local carbon impacts and constructing Climate Action Plans.

So what things can cities and counties do to advance a sustainability agenda? Here's a start: Local governments can set the example when they

  1. Conduct energy audits of the buildings they own and take steps to make them more energy efficient. These include switching out old fashion florescent lights for smaller modern ones (this alone saves a lot of money in utility bills); older exit signs and exterior lighting for LED versions; weather-striping; and installing programmable thermostats and room lighting sensors.
  2. Reduce their own water use and waste generation by installing simple water-saving devices and appliances inside and out, reviewing standard procedures for possible improvements, and auditing their waste stream practices, by for example, setting all copy machines to print double-sided.
  3. Develop green procurement policies and practices. Buy recycled content paper, non-toxic carpets and paints, hybrid vehicle fleets when replacement is due, gardening tools & materials that replace pesticides and artificial fertilizers, green electricity or solar cells.
  4. Make a local Climate Action Plan for the whole jurisdiction, finding those big sources of carbon dioxide emissions, and all the small non-point sources, and laying out ideas and steps to take to reduce those emissions city-wide.
  5. Develop voluntary green building guidelines, experimental programs developed collaboratively with the whole community, including builders and designers, get this ball rolling. Participate in the local U.S. Green Building Council Chapter (this is a national non-profit which sets voluntary standards).

If every city did all this, we would be very far along the way to local sustainability. Notice that not one of these actions is regulatory in nature. And there are as many savings as costs in that list. It just takes a little passion to pursue sustainability!- L. A. Strohm