editorial: when I completely revamped my blog in 2017, I found this old post and thought it worth keeping
- Pollution Prevention
- Solid Waste
- Building Water Consumption
- Building Energy Consumption
- Transportation Alternatives
- New Development
- Natural Resources
- Local Culture
- Social Equity
Preventing pollution is key to ensuring the health and safety of the environment. Citizen awareness of pollution prevention is already high, yet work remains to prevent pollution of all forms especially: non-biodegradable litter, household and business chemicals, petroleum products, and construction waste.
Reducing solid waste generation is a top priority. A good percentage of items that end up as solid waste can be recycled and/or composted (some can be re-used as “one man’s trash is another’s treasure”). Many areas have made efforts to reduce solid waste by developing recycling and/or composting programs. However, citizens and businesses may not use these programs to their fullest.
Building Water Consumption and Discharge
Reasons abound for reducing water consumption and discharge from buildings. Water is often wasted – either sinks or toilets are leaking or left running when not in use. This presents a drain on fresh water sources and causes energy to be wasted for pumping, heating, and cleaning water. Another good reason to address water waste is to reduce the expense to the local government and its citizens. “Water and wastewater energy consumption can be between 30 and 60 percent of a municipality’s energy bill”.1 So, reducing water waste is not only good for the environment on water terms, but it can also reduce electricity consumption (and related environmental impacts) while lowering the tax burden of water and sewer services.
Building Energy Consumption
Lights, heat, appliances, ventilation, water heating, etc. are energy services consumed in buildings – generally made possible by electricity or natural gas. Energy is often wasted in buildings even though there are often simple interventions that will reduce energy consumption. Making buildings more efficient can reduce energy consumption – ensuring future generations have access to energy sources and a cleaner environment.
The easiest way to improve the overall sustainability of an area is to make it walkable or at least bike-able for the average citizen. If citizens cannot easily get around without their cars, THEY WON’T. Transportation sustainability is not complete with public transportation, car pools, and telecommuting programs. Innovative and safe alternative transportation routes are necessary.
New development should merge seamlessly with the rest of the area. This does not mean that there should be no new development or that new development should look old. Rather, it means that new development should not significantly change the character or environmental footprint of the area. As such, new development should fill in commercial and residential areas. Mixed-use developments and pedestrian friendly development – adjacent to other developed areas (not all by itself) should be encouraged. Sustainable new development relies on thoughtful land-use policies and actions.
Every area has its specific natural resources. We are endowed with trees, or fisheries, or beautiful views, etc. These resources should be maintained without stifling economic growth (maintain does not mean leave alone or restrict all activity). By ensuring that citizens are close to these resources and able to enjoy them, the community can benefit from benign resource choices.
Communities are unique – they have a history and a future. Distinct local culture and flair should be embraced rather than tossed aside for the sake of trends or consumer culture. This does not mean that we should avoid major brand names; it means that we should ensure our communities provide something unique and then treasure that uniqueness.
In our zeal to make our living spaces more sustainable, the most vulnerable populations cannot be forgotten. New development cannot be seen as better than care for our citizens.
A thriving local economy is the cornerstone of sustainability. Because of this, local businesses should not only have their say as stakeholders, they should be seen as partners. References1 Quote is from World Resources Institute. 2009. Water and Watts. Available online at http://pdf.wri.org/southeast_water_and_watts.pdf