Sunday, December 31, 2006

QUICK GREEN: Change Your City!

It turns out, maybe the easiest way to be green is to change your city's culture so that the city government helps you do it.

At the city level, it is shockingly easy to have a voice, and an impact. It may not seem that way to someone not currently involved in local city politics or policies, but that is usually a misimpression.

One of the easiest methods is to find a city web page and discover who is in charge of issues that are important to you, and email away. In addition to department heads, Mayors, City Council members, and City Managers should all be on your one-person email campaign list.

Some things to consider emailing about:

1. Walkable, livable cities (requires special attention at the Planning and Transportation departments for creating a human scale environment);

2. Green building requirements, such as LEED certification or mandatory solar, for new construction;

3. Municipal Utility policies: Renewables mix, solar incentives, more.

4. City operational concerns, ranging from efficient use of natural resources to reducing emissions from city equipment like buses or skiploaders.

In the City of Pasadena, there are also a number of commissions -- staffed by citizen volunteers, not politicians -- to which you can take your ideas and concerns.

These quasi-insiders can often translate your issue into terms that the local government can work with effectively. They can also become a champion of your issue, and came at the issue from the inside, at the same time you work on the outside.

Some recent examples: The City of Pasadena recently became signatory to a UN document setting goals for combating global warming; and after citizen input the City dropped efforts to extend coal generation contracts for the local electric utility. ("No new coal" is now the official city policy(!).)

Bring your city around on key issues, and help yourself -- and thousands of your neighbors -- to an easy, Green future!

1 comment:

Abendigo Reebs said...

I completely agree with you, that starting at a civic level may be the quickest way to get there.

I work for You may know us for the US City Rankings:, an annual studying benchmarking the 50 most populous cities across 14 sectors of sustainable criteria.

We recently launched a sustainability best practices knowledge base for state and local government officials, as well as environmental government consultants. Basically, any government offiicial can sign up for free and one need not even upload a best practice, in order to read and browse other best practices. Every US city over 700,000 in population has signed up with Almost 200 cities, states, and counties have joined, and we have upwards of 100 best practices now.

SustainLane is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing sustainability. Basically, we're a facilitator of a best practices exchange. You can register and upload your best practices for free. And you get to share information, getting what you need much faster and cheaper.

Since I'm a admirer of your blog, I'd love to know what you think of How you think it could be better? How you see the dialogue around sustainability shifting and shaping public policy?