Eco Municipality

A few weeks ago I shared the amazing news that our little community had voted itself the 4th Eco Municipality in WI and then followed that relatively non binding resolution with a more practical one in which we mandated that all new government and commercial developments must be built to LEED Silver Standards, though certification was up to the developer to reduce anticipated concerns over costs (certification can cost up to $2-5000 depending on the size of the project). We have since firmed that resolution up with one clarifying that all institutional buildings (schools, hospitals, non-profit care facilities, etc) are also to be included in this resolution, and also that all renovations requiring a building permit need to meet LEED standards for renovations.

This is all fantastic forward thinking stuff that makes me damn proud to live in this little town in WI, but frankly I still had some concerns about how all this would be accepted. I felt that our Green Committee had done a fantastic job educating our board and Village President on the need for forward thinking and the practical ways to implement real change, but that we had left a education gulf between ourselves and the average citizen of our little village and the commercial residents as well. While our board meetings are all public and posted, like government everywhere: no one really comes to them. So last week we held a public presentation to and our Village Administrator and our County Supervisor gave their power point on their trip to Sweden, and then brought the attendees up to speed on our Eco Municipality status, and the LEED resolution. We then encouraged the attendees to sign up for a 10 week study group of the Natural Step to further the grassroots effort and brainstorm ways to implement sustainability into our community. Speaking of attendees, we had about 20 people show up. That seemingly low turnout was a little depressing for me, but then I (being a geek) crunched some numbers in my head. Comparatively, this response (about 2%) would be equivalent to 33,000 people showing up in Chicago-which would make national headlines. We need to do much better, but the majority of those 20 signed up for the study groups and will form a core of motivated citizens exponentially increasing our word of mouth marketing. Our next meeting will be better advertised and attended.

Paul, our Village Administrator also shared some very heartening news. In the month since our resolution 2 of our local businesses called to inquire about some expansions of their operations. A local restaurant was looking to expand their parking lot to be better able to accommodate tour buses, and a bank was looking to expand their office building. In both cases Paul was very enthusiastic about their opportunities for growth, and then explained to them our recent LEED resolution. This is where our Green Rubber was going to hit the road-how would local business owners take our forcing the to go Green? Luckily Paul is good-in both cases they were very open to embracing the green building practises- both saying that they are in the community for the Long Haul and want to do the Right Thing. In both cases this will involve some extra capital outlays for them, which could be significant in the parking lot instance as it will have to be storm-water neutral (installing permeable paving or a retention pond), but both owners see the advantages in advertising, maintaining good relationships with local government, and future utility savings as offsetting this initial outlay. Hopefully we will also be able to provide assistance in grant applications. Excellent!

So what is next? These resolutions appear to have finally staked the nail in the coffin of our Green Committee becoming a gardening club. We are now a force for sustainable growth in our community and the Planning Committee needs to take us seriously as we are getting legislation passed that has significant impact on the growth of the community. We spent 15 minutes at the end of our last meeting throwing out future items for consideration. These items are BIG:

  • Securing grant money to preform a Stormwater Management survey for the entire village to provide a baseline to hold future developerd accountable.
  • Completing a feasibility study of implementing a methane reclamation plant into any future expasion of our treatment plant to provide BioGas to fuel either local homes or vehicles.
  • Discussing the possibility a Stormwater Utility to bill new developments for any excess runoff over pre development runoff levels to add some Natural Capitalism to our rain garden, permeable paving, and infiltration programs.
  • Initiating talks with our local landfill about converting their incinerators to run turbines for electricity generation and then using the waste heat to warm homes and busnesses. No I am not kidding.
  • Passing a resolution to that all new residential housing must meet the soon to be released LEED residential standards. This would be huge-cutting our infrastucture costs by 25%!
  • Initiating a long term community education program by bringing in experts in Green Building, Wetland Preservation, Organic Gardening, Eco-Village design, etc. to give public seminars get our populace up to speed.
  • Opening dialogues with our sanitation provider on the feasability of billing each resident by the pound for garbage (with a possible credit for over average recycling) to reduce waste generation.

Once we get the Natural Step study groups going there will no doubt be more ideas to hit the table. The future is in sight!

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