County toolkit helps cities achieve sustainability goals

In February 2015, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish launched a new department: the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability. Michael Foley is the director and Shanelle Smith is the deputy director. The purpose of the department is to promote environmentally responsible practices to businesses, the public, and the 59 communities within Cuyahoga County.

In March 2016, Cuyahoga County’s Department of Sustainability released "Sustainable Cuyahoga: A toolkit of recommended best practices for communities in Cuyahoga County." The toolkit was developed in partnership with the GreenCityBlueLake Institute of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. It outlines best practices from around Northeast Ohio regarding actions communities can take to become more sustainable. The toolkit was developed for public officials to use as a resource to learn about sustainability issues and help local communities take action. The toolkit was also designed with the public in mind; for citizens who would like to help their local governments become more sustainable.

The toolkit covers nine key issues: air quality, energy, food, green building and historic preservation, land use and development, solid waste, transportation, trees and land management, and watershed management. It is a great resource, and I highly recommend taking a look at it.

As I read through the toolkit, a couple of great, simple ideas that could be implemented very easily stood out. The first would be an idling ban for city vehicles, and adjusting city operations on Air Quality Advisory Days. This seems like a fairly easy idea that could be implemented immediately. Also, related to my column last week, there are a few Cuyahoga County cities that have anti-idling ordinances, prohibiting idling for more than five minutes in the summer and more than ten in the winter.

The cities that have these ordinances are: Cleveland, Lakewood, Highland Hills, Maple Heights, North Olmsted, Orange, and South Euclid. Westlake and Bay Village are not on that list. If you want to improve air quality and notice that people idle their cars for long periods of time in your community, it might be something you can consider getting involved with in your city. 

Another idea that could be easily implemented would be for the city to set a “local procurement goal” to purchase local and fair trade food for city food services. Cities could also offer a bid discount for local food providers when bidding projects. Ohio ranks in the top 10 states in terms of agricultural production, but only 1 percent of food consumed in Northeast Ohio is produced in the region. Increasing our consumption of locally produced food benefits everyone: it supports local food producers and keeps people employed; it promotes health and wellness to the community as locally produced foods are fresh and nutritious; and it helps the environment because the food does not need to be shipped from far away, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and crude oil usage.

These are just two of many sustainability practices for communities in Cuyahoga County outlined in the toolkit. I encourage each of you to take a look at the toolkit and get involved with your city’s sustainability plan. As anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

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Volume 8, Issue 16, Posted 9:47 AM, 08.16.2016