Motorized vehicles are a major part of our local transportation system and must be part of the sustainability equation. However, more and more, policies to promote biking and walking are a big part of the strategy in cities seeking to become more healthy, more vibrant, more attractive, safer, economically viable … sustainable. Bike lanes and bike paths, sidewalks, parking policies, land use planning, urban design guidelines … there is no dearth of examples of what many places are doing to improve pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. There are several illustrations of creative planning mentioned on the OCL Facebook fan page and this blog.
In places with snow, where there are sidewalks there is a snow removal issue. Sean Kirst’s March 3 column in The Post-Standard opens a conversation on ‘walkability’ that will hopefully lead to municipal governments in Onondaga County considering how best to ensure that their residents have the ability to walk safely alongside the streets in winter, as well as to drive safely on them.
Earthsense LLC, a Syracuse market research company, recently announced a new monthly survey of consumer attitudes about green products and companies called the Green Confidence Index, The index, which will also track consumers’ purchasing decisions, will provide subscribers with strategic marketing information on who buys Green and why, and how a company can position itself and its products to appeal to its customers, using Green to increase its competitiveness and the bottom line.
As a consumer, how can you determine whether you are being Green, or “Greenwashed”? Another company, Eco-Rate, helps consumers choose products and technologies that are Green, based on a rating system that measures efficiency, environmental impact, human health and financial feasibility. This Seattle startup researches thousands of products, and provides comparative rankings on a free online buying guide. The rankings take into account: efficiency of water and energy use; toxicity; lifecycle cost; and location of manufacture. The website also helps architects and builders choose eco-friendly products and processes, and can be used by companies and government agencies interested in greener purchasing policies.
Balancing the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and neighborhoods with those of cars, trucks and thru-traffic is a big part of sustainability. St. Louis is experiencing good results with its ‘Great Streets’ Initiative. Its goal is to trigger economic and social benefits by centering communities around lively, attractive thoroughfares that serve all modes of transportation.
To begin, citizens and local leaders were asked to look beyond the curb when considering their transportation systems, and to think about how better street design can create better connections, sustainable economic activity and an appealing sense of place. The South Grand Street pilot project, which includes eliminating a traffic lane, curb ‘bulb-outs’ to improve pedestrian crossing, and increased lighting and landscaping, has been a total success, with public feedback ten to one in favor. The road better serves the neighborhood and businesses, while still getting cars through safely.
Complete Streets can improve safety, encourage walking and biking, and create stronger communities and more viable neighborhoods and business districts. Local transportation and street design policies that facilitate walking, biking and transit for short trips can substantially reduce the carbon emissions that negatively affect health and that contribute to global warming.
Once again Michael Pollan has succinctly hit the nail on the head regarding America’s food policy, linking the health care debate and agribusiness in his September 9, 2009 Op-Ed piece in the NYT, “Big Food v. Big Insurance”. He makes the point that in order to control health care costs, we must improve health, reducing the growing rates of preventable chronic dieseases, many of which are linked to diet. Changing what America eats means changing the way we allocate resources – including land – for growing food.
Pollan references the findings of a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia who were asked by UnitedHealthcare’s foundation to come up with the best way to tackle childhood obesity in America. “Their conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they determined that promoting the concept of a ‘foodshed’ — a diversified, regional food economy — could be the key to improving the American diet.”
Driven by concerns about global warming, and fueled by the need to reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, sustainability – the potential for the long-term wellbeing of humans and nature based on the responsible use of natural resources – has become a mainstream concept. Today, almost 40 years after the first Earth Day, environmentalism has evolved from a radical cause to a widespread issue. This year, the Onondaga Citizens League has turned its attention to “What Does It Mean to be Green?” – how are we as a community embracing policies and actions to promote sustainability?
- What are we – local governments, businesses, organizations, neighborhoods, and individuals – doing to be Green and is it enough?
- What lessons can we learn from other communities and what can we do to become more Green in CNY?
- How do we make sure that the decisions we make have a beneficial effect on the environment?
In September, OCL will begin a series of public discussions on the topic, starting with the big picture – understanding ecosystems and their importance and the importance of sustainable community actions.
To receive information on upcoming programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or become a fan of OCL on Facebook!