Steve Rizer, Editor
Green Building Insider
ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI USA) recently released the Star Community Index Sustainability Goals and Guiding Principles for Communities.
The 81 goals and 10 guiding principles collectively define community-scale sustainability and set a national standard for local governments, according to ICLEI USA. "The goals give local governments and communities a much-needed vocabulary to more effectively strategize and focus their sustainability planning efforts. They also serve as the foundation of the Star Community Index, the forthcoming national rating system that will offer cities and counties a roadmap for creating healthy, inclusive, and prosperous communities."
The STAR Goals and Guiding Principles are designed to serve as a resource to help local governments create or revise a sustainability plan, conduct a sustainability assessment, establish local sustainability priorities, and focus ongoing sustainability initiatives.
The STAR Community Index is being developed by ICLEI USA in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), National League of Cities (NLC), and Center for American Progress.
"Across the U.S., there is a pressing need for clear, consistent, and easily accessible performance measures to guide local sustainability initiatives and create a roadmap for success," ICLEI USA Executive Director Martin Chávez said. "The goal of Star is to provide a standardized, national system of sustainability goals and measures, from how to measure recycling rates to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions."
"These goals, designed and built by local governments, are a huge milestone," said Jason Hartke, vice president for national policy at USGBC. "When we embarked on this effort in 2008, we knew cities and counties were driving the green economy. Today, we are one step closer to a final sustainability roadmap that they can use to accelerate action, foster leadership, and inspire innovation."
"There's an incredible level of interest in sustainability among local officials across the country," said Ken Rosenfeld, director of the sustainability program at NLC. "There's pent-up demand for this type of resource, regardless of whether a city is far along in its sustainability work or just starting out. It's a very powerful concept to have a single, national, consensus-based framework that any city will be able to turn to for assistance."
"For too long, community sustainability has been a nebulous concept with competing definitions and frameworks. There has never been a national standard by which to measure sustainability performance until now," said North Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Patrick Hays, president and chairperson of the board of directors for ICLEI USA. "Star will allow my city of North Little Rock, for example, to learn and measure itself vis a vis Portland's experience; that's a revolutionary approach to sustainability."
Municipal staff can use the goals document as a framework in combination with ICLEI's five milestones for sustainability.
The full Star performance management system is scheduled to be released in early 2012. The Star Community Index is a performance-based sustainability management system that is expected to break new ground by uniquely combining the following elements: a framework for sustainability based on the pillars of environment, economy, and social equity; an online data-management platform that gathers, organizes, analyzes, and presents information required to meet community and government sustainability goals through effective management; and a management model and rating system that drive continuous improvement in community health, vitality, and prosperity for all residents.
Greening of America's Schools Summit
ICLEI USA recently participated in the Greening of America's Schools Summit, from which Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Terry Grier, the city's ISD Superintendent, announced the beginning of a cooperative strategy between the city and Houston ISD, including proposals to help increase energy efficiency and implement other sustainability initiatives in Houston schools.
"The City of Houston and HISD both have many resources that can be of use to one another," Parker said. "The City of Houston is committed to applying any available resources to help our schools, especially those that can provide our children with a green, sustainable environment."
"We look forward to building on our existing efforts and implementing new sustainability initiatives through this partnership with the City of Houston," Grier said. "HISD has many opportunities to showcase how green initiatives can help save energy and costs while providing yet another learning experience for our teachers, students, and staff."
In a follow up to the summit, the City of Houston and HISD included the following possible areas of cooperation and initiatives: information sharing about green practices through the mayor's director of sustainability; more common gardens for initiatives such as SPARK parks; and a meeting of local superintendents for a local green-schools summit.
Outcomes from the conference are expected to result in a comprehensive report produced in conjunction with the three partnering groups and the American Institute of Architects, which is expected to be issued early next year and serve as a resource for school districts and city officials nationwide.
In addition to Houston, other cities represented in the summit included the following: Des Moines, Iowa; Salt Lake City, Utah; Pleasanton, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif., North Little Rock; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Oklahoma City; and Charleston, S.C. Leaders in green design, education, arts, and green school advocacy also were invited as part of the summit discussion.