Citizens generate Earth Day energy with ideas for greening Edmonds

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What better way to mark Earth Day than to develop a plan for making your own community a more eco-friendly place? A group of about 40 citizens did just that Thursday night during the second annual Earth Day event sponsored by the City of Edmonds and Sustainable Edmonds, a non-profit citizen group aimed at informing residents about sustainability issues and encouraging action.

Justus Stewart, a representative of ICLEI, an international membership association of local governments, talked about the critical role that local governments and their citizens play in addressing climate change and sustainability issues worldwide. Then Wes Gallaugher of Mayor Gary Haakenson’s citizen-based Climate Protection Committee provided an overview of the City of Edmonds’ Climate Change Action Plan, which was issued in February. (The mayor formed the committee in 2005 after he signed on to the U.S. Climate Protection Agreement, which requires the City of Edmonds to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.)

To underscore the importance of the annual Earth Day gathering, Gallaugher explained that the Climate Action Plan was developed partly on ideas generated during the 2009 citizen Earth Day event, as well as best practices in other cities across the U.S. The Climate Action Plan has identified six areas where the city could take action in reducing its greenhouse gases including Transportation and Land Use, Lifestyles, Buildings, Environment, Economy and Community Outreach, and the focus of Thursday night’s meeting was to encourage citizens to come up with real-world ideas to implement the plan’s recommendations.

The attendees split into three smaller discussion groups, and for the next hour got to work, furiously scribbling ideas on flip charts and notebooks, debating the merits of one project over another. The goal? To come up with one idea that is “achievable, realistic, and of benefit to Edmonds” and that members of each group were willing to put into action. The three project ideas included:

– Creation of neighborhood hubs that provide information on how citizens can use mass transit to get around Edmonds.

– Development of a “Pick 3 Green Energy Pledge” that lists a variety of easy actions that citizens can take to reduce their environmental footprint, and asks them to “Pick 3.”

– Creation of a campaign to encourage homeowners to convert at a portion of their lawns or other ornamental landscaping to grow vegetables.

The next step? Each subgroup was charged with meeting again to develop plans for implementing their particular ideas. My Edmonds News will continue to report on their progress, and you will also be able to find more information at sustainableedmonds.org.

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