ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA recently launched a comprehensive step-by-step toolkit to guide cities and localities through the process of greening their communities. Taking inspiration from New York City’s highly-regarded PlaNYC 2030, the guide was created with the New York Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability. The toolkit is includes checklists, best practices, templates, and guidelines — detailed how-to’s for local officials. ICLEI USA includes 600 city, county and town members; their international group has 1,107 member towns, cities and counties in 67 countries.
Don Knapp, ICLEI USA’s communications officer, told Greenbuildings.com: “Our toolkit is a roadmap to guide any local government, big or small, through the process of creating a sustainability plan. Staff from ICLEI’s local government members have been telling us how eager they are for a resource like this toolkit, because creating a sustainability plan can be a complex and lengthy endeavor.”
Knapp added: “There are so many steps to go through, so many individual initiatives to consider, so many stakeholders to involve, and it’s hard to know where to begin. Municipal staff didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel and create their own process from scratch, especially when their resources and manpower are often so limited. Fortunately, big cities like New York have acted as the trailblazer.”
Worldchanging offered positive reviews: “Anyone already familiar with the Cities for Climate Protection program will recognize the hallmark ICLEI approach of dividing up complex problems into a series of manageable milestones. While Climate change is still a key focus, the toolkit shows how to couple emissions reductions with wins in other areas like reducing poverty, preventing sprawl, or diversifying the local economy. The core of the kit is a step-by-step planning guide that takes you from how to hire a sustainability coordinator to how to design, implement and monitor a local sustainability plan. Accompanying the guide, the toolkit includes a collection of model documents, inventorying software, and even sample job descriptions for municipalities just beginning their push toward sustainability.”
The guide may also help break down the inter-governmental silos that prevent effective collaboration and help spur the development of comprehensive local sustainability plans: “the trouble with sustainability, or climate change more specifically, is that they are everybody’s problem, but nobody’s responsibility. They don’t fit nicely into the division of labor that has kept our cities running in the past. They also ask departments that don’t talk much (and may not get along all that well) to work together to get things done. It may seem unlikely, but often those dynamics (more than a lack of political will, or money, or knowledge) are why cities don’t green-up more quickly. Given that, it’s great to see at the core of ICLEI’s new toolkit, a detailed section on team-building, overcoming divisions between departments, and engaging the public.”
Strong leadership from the Mayor’s office is key, but the whole community must be involved: “Their key points are strong: manage sustainability centrally (preferably from the mayor’s office), bring representatives from all departments on-board, and open up the process to the community. No city has the resources to address sustainability and climate change on their own. If it is going to happen it has to be a shared project that makes the most of the expertise and skills of the local community.”
The guide includes a set of milestones local governments must progress through:
Milestone 1: Conduct a sustainability assessment
Milestone 2: Establish sustainability goals
Milestone 3: Develop a local sustainability plan
Milestone 4: Implement policies and measures
Milestone 5: Evaluate progress and report results
ICLEI USA also offers the STAR Community Index, which will formally launch in 2011. The STAR Community Index is a tool that helps communities gauge their sustainability and livability.