Sustainability report shows progress

August 13, 2013

By Peter Clark

Goal to reduce carbon footprint experiences setback

Issaquah has shown positive results moving toward sustainability, for the most part.

The city’s Office of Sustainability released its 2013 report July 26, revealing a host of data on a variety of factors. Community heath, business diversity and environmental impact were among the many measured components for the year-old department to assess where the city stands on the many goals outlined to realize a vision of sustainability in the local economy, society and environment. While most of the areas evaluated show positive development, one of the most notable exceptions is the increase in the city’s carbon emissions.

The report is the continuation of an effort began in 2008 by the Mayor Ava Frisinger-led Sustainability Sounding Board, which compiled the vision and indicators to define the future health and quality of life for Issaquah.

“This one’s pretty in-depth,” Office of Sustainability Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski said. Indeed, the 39-page report is a large step up from the four-page snap shot disseminated in 2010. Still, he acknowledges it could contain much more information. “We don’t have the money to pay for an exhaustive survey of all the data.”

According to the report, Issaquah has done well to increase its societal sustainability. In 2012, the food bank served more families, the housing affordability gap lessened and the crime rate dropped.

“In 2012, [the] Issaquah crime rate was 46.2 per thousand persons,” the report reads. “This represented a 5.3 percent drop in crimes from 2011. In total, there were 1,440 crimes reported in Issaquah in 2012.”

The business community has also moved towards the city’s vision of sustainability. The report found that there has been greater diversification in types of businesses, more participation in city-funded arts events compared to 2011 and a growing balance between jobs and housing.

Additionally, the city has continued along a good path with respect to its goal in environmental sustainability. More open space has been preserved every year, there has been an increase in food sold at the farmer’s market over 2011 and the usage of renewable energy continues to climb.

In 2008, Issaquah adopted a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by the year 2050, with 2007 set as the base year. According to the report, the city is not doing so well.

“Greenhouse gas emissions have increased 3.2 percent from 2007 to 2012 despite a downturn in the economy over this same period of time,” the report reads and alludes to possible solutions on the horizon. “The city is currently developing a climate and sustainability strategy as well as a pedestrian master plan for the community.”

Bonkowski and others within the Office of Sustainability said the upturn happened through the region.

“The numbers used to calculate the climate information used a regional standard and generally our CO2 increased like many in the area as a result of single occupancy vehicle travel and miles driven along with building energy and plug loads,” Office of Sustainability Senior Program Manager Mary Joe de Beck said. “The indicators are an awesome way for us to provide a snapshot to encourage people to conserve. It is simply one way to articulate the information to see trends only.”

Bonkowski said the Office of Sustainability would continue to research the periodic reports. He applauded the many branches of the government working together to produce them and believed they would assist in teaching the public about the importance of being more ecologically conscious.

“It’s definitely collaborative,” he said. “It may be led by our office but it’s kind of a whole city snapshot. We really hope to expand the literacy of sustainability within the community.”

 

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