Tom Benevento

CAAV Coalition Partner of the Month:  Tom Benevento 
April 17, 2018 came racing up to WVPT’s community meeting room to meet with the CAAV steering committee on his bike, just back from Dulles by air, via the Megabus. He had been in the Dominican Republic, helping with a project on food forests and tilapia farming. He was joining us to report on progress with the Sustainability Action Plan for the City of Harrisonburg, through the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC).

It is envisioned as a holistic, integral plan, incorporating three E’s of sustainability: environmental integrity, economic vitality, and equity (social).  He would like to add reverent humility and reciprocal gratitude.

There are currently eight steps to the plan:

  1.  Getting Harrisonburg to approve some targets: visionary, but realistic in terms of the science.
  2.  Greenhouse gas inventory
  3.  Key sectors
  4.  Develop goals and strategies for accomplishing them
  5.  Prioritize targets and goals
  6.  Gain citizen feedback
  7.  Finalize the plan
  8.  Incorporate means of monitoring progress

Draft targets that are under initial review in Step 1 include hiring a sustainability coordinator and the use of “ICLEI” founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, as an aspirational model for sustainability. ICLEI is a network of local governments with similar goals headquartered in Bonn, Germany. These initial target requests under review include a local greenhouse gas inventory (with James Madison University’s involvement), 25% renewable energy by 2025, 100% by 2045, 90% decrease in waste by 2050, and greenhouse gases at 80% of 2004 quantities by 2050.

There are seven sectors of the Action Plan under development:

  1.  Energy efficiency (buildings)
  2.  Transportation
  3.  Affordable renewable energy
  4.  Waste management and recycling
  5.  Land use planning
  6.  Stormwater management and conservation
  7.  Regional food systems and forest canopy for the city

The process of building subcommittees for each of these is under development with certain sectors given higher priority such as energy efficiency and waste and recycling. The use of the international building code, which would save 30% more energy than the current standard is not yet possible because of Virginia’s refusal to adopt it (the Dillon rule again). They have begun working on energy efficiency for schools, etc. and there is much interest in solar PV for schools. It is anticipated that there will be a May or early June meeting with City Council members and staff as the first step toward setting targets for the city.

It is clear that an awful lot of stretch and strain has been involved so far in envisioning the Action Plan, as it appears it would involve just about every facet of life in the city. We wish them every success, and sit in awe that these are all volunteers. 

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, April 2018

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

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