How local governments can go green

| 11th November 2019
Local governments in the US can play a huge role in sustainability. They can help the environment on a small-scale level as well as encourage sustainability among its citizens.

Before encouraging citizens and businesses to make an eco-friendly leap, [governments] should implement these strategies within your own offices.

Going green isn't reserved for individuals or well-known brands — local governments can also participate in the movement. Governments can generate change in their communities by showing their dedication to sustainability.

The core of any eco-friendly campaign should start from these high-authority positions to encourage more people to preserve the environment. Citizens will be more likely to care for the planet if they see local leadership doing the same.

An excellent government can only cause change for its people when it implements the same strategies it tells others to follow. Creating green guidelines for businesses and individuals is worth praise.


However, one truly learns the importance of sustainability by living it themselves. People will take these efforts seriously when they see their municipality upholding them.

Many governments cling to tradition in favor of new policies and plans. Doing so does everyone a disservice by denying them access to programs that can improve their quality of life and help the environment.

Transforming the status quo doesn't have to be complicated — more cities should take the chance for the betterment of their people.

Before encouraging citizens and businesses to make an eco-friendly leap, you should implement these strategies within your own offices.

You'll have a clear idea of whether specific approaches will work, saving you the trouble of trial and error. Sit down with green advisers and make a list of everything you can change within your department. A targeted plan provides efficiency and lets you pinpoint problem areas instead of relying on guesswork.


What are your short-term and long-term goals for each area? What does sustainability mean to your agency — does it include ethical and social aspects? How will you measure the effects of your changes?

These are a few questions to consider when making a green transition. One area you can target immediately is your paper consumption — many government agencies still rely on paper record-keeping. Landfills received 18.4 million tons of paper in municipal waste in 2017.

Try paperless record-keeping software and use recycled paper when hard copies are necessary. Install LED lights in the office and around the city wherever possible.

These have longer lifespans than fluorescents or incandescents, saving you money and reducing your energy consumption. They also provide increased visibility, making parks and other dark areas safer at night.

Before encouraging citizens and businesses to make an eco-friendly leap, [governments] should implement these strategies within your own offices.

Connecting the lights and HVAC to a smart technology system allows for greater control and less energy consumption. Turn the lights off whenever a room is empty, and set the heating or cooling to activate only when necessary. Smart systems also let you set preferred temperatures for every room of the building.


Consider renovating the building to allow for more natural light and green spaces. Large, unobscured windows let light in and reduce the need for artificial lighting. And if your building sits in a sunny area, you can take advantage of solar panels to reduce reliance on the energy grid.

Environmentally preferred purchasing enables organizations to analyze their current suppliers and goods and buy from greener businesses.

Bringing this plan into your governmental organization means buying materials that have positive effects on the environment and your local citizens. This plan can also extend to purchased services — for example, hiring a cleaning company that uses organic supplies, no harmful chemicals included.

Establishing an EPP policy depends on what you and your colleagues define as green. Not all products claiming to be eco-friendly will meet every environmental standard. Some may require less water during production, but use more fossil fuels.

Other products may come from companies that practice ethical sourcing, but still use plastic packaging. EPP plans require you to determine your purchasing needs and decide which factors you're willing to compromise on.


Buy goods from local businesses that create recyclable products and participate in green programs of their own. You'll help the environment and support citizens within your municipality. Purchasing locally reduces fossil fuel pollution produced by long-distance transport.

Recycled goods require less energy and material to produce than new ones, which conserves resources like water and trees.

Your agency's carbon footprint will shrink, and your employees will benefit from using cleaner materials. Choosing green products over conventional ones prioritizes human health, as the processing used to make commercial goods involves numerous chemicals.

Your purchasing power will boost green businesses, causing their products and services to be accessible to others. With demand comes supply — when people take an interest in their services, they can spread their brand further. An increased outreach helps them connect with people who need their services, enhancing the benefits for all.

As you begin adopting green strategies within your workplace, make your efforts known to the local citizens.

They'll appreciate your dedication to environmentalism and place more of their trust with you — which is what most governing bodies aim for.

Be genuine in your conservation work, and remain open to suggestions from individuals and businesses. Sustainability encourages everyone to learn from each other, which creates a shared understanding among all parties.

This Author 

Emily Folk is a regular contributor to The Ecologist, a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.


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