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Sustainable Cuyahoga: A toolkit of recommended best practices for communities in Cuyahoga County

David Beach  |  03/10/16 @ 5:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

In the past few months GreenCityBlueLake has been working with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability on a toolkit of sustainability and environmental best practices for communities. Now the toolkit has been released and is posted on the county website for download. It’s full of practical ideas, links to model policies, and connections to local experts. Check it out and think about the things your community can do to become more sustainable.

Making it easier to be sustainable<br />The Sustainable Cuyahoga toolkit provides great ideas for what local governments can do to facilitate the transition to more sustainable practices, such as renewable energy. (Photo by AAT Solar)

Local governments are on the front lines of sustainability. They are responding directly to citizen demands for more choices and better performance on issues such as energy, transportation, local food, and solid waste. They are realizing that action on such issues can make their communities healthier, more attractive, and more competitive.

They also are realizing that a focus on long-term sustainability can save money and prevent problems in the long run. Moreover, in an age of climate change, they are realizing that the development of more sustainable communities not only helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also helps communities adapt and become more resilient.

Recognizing the key role of local governments, the GreenCityBlueLake Institute has worked for many years to create ideas and resources to help communities in Greater Cleveland transition to more sustainable practices. Our latest project is Sustainable Cuyahoga: A toolkit of recommended best practices for communities in Cuyahoga County.

The project was commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability, with additional funding support from the George Gund Foundation. GCBL staff conducted extensive research and worked with local issue experts to compile the best thinking about things cities and towns can do to become more sustainable. It will be a valuable resource for the 59 communities in Cuyahoga County.

“This toolkit represents the latest and greatest thinking regarding environmental and sustainability planning for local governments," says Mike Foley, director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability. "It also recognizes that we have a lot of smart people in Cuyahoga County who are great resources and are willing to be called upon for assistance.”

What’s covered

The toolkit covers nine key issues that communities are addressing today: air quality, energy, food, green building and historic preservation, land use and development, solid waste, transportation, trees and land management, and watershed management.

Each issue section includes a brief summary of the issue and recommendations for what a local government can do in four areas:

  • Leadership and education — Recommendations for informing residents and leading a civic conversation.
  • Municipal operations — Recommendations for improving the things local governments have under their immediate control and for setting a good example.
  • Ordinances and policies — Recommendations for enabling and/or requiring residents and businesses to do things.
  • Regional collaboration — Recommendations about being engaged in larger initiatives that communities can’t do individually.

Each section also features examples of practices and model policies already adopted by leading communities in Northeast Ohio. And there are lists of local experts who can provide advice.

Whom is this for?

The toolkit — with useful recommendations in a concise format — is intended to help busy public officials learn about the issues, get help, and take action. It’s also intended to be a resource for citizens who want to work with local government officials to improve their communities.

What’s next?

County staff will be reaching out to the cities, villages, and townships in the county to introduce the toolkit and explain the benefits of adopting its recommendations. County staff and affiliated agencies, such as the County Planning Commission, will also provide technical support. To request a presentation about what your community can do, call the County Department of Sustainability at 216-443-3055 or email sustainability@cuyahogacounty.us.

GCBL staff will assist with the outreach. We also will update the toolkit as new information becomes available. The document will live online, so it will be easy to edit in the future. Please submit your suggestions by leaving a comment below, or by contacting us.

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David Beach
1 year ago

Lourdes, Sorry the toolkit did not print the way you wanted. It's really designed to be an online document with active links to all the resources. The links do not show up when printed.

The toolkit's transportation section (and also the land use section) has a number of suggestions for ways cities can promote a more multimodal transportation system. Perhaps the most important thing is to work in collaboration with other cities to change policy at NOACA and ODOT to increase funding for transit. Here at GreenCityBlueLake we are working hard to help do that.

Lourdes Sanchez
1 year ago

Great effort and very nice brochure. It would be more sustainable without unnecessary images. I had to transform the PFD to Word MS, remove the images and then print.

Another point, how can we press the local government to have a more extensive transportation system. Perhaps your organization(s) can start conversations with RTA. Public support will follow

David Beach
1 year ago

Greg,
Great comment. Process and leadership are just as important as the content of recommendations. The "Leadership and education" sections for each issue of the toolkit include a number of ideas for getting people involved. But we can add more ideas about starting a community process to set priorities.

Do people have suggestions? What has worked in your community?

Greg Studen
1 year ago

Lots of great ideas. I'm concerned about issues of leadership and process in getting some of this good stuff implemented in local communities. Green teams are a good idea, but they need leadership and authority in order to get things done. The list of recommendations is long; what is most important, where to start? How about some help on showing local communities how they can set up a structured process for setting priorities and engaging the people who will have to do the work? What are the success stories from suburban communities that have been successful in implementing sustainability programs? How did they do it?

David Beach
1 year ago

Chris,
The proposed RTA cuts are really sharpening the issue of transportation priorities and equity. It is truly amazing that ODOT can allocate more than $330 million for the Opportunity Corridor (and more than $600 million for the Portsmouth Bypass in southern Ohio) while cutting state support for transit to almost nothing.

Perhaps the toolkit's best transportation recommendation for responding to transit funding crisis is the one in the regional collaboration section that calls on communities to support RTA's efforts to increase state transit funding. Local communities also need to speak up for transit at NOACA and other regional forums.

Chris
1 year ago

Some nice talking points like joining RTA's commuter advantage program, but what about if bus routes don't serve your employer? NASA was nominated as NOACA 2015 Gold Commuter Choice Award but now the 78 bus is likely getting cut.

I'd like to see more action than talk from the county, like investing $11 million dollars in RTA to prevent these cuts instead of the Opportunity Corridor.

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