In recent years, sustainability has become an important issue, especially for Corvallis local government. In a sustainable society, environmental protection, economic objectives, and social justice join together to meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet the needs of tomorrow.
History of the Organization's Efforts
Corvallis City staff have been working on minimizing the impact our operations have on the environment for many years. In the 1990s, the emphasis was on cost-saving aspects of projects–how can we reduce energy consumption to save money. Sustainability wasn't a well-known concept at that time and we didn't fully appreciate the side benefit on the global environment from our cost-saving measures. We began tracking our operational improvements in terms of sustainability impacts around 2002, and those we accomplished were heavily weighted toward reducing solid waste and saving energy.
In 2003, the City Council adopted an overarching goal of sustainability. The overarching nature of the goal did not carry with it a specific directive for staff; it was done more to heighten the awareness of sustainability and to get staff to begin thinking about how to incorporate those concepts in our daily activities.
In 2004, the Council adopted an organizational sustainability policy that provided more guidance and created six general topic areas for staff to focus their attention on when reviewing City operations and maintenance activities: Sustainable Purchasing Practices, Green Building Practices, Solid Waste Management, Land Use Planning, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Toxics and Persistent Biotoxins.
The policy required an annual report to the City Council on the progress made in each of the topic areas. The reports highlight the years' accomplishments, and also contain objectives for the future, reflecting the City's move toward more proactive planning for sustainability improvements.
As sustainability became more widely known and discussed, staff began marketing our efforts and achievements to share with the public our progress in this journey.
In 2005, the City Council adopted a specific goal to enhance organizational sustainability efforts. Staff hired a consultant, Zero Waste Alliance, to help us develop a strategy to implement this goal. They began their work in October 2005 and, over a three-month period, the consultant met with many City employees and conducted site visits to assess the current level of effort on sustainability and to make recommendations for future actions to move operations to a more sustainable level. What the consultant found is that Corvallis already had made a lot of progress toward reuse of materials, reduction of energy consumption, and elimination of hazardous chemical use. The work accomplished provided a good basis to build from in moving the organization to the next level in the journey toward sustainability. The consultant's findings are published in the Phase 1 Report, Assessment of Sustainability Performance. In their final, Phase 2 Report, Sustainability Recommendations, the consultants recommend the next steps to a more systematic, comprehensive approach to the issue, with stated goals, timelines and metrics. The consultant's reports were presented to the City Council's Urban Services Committee in December 2005 [view minutes] and the full Council in January 2006 [view minutes].
In fiscal year 2006-07, the Council approved funding to hire a sustainability coordinator, develop a sustainability management plan, and make improvements to the energy systems at the aquatic center. The internal Sustainability Steering Committee has worked on several major projects:
Selection of a triple-bottom-line (environmental, economic, social) framework to guide activities
Development of long-term goals in five key areas:
Additional work efforts for the near term include creating metrics to measure progress toward the organization's goals, developing audit procedures, completing the organization's greenhouse gas inventory, and incorporating sustainability in job descriptions and employee evaluations.