Charlottesville, Albemarle: we are certifiable!

If there’s one thing the green movement isn’t short on, it’s talk. Dudes love them some verbiage, whether in the form of initiatives, task forces, seminars, workshops, or online forums…no silent revolution, this. At first glance you might think that the certification of Charlottesville and Albemarle as "Green Governments" by the Virginia Municipal League is another example of hot air tinged green, but I think it’s probably a little more substantive than that.

Of the 39 cities, 156 towns, and 12 counties that make up the League (not all the commonwealth’s counties are members), 41 governments took part in its Green Government Challenge—essentially a certification program for localities that are moving in some sort of sustainable direction. Cities and counties that signed up for the program went about proving that they were taking action in eleven categories like water/air quality, waste management, green building, and education. They were going for points; to be exact, 100 out of a possible 200 would mean certification as a Green Government. The results were announced at an October 20 conference in (non-certified) Norfolk.

Drumroll, please: Charlottesville, with a cool 175 points, is the greenest city of its size in Virginia (population between 15,001 and 90,000). This earned the city $3,000 in prize money. And Albemarle County, with an also-respectable 145 pionts, earned the certification (no cash, though; the county was competing against localities like Roanoke and Loudoun County, which presumably have more resources for greenification). Of the 41 participating governments, 26 got certified, so it seems the bar is probably set in about the right place.

The right place, that is, for making people feel good and making the program seem serious-but-not-too-stringent. As to whether that bar’s in the right place for actually solving environmental problems, I suspect this is more of your "step in the right direction" than your "hooray, we have entered a new age of wonderfulness" situation. If cities and counties were inspired to take action in order to rack up points, that’s a good thing. If those actions amounted to talking more than doing (i.e., advisory board creation), I’m not super impressed. Sarah Temple, the county’s environmental manager, had this to say: "It didn’t convince us to do anything that we weren’t already doing. But it’s encouraging."

What do you want to see Charlottesville and Albemarle doing that they aren’t already? What about other local municipalities?


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