Can Washington D.C. Become One Of America’s Greenest Cities?

Ever since “green” became a part of the national lexicon, we’ve been competing to see who’s “greenest”. When it comes to city-wide sustainability, havens of earth-friendly thinking like Berkeley, Portland, and San Francisco have long topped the list. But watch out hippy towns, a new suit-and-tie-wearing competitor is on the horizon.

Our beloved District of Columbia recently announced the ‘Sustainable DC Plan‘–a 20-year road map to make “D.C. the greenest, healthiest, and most livable city in the U.S.” While a lofty and admirable goal, some say the dreaded sequester will stifle DC’s green plans before they have a chance to grow.

Sustainable DC

Image via Sustainable DC

The result of nearly 18 months of planning, research, and 180 public meetings, the Sustainable D.C. Act outlines “32 goals, 31 targets, and more than 140 actions” aimed to make Washington D.C. the “greenest city in the U.S.”

According to Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, the district is well on its way: DC already leads the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings, per capita, and all new schools are required to satisfy the LEED Gold standard. Still, Gray thinks they can do more.

Other goals include:

  • Cutting citywide energy use by 50%; increasing the use of renewable energy by 50%; thus reducing annual power outages across the city.
  • Increasing wetlands areas by 50%; building a 40% tree canopy across the city; and guaranteeing parks or natural space within 10 minute walk of all residents.
  • Increasing use of public transit, biking, and walking to 75% of all commuter trips; reducing commuter trips by car to 25%; and achieving zero unhealthy air quality days. (See summary of all goals in this PDF).

But questions remain about how DC will fund these ambitious goals. As Jared Green of The Dirt reports, “Gray said the District will need to wait to hear the results of the debate in Congress on ‘sequestration,’ which could potentially result in billions being cut from the federal budget. Much of the district economy depends on federal government spending, which is why the mayor said the city must ‘diversify’ into new sectors in his recent state of the district speech.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog