Why is the Sierra Club, an environmental group, interested in encouraging economic development in the city? The most straightforward answer is that if we can restore and improve the neighborhoods where we already live, we can spare the rapidly disappearing wilderness, parks, and farms in our region from becoming another suburban subdivision... We can preserve wilderness and parkland—inside the city and out—by building a better District of Columbia and providing economic opportunity for its residents... While it is easier to simply stop a harmful project, the real rewards come from finding solutions that better serve the city. - "Restore the Core"
The Chapter’s Smart Growth Committee volunteers are working together for a better city and region -– one where the built environment allows people to live, work, play, and travel with minimal impact upon the planet's air, water, and soil.
The committee advocates for more environmentally friendly transportation options and development patterns in the District and the region. We work with other Sierra Club chapters and advocacy organizations in the region to influence the D.C. government, Metro officials, and other decision makers. In recent years the committee has been a leader in advancing progress on D.C.’s streetcar network, advocating for transit-oriented developments, and pressing for more trails like the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
Local transportation and development patterns have tremendous impacts on the global and local environment. 42% of carbon emissions within DC result from the transportation sector, and another 57% from commercial and residential buildings. Meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has seen sprawl cut down over 100 acres of forests every day for the past generation, imperiling local wildlife, our own drinking water quality, and the world's climate. Now that DC is once again the fastest-growing city within that watershed, we can play a unique role in protecting both local and global habitats from destruction.
That's why older ideas of urban sustainability—blocking change, de-urbanizing—is such a disaster: Fighting density is anti-environmental.— Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) August 19, 2017
Current priorities include:
- urging the DC Circulator and WMATA to phase out dirty diesel buses and buy new quiet, zero-emission battery electric buses,
- advancing necessary new transit links like the crosstown streetcar line,
- pressing local governments to support Metro capital improvements that bring transit to people -- and transit-supportive development that bring people to transit,
- working with coalition partners across the region to halt climate-denying roadway expansion and implementation of decongestion pricing,
- quickly implementing elements of the Sustainable DC Plan and its transportation companion moveDC, which aim to sharply cut CO2 emissions from transportation,
- addressing the twin environmental justice crises of roadway air pollution and traffic deaths,
- transforming local corridors into Complete Streets with protected bikeways and dedicated bus lanes that prioritize safer, more efficient, and more widely accessible modes,
- researching and advocating for leading-edge environmental standards to ensure that new development restores local ecosystems.
To find out how you can help, please contact the Smart Growth committee chair, or join us at our monthly meetings: second Wednesdays, 6:45 - 8:30 PM, at the Sierra Club's F Street offices. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP via our online calendar.
Our advocacy in favor of Smart Growth has a long heritage and strong backing from the Club:
- The DC Chapter began its advocacy for Smart Growth in 1997 with a regional "Restore the Core" campaign, seeking "to limit sprawl by revitalizing existing urban communities." We were one of the first chapters to endorse the Neighborhood Principles for Smart Growth, recognizing that "Sprawl and Smart Growth are issues powerfully entwined with social justice."
- The national Sierra Club's urban land use policies (dating back to 1986) state that "An essential strategy for reducing urban related carbon emissions is supporting dense, mixed-use communities and land uses that prioritize walking, biking or transit to meet daily transportation needs, as well as balancing jobs and housing within the region... Development should be dense, inclusive, and located within or connected to existing communities and neighborhoods." As
- Two of the 21 strategies listed in the Sierra Club's strategic plan goals include "Maximize energy efficiency across all sectors, including transportation, urban design, and land use" and "Promote environmentally sensitive land use and urban design to minimize sprawl."
* Except December, when we meet at Chapter's holiday party.
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