The City of Gaithersburg, Maryland has taken a leadership position and maintained a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment. We define sustainability as meeting the needs of the City in a manner that accurately reflects the community’s desire for social equity, environmental health, and economic prosperity without compromising future generations’ ability to meet these same needs.
Since the early 1990’s, the City has had a dedicated Environmental Affairs Committee that advises and makes recommendations to the Mayor and Council on a multitude of environmental concerns and issues. Creating a sustainable way of life to benefit the City residents and community is a core value that is ingrained in our actions and plans. Lessening our environmental impact to preserve and protect the future is an essential part of the character of our City.
Gaithersburg is proud of the many initiatives we have undertaken to demonstrate our strong promise to environmental stewardship, such as:
- Legislating green building requirements for residential and commercial properties, including requiring LEED Silver certification for all future occupied municipal buildings.
- Constructing two LEED rated municipal facilities, one of which attained platinum level certification.
- A Green Fleet program that includes the use of hybrid vehicles, Police bike patrols, and low sulfur B20 biodiesel fuel.
- An active Transportation Committee that advises on the improvement of bike and pedestrian corridors and linkages.
- Purchasing 30% wind energy credits.
- Public-private partnerships to implement stream restoration and stormwater management retrofit projects.
- Ongoing environmental activities throughout the community including Team Up to Green Up initiatives and a Green Week celebration with a variety of events.
- An Environmental Awards recognition program.
- Implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the maintenance of parks and landscaped areas.
- Rainscapes Rewards program that provides residents with educational resources and financial incentives for natural drainage projects, including the use of rain barrels and conservation landscaping techniques.
- A Green Streets retrofit program.
- Eradicating invasive plant species through goat grazing.
- Reforestation initiatives.
- Watershed health education classes.
- Commitment to Transit Oriented Design (TOD) and Mixed Use design in development projects.
- An Affordable Housing Ordinance.
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickups, Farmers Markets, and Community Gardening.
- Single stream recycling programs in which the City has made significant investments.
- Designated drop-off area for free recycling of oil, antifreeze and filters.
- Councilman Mike Sesma’s appointment to chair the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (EENR) Policy and Advocacy Committee at the National League of Cities.
- Improving energy efficiency in City facilities through a Guaranteed Energy Performance Contract.
- Designation as a Tree City USA for 23 consecutive years.
The City has recently submitted an application for acceptance into the Sustainable Maryland Certified program. As a component of our submittal, we created a Green Team Action Plan which lays out the actions that we plan to undertake within the next two years. Some of those actions consist of:
- Tracking and evaluating our Municipal and Community Carbon footprints.
- Creating a Watershed Plan for our Middle Seneca Creek Watershed.
- Creating a Climate Action Plan.
The City has been enhancing its overall sustainability which supports our vision and stabilizes future costs. In Gaithersburg we understand that Climate Protection is not something that can be achieved by any one individual or government entity. In order to realize the results needed to make an impact on our planet, everyone must step forward, whether you are a large urban city or a suburban municipality like Gaithersburg. Our environmental stewardship is governed by a philosophy that we are all stakeholders in our planet’s health, and it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to play the role of “protector” both in word and in deed.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Gaithersburg’s Mayor Sidney A. Katz.