Opinion: Letter to the Editor: A Vision for Sustainability

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: A Vision for Sustainability

At the end of 2017, just before the holidays, the Herndon Town Council adopted the Herndon Sustainability Plan. The multi-year effort to address environmental sustainability gained significant momentum in 2017 as 18 Town staff members and 18 members of the Herndon community developed the initial plan. The plan’s focus for 2018 is data collection. Before we can set goals, we need a baseline of data for things like energy, water, waste, and transportation. Once we have the data, we can set ambitious goals to drive a visionary sustainability agenda.

For those of you who are new to sustainability, this is a good time to engage in the conversation. There are two kinds of sustainability that are relevant to the Town of Herndon, namely financial and environmental.

Financial sustainability is the Town of Herndon’s ability to maintain a thriving economy in the long term. The Town of Herndon has a long-standing reputation for robust financial stewardship. The Town’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) consistently touts the Town’s recognition as a leader in financial reporting. Every year in recent history, the Town has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. And, the Town of Herndon continues to maintain a AAA bond rating, which is very important when considering the Town’s ability to weather recessions like the one in 2008.

Environmental sustainability is very similar to financial sustainability. It is the Town of Herndon’s ability to maintain a thriving natural environment in the long term. Those of you that are new to the sustainability conversation in Herndon should know that the Town of Herndon has been committed to environmental sustainability in various ways for many years. The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the Town every year for 28 years for our commitment to our tree canopy. The Virginia Municipal League has recognized the Town of Herndon with its “Green Government” certification since 2014. The Town is also home to a number of green businesses and nonprofits like GreenFare and the Herndon Environmental Network. Environmental sustainability is part of Herndon’s identity.

So, why a Herndon Sustainability Plan? Why now? The simple answer is that there is a lot to be done, and we’ve only skimmed the surface of possibilities. Furthermore, the Town of Herndon has a unique opportunity with the development of the downtown and the arrival of the metro happening simultaneously. This is the time to be talking about environmental sustainability.

There are so many fun and challenging questions to be answered, and Herndon is well positioned to lead a regional sustainability conversation. How do we reduce our Town’s carbon footprint? How do we make more solar installations happen? Can we reduce the fuel economy of the Town’s vehicle fleet? Can we increase the number of Electric Vehicle charging stations in town? Can we recycle more as a Town? How do we secure our future water rights? How do we reduce pollution in our watershed? How do we make Herndon more walkable and biker-friendly? How do we connect the metro station development with the downtown? How do we think about density and green building? Can we create a thriving community garden? What is our vision for sustainability?

Babies born this year will be the primary beneficiaries of the sustainability vision we adopt and pursue. If we make the Town’s 2035 Vision a reality, the kids born this year will graduate high school and become adults in a sustainable world that we build for them. As the Town of Herndon enters into its annual budgeting cycle, we should encourage our Town Council to set ambitious sustainability goals for our Town that are integrated into the Budget, the Capital Improvement Plan, and the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The Town of Herndon gets to design the future. As a Town, we can lead the region in the transition to an exciting, thriving, sustainable, and just future. It’s ON Us.

Joseph Plummer