Using STAR to Shape a New Sustainability Program

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Posted: Monday, March 26, 2018 7:35 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When Lynne Barker started as the first sustainability director for the city of Reno in 2015, one of her first tasks was to get a sense of where Reno stood in regards to sustainability. To conduct a comprehensive baseline of community conditions, she turned to the STAR Community Rating System and its certification program. While Barker had been involved with the creation of the rating system, she had never worked on an application for STAR certification and was eager to test out its data driven approach to tracking and benchmarking community-wide sustainability.

Reno joined the STAR Community Leadership Program in fall 2016 and city staff collected data for certification over the course of 2017. In February 2018, the Reno City Council and City Manager announced that the city had achieved a Certified 3-STAR Community Rating and published the city’s first Sustainability Report. This achievement and the report reinforce the city’s longstanding commitment to promoting a more livable and sustainable community.

"Achieving STAR certification helped us understand where we are excelling and identified opportunities for improvement," said Barker. "STAR helped the city of Reno to credibly track our progress toward a comprehensive set of sustainability goals, and it helps us understand how we’re doing relative to other communities."

A few of the Reno City Council’s top priorities were reflected in the certification, including investing in homeless services, increasing affordable housing options and supporting low-income residents. As a result of the STAR assessment, city staffers were able to quickly highlight opportunities for improvement in these and other areas, including increased access to affordable housing, improved community health, expanded use of public and alternative modes of transportation, and strengthened civil and human rights. New areas of concern will require future commitments to make progress, including greening government operations, expansion of green markets and creation of green jobs, improved conditions for aging in the community, addressing environmental justice, protecting biodiversity and managing invasive species, and preserving our remaining farm and ranch lands.

"Sustainability principles are reinforced in the city-wide goals and policies contained in ReImagine Reno, the city of Reno Master Plan as well as the more specific strategies being explored as part of the city’s Strategic Plan, which covers such priorities as enhancing our Vibrant Neighborhoods and Public Places and fostering Well-Managed Growth," said Barker. "Through these plans and the city’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan currently under development, we’ll be investing in infill and redevelopment, environmental protection, energy and water conservation, local food access, transit, renewable energy, access to social and human services, housing diversity, economic resilience and sustainable development practices."

Reno’s STAR certification is just a start. The Office of Sustainability will continue to measure progress toward a healthy environment, strong economy and improving the well-being of all residents.

SOURCE: STAR Communities

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