Climate Change and Our Environment
While climate change is a global issue, there are many steps both large and small that can be taken locally to reduce our carbon footprint and create a greener community. For decades I’ve been a part of generating and implementing numerous initiatives and policies to foster a robust local food system. Since 2000 I’ve been part of efforts aimed at supporting local farms, protecting and preserving farmland, ensuring we have ample clean water, and promoting a wide range of ways to get local food to local people; from partnering with retailers to providing resources and training to nontraditional farming, food, and beverage entrepreneurs; to advocating for more institutional purchasing of regionally produced foods.
I am proud to have done my part finding solutions to a cleaner climate through active transportation while working as the Executive Director for the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth (LCHAY). In my time at LCHAY, I championed a pilot program called Safe Routes to Schools that is now an ongoing and effective program running in the three largest school districts in our county. Safe Routes educates and encourages students and their surrounding communities about the benefits of walking and biking safely to school. It also helps fund needed changes the physical landscape, or built environment, to support the program's goals. Having children walk or bike to school can set their transportation habits for a lifetime by showing them at a young age that carbon-free transportation is fun and easy when we have the needed infrastructure and programs to support it.
We must prioritize marginalized and front line communities experiencing the most damaging effects of climate change, and mitigate these effects at every turn. We can best support each other with mixed use zoning and by creating walkable and bikeable neighborhood communities to improve health and preserve the farmland and forests that surround our cities. Supporting local farms and farmers markets increases locally grown foods, and we must create stricter air and water quality regulations to support a healthy environment. We cannot let these issues compete with one another, we must always consider equity and inclusion when we take action to address climate change.
These changes at the county level can be from the micro to macro. We must utilize green and recycled building materials, move quickly to convert our fleet of vehicles to electric, and find ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Promoting telecommuting when and wherever possible is another way to reduce travel time for county employees, lowering their carbon footprint. We need a committed focus on addressing the dwindling options for household recycling while focusing on the “Reduce” part of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” equation first. And we need to manage vegetation and invasive weeds in our parks and along county roads without compromising our health or that of our watersheds and the planet.