I’ve been conscious of the environment my entire life. Favorite childhood memories include watching tadpoles, picking wild strawberries and playing with hermit crabs at the beach. I remember the effect Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had when first published, the first Earth Day and the beginnings of today’s environmental movement. Everyone’s consciousness was raised,but only gradually, and today, climate change poses an existential threat to all of us.
Given the total lack of leadership or interest at the Federal level, it is local and state governments who are leading the way in efforts to slow global warming, preserve our environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. I’m proud that Arlington has long been a leader in this area and we’ve joined over 400 cities in supporting the Paris Climate Agreement. We must do much, much more – and we can.
Programs to Support Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation
Transportation and buildings consume the vast majority of our energy. This is why I’ve supported energy-efficient buildings since my time on the School Board. We built the first LEED-certified school building in Virginia at the Langston-Brown Center. I pushed for geothermal heating at Wakefield High School, and Discovery Elementary School is the first Net-Zero school in Virginia.
On the County Board, I have not only supported energy efficiency in our own buildings, but have provided increasingly strong incentives for private developers to do so, too. https://environment.arlingtonva.us/energy/green-building/standard-arlington-green-building-site-plan-conditions/
In December, with the Board’s strong encouragement, the new Amazon Met Park office towers came for approval planning for LEED Platinum and Energy Star certification. They will use 100% renewable electricity that will be supplied either by renewable energy produced onsite or purchased offsite.
In September 2019,the Board set ambitious goals to become a carbon neutral community by 2050. Interim milestones include getting 100% of Arlington government buildings’ electricity from renewable sources by 2035. Toward this goal, we recently approved an agreement with Dominion Energy to purchase 83% of our renewable energy from a solar farm.
Also, I will push for more onsite generation of energy, since transmission lines are less resilient to adverse weather than onsite energy production. One innovative example is windows that act as solar panels, so electricity is generated on the sides of buildings as well as on roofs.
Sometimes saving energy is pretty simple. Our transition to LED bulbs in our street lights saves us energy and around $800,000 a year.
Since joining the County Board, I’ve supported wise transit, walkability and cycling. Designing our community so people can walk or bike rather than use a car is crucial to improving the environment, and it’s healthy for people, too. Recently we’ve focused on providing protected bike lanes, so it is easy and safe to bike places. See Master Transportation Plan: https://projects.arlingtonva.us/plans-studies/transportation/master-transportation-plan/.
Climate Change Resiliency & Innovation
Not only must we slow climate change, we also need to mitigate its effects on our community now. The torrential July 8, 2019 storm showed that our 20th-century stormwater infrastructure is not resilient enough for the 21st-century storms we are experiencing. This Spring, I expect to support new solutions like large cisterns to capture rainwater. They can slow the runoff and, should we enter times of drought, act as important water reserves as well
Innovation will be crucial to meeting the challenge of climate change. If we move to using electric vehicles, and I think we must, we need accessible ways to charge them. I am promoting a pilot demonstration project using light poles to provide charging for electric vehicles. This system is already in use in several European and U.S. cities.
Given climate change and the threat it poses, we need to rethink how we design our built environment. I will push for inventive ways to incorporate trees and plants into everything we build. Plant life provides shelter from the heat, cools air naturally and ensures we have areas for local wildlife and pollinators to thrive. I particularly like an example from Milan, Italy of a residential-commercial building with 900 trees. Designs like these help us preserve a psychological connection to nature and our environment while helping to combat climate change.