On October 12, 2015, the City of Las Cruces, NM announced its Certified 3-STAR Community Rating at a city council meeting, where Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque presented Mayor Ken Miyagishima with a plaque.
“The STAR certification program takes a holistic view of sustainability by examining economic vitality, environmental stewardship, and social equity. This comprehensive snapshot helps the City better understand the interdependency of these three sustainability pillars and encourages us to look for innovative ways to create win-win strategies that address our many concerns,” said Gil Sorg, City Councilor.
Soon after the announcement, LaRocque contacted STAR Communities about developing a workshop to capitalize on their certification and use the moment to engage the community and city staff, explore and better understand their certification, and prioritize future actions that will help the community to become more sustainable.
On April 22nd STAR Communities staff traveled to the Las Cruces and facilitated a Sustainable Community Workshop with 50+ participants representing local government, nonprofits, and community leaders in a full-day workshop. The workshop was co-sponsored with the Dona Ana Communities United, the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, and the City’s Sustainability Program with the following goals:
- Increase understanding of the full breadth of sustainability and give participants a feeling of ownership of sustainability;
- Provide participants with an update on the current status of sustainability in Las Cruces and give a national context to their STAR certification;
- Understand the difference between outcomes and actions and the impact of each;
- Identify the roles and actions that will move the needle on sustainability; and
- Leverage the good intentions in Las Cruces to meaningful actions and develop consensus around a set of priorities on which to collaborate.
To accomplish these goals, the workshop began by providing participants with a high level understanding of the STAR Community Rating System and Las Cruces’ score. STAR staff led participants through a series of facilitated activities and discussions that looked closely at the City’s submission and explained the connection between outcomes and actions. Participants were impressed with the amount of data gathered to gain certification and were able to begin to identify gaps that need to be addressed.
Building off of the knowledge that participants gained from the first exercises, the second part of the workshop dove deeper into fourteen STAR objectives that had been pre-identified as local priorities through a community-wide survey. “Just having representatives interested in different STAR goal areas gave a physical presence to the multidimensional nature of sustainability. We were able to make some solid connections,” said LaRocque. Through small group discussions, participants identified future actions from the STAR rating system that the City and community could take to improve their sustainability. Participants evaluated the actions on feasibility and determined which were the most important to move the needle on sustainability.
By the end of the workshop, participants had developed a set of actions for the City to explore further as well as developed a deeper understanding about sustainability in Las Cruces. LaRocque described the process, “STAR’s framework gave the perfect foundation to explore the efficacy of various actions in making lasting change. Having the metrics to measure the change would keep the community’s focus. The workshop made all the hard work of collecting the data worth it!”