Mary Pat Baldauf, Sustainability Facilitator for Columbia shares their STAR story.
In 2015, Columbia’s community development director indirectly introduced the City to STAR by asking whether Columbia was a sustainable community. She was working on a grant, and sustainable communities that had achieved STAR certification received extra points. She paid the City’s membership fee to pursue certification. Sadly, she passed away shortly thereafter, but became the city’s inspiration for STAR certification. Columbia’s official STAR certification announcement was held the week of her birthday.
The City of Columbia was an early adapter of sustainability through its membership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the City’s 10-year-old Climate Action Plan was due for an update. Before jumping in and making changes, the City decided that establishing a true benchmark would be a good first step. STAR provided that benchmark.
The certification process taught city staff that Columbia does a lot of things well, but they hadn’t been documenting or tracking their progress. In 2018, the City’s Climate Protection Action Campaign (CPAC) will review the recommendations that resulted from the STAR process and incorporate them into work plans. Staff is also working to incorporate sustainability into the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
STAR has been an invaluable introduction to sustainability for some departments, and a refresher for others. It engaged departments and organizations and fostered better working relationships and understandings. Finally, it started a lot of conversations the City hopes to continue in 2018.