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Q&A Series: Reflecting on the QuickSTARt Workshop in Columbia, SC

This month we hear from Mary Pat Bauldaf, Sustainability Facilitator for Columbia, SC. In May 2017, STAR Communities traveled to Columbia to conduct a QuickSTARt Workshop, a multi-day program that accelerates data collection to reach STAR certification. After four months of data collection, Columbia has submitted their application and anticipates becoming South Carolina’s first certified STAR Community this fall.

What initially attracted Columbia to the QuickSTARt program?

We applied for QuickSTARt to accelerate our efforts toward STAR certification. It helped us collect data in a more timely manner, engage more stakeholders and make a greater impact in creating a more intuitive, safer, cleaner and more efficient City.

What city departments and community partners did you engage in the two-day workshop?

Sustainability is a team sport within the City, and we included nearly every department, including but not limited to Solid Waste, Utilities and Engineering, Planning and Development Services, Public Works, and the City Manager and her senior management. Our Climate Protection Action Committee (CPAC) appointees also attended, as well as leaders from non-profit organizations, neighborhoods, business associations, relevant state offices and surrounding local governments.

What were the benefits of having an in-person workshop?

The workshop generated synergy between participants and created an environment ripe for creativity and brainstorming.

In the months following the QuickSTARt workshop how did data collection go? Were workshop participants enthusiastic to help provide information?

The actual data collection was a bit challenging, and we’re glad that we had the workshop to prepare us. By and large, people were excited about the workshop, and it instilled in them a sense of responsibility and commitment to the process.

How has being the lead on a citywide data collection project affected your job? Have you made new connections?

I haven’t done this alone; we’ve had wonderful interns assist with the data collection, and they learned a lot about sustainability, municipal government operation and how to work with many personalities. It also built a bridge to the City’s sustainability program and engaged new and different people in our program. Personally, it’s afforded me the opportunity to interact more with other departments and organizations, as well as educate others about sustainability.

How do you plan to use your certification results to improve sustainability in Columbia?

STAR breathed new life and engagement into the City’s sustainability program. We’re looking to the results to expand our definition of sustainability, identify areas that may need some attention and create new metrics.

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