A sustainable government agency minimizes negative impacts and enhances positive impacts on the environment, economy, and society. Additionally, a sustainable government agency recognizes that governments should be leaders in sustainability and set the example for their communities. Government agencies also often have the purchasing power to drive sustainable markets by selecting sustainable, environmentally friendly products and materials for their projects and daily operations.
If you are looking to improve your agency’s sustainability, consider the three action items below as a starting point. Also, State agencies may reach out to Ali Szabo at aszabo[at]ndep.nv.gov for more resources. NDEP Bureau of Sustainable Materials Management is actively looking to engage other state agencies and improve sustainability within the government.
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Before an agency can determine what sustainable actions to take, it should first evaluate its current operations, practices, and environmental impacts. Assessments and audits can be performed to measure and analyze an agency’s waste stream, energy usage and efficiency, carbon footprint, and water usage. Information and data gathered from these assessments can be used as a benchmark for the agency to improve upon. The following are useful guides and tools for conducting such assessments:
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Government agencies looking to be more sustainable should design operations and processes in a way that minimizes the agency’s environmental footprint. This includes looking for ways to increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, offer green transportation options for employees, make sustainable land use decisions, and use purchasing power to buy environmentally friendly and sustainable products. An agency should consider creating a green team of sustainability-minded individuals who can identify and champion sustainable practices and solutions. For State agencies, you may reach out to Ali Szabo at aszabo[at]ndep.nv.gov for more resources. NDEP Bureau of Sustainable Materials Management is actively looking to engage other state agencies and improve sustainability within the government.
Using Action Items #1 and #2, a government agency can develop an Annual Action Plan for Sustainability. Such a plan would set sustainability goals to attain and list the various action items for achieving those goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They should also be aligned with available resources. If resources are limited, agencies should determine necessary partnerships and funding opportunities to accomplish goals. Additionally, when developing a robust plan, agencies should consider engaging a diversity of ideas as well as community experts. Finally, it is important for agencies to establish a baseline from which periodic assessments can be measured against to determine progress towards the plan’s goals. Consistent, periodic measurements can help an agency determine if the plan and its action items need to be adjusted.