Championing Sustainability in Upstate New York

 

By Joana B. Nadieu, AICP

untitledTwo and a half years ago I accepted the brand-new position of “Sustainability Champion” as an excuse to get to know more of my colleagues in the Upstate NY Chapter. Having moved to the area not long before to a job that is nationally-focused, I was out of the loop on local trends and players in sustainability.

Fast forward to now: I manage an email list of 87 people for a regional sustainability network, have organized four webinars on sustainability that have reached over 1000 attendees featuring case studies from our region, and put together three state chapter sessions in New York State. Through this work, I have met and learned about planners doing sustainability work from New Hampshire to Washington DC on topics from transportation resilience to sustainable stormwater management and renewable energy.

How did this start? Thanks to great support from Anne Miller (Champions coordinator), Scott Turner (Division Chair), Beth Otto, and others, I established a presence for the Division at regional and state conferences. I started off by snagging a table at the Northeast APA Conference – a special regional conference event hosted by several state chapters – and getting people to sign up for what is now called the Northeast Regional Sustainability Network. We distributed copies of the APA Sustainability Policy, Sustaining Places report, and talked with like-minded community leaders and colleagues in allied professions.

Because of the dispersed nature of those who were initially interested and the lack of state sustainability committees in the region, we opted to meet via conference call and invite anyone who was interested to attend. After one call, the group decided to use webinars as a structure for group conversations and learning. Through the Planners Webcast Series, Northeast Sustainability Network webinars featured:

  • Research by Dr. George Homsy on the state of sustainability alongside examples of community planning from three states – recording available here (A similar session is slated for the 2017 National Planning Conference in NYC!);
  • Guidance on sustainability metrics from state and local level perspectives – recording available here, and An exploration of planning for resilience in transportation systems across the country – recording coming soon.

Our hope was to help connect planners in the northeast with others who have incorporated sustainability into their work, and also give them a platform to share their lessons learned and resources with the national APA membership.

We have been pleased with the diversity of participants and the discussion stimulated by these events among planners far and wide. As the Champion program matures, I hope additional champions will help make more connections across the northeast region and deepen Chapter-level involvement in the Division. I look forward to working with you to create a sustainable future!

Joanna B. Nadeau, AICP, is one of the Divison’s sustainability champions and the director of community programs at Audubon International, headquartered in Troy, New York.

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