This is a guest post by Hilari Varnadore, executive director of STAR Communities
Recently, STAR Communities announced that Seattle was awarded the 5-STAR Community Rating for national leadership in sustainability. The city recorded the highest score to date, and is only the second in the nation to achieve the 5-STAR rating for its participation in the STAR Community Rating System (STAR), which evaluates the livability and sustainability of U.S. communities.
This blog post features Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reflecting on the Emerald City’s experiences with STAR — achievements that he is especially proud of and areas that the city has targeted for future investment as a result of the assessment’s findings.
How has the STAR Community Rating System enriched Seattle’s already impressive sustainability work?
The STAR Community Rating System daylighted programs delivering sustainability benefits across several different goal areas. Understanding where our investments are leveraging sustainability impact helps inform budgeting and prioritization and that is incredibly important when a city is planning investments for the future. It allows us to reliably direct resources in a manner that will continue to benefit Seattle residents and businesses well into the future.
How will STAR help you promote a healthy environment, a strong economy and well-being for all residents, now and for future generations?
The roadmap that STAR provides to a healthy, prosperous and safe community helps us create a shared vision — with the community — of what we want Seattle to be and the best ways to get there. STAR is a great tool for fostering community engagement around Seattle’s sustainability work.
What are some highlights from your city’s achievements, as reflected in the STAR certification?
Seattle has a goal of becoming carbon neutral — it was reassuring to receive maximum credit for our climate adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation work. It showed us that we are on the right path. We also received a high number of points for our leading edge energy efficiency programs and the Green Seattle Partnership – a unique public-private partnership working to restore and maintain Seattle’s forested parkland.
How has the STAR Community Rating System improved transparency in Seattle and helped you better message your sustainability work to constituents?
The very thorough processes of collecting, analyzing and reporting all of the data required for the assessment was big leap forward in terms of Seattle’s commitment to transparency. It’s hard to be transparent if you don’t have a clear means of communicating your work. STAR provides that clarity. I’m not interested in talking about generalities when it comes to Seattle’s sustainability work, and neither are our residents. We’re interested in specifics and that’s what we got with the STAR Community Rating System.
STAR Certification helped you identify some areas requiring additional work. How do you plan on addressing those gaps going forward?
The STAR equity measures showed we have some work to do in the area of Environmental Justice. To address that gap, we recently launched an Equity & Environment Initiative to explore who is and isn’t benefiting from Seattle’s environmental progress and how we can advance equity and provide opportunities for everyone to participate in Seattle’s environmental movement. STAR will be a great tool to help us track the outcomes and accomplishments of this initiative.
For other cities considering STAR certification, what would you tell them?
STAR is so much more than a recognition program. It is worth it to invest the time needed for a robust assessment. It’s a valuable tool that can help your city make great strides in sustainability outcomes.
About the Mayor: Ed Murray has been Mayor of Seattle since January 2014. He served in the Washington State Senate from 2007-2013, and before that for 11 years in the Washington State House of Representatives.
About the Author: As Executive Director of STAR Communities, Hilari is focused on advancing a national framework and rating system for sustainable communities. Previously, she served as Frederick County, Maryland’s first Sustainability Director in the Office of the County Manager and was a member of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network.