The effects of increased sustainability is difficult to measure in the short term, but the enthusiasm to make the community and world a better place is much easier to see.
Jonathan Wachtel, Lakewood’s sustainability manager, and other city …
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To stay up to date on Lakewood’s sustainability efforts, visit www.lakewood.org/Sustainability/ and www.sustainableneighborhoodnetwork.org/.
Jonathan Wachtel, Lakewood’s sustainability manager, and other city staff have seen an increase in residents from whom leaving the planet better off is a major concern.
“Our community has laid out a robust vision for sustainability in Lakewood,” Wachtel said. “We’ve made some huge strides, and I’m very proud of how the community has embraced and pushed staff to make our sustainability goals happen.”
Lakewood committed to sustainability efforts when it adopted its first sustainability plan in May of 2015, and in the ensuing two and a half years, has gained international recognition for its efforts. In December of that same year, Lakewood was one of 94 cities recognized for its efforts to combat climate change by “Cities100,” a publication identifying 100 city policy solutions that can be used the world over.
The sustainability plan is a kind of guide for the city’s sustainability efforts and builds upon goals in the new comprehensive plan, which was passed in April. Sections in the plan include climate change and adaptation, energy, water, zero waste events, transportation and the built environment. Built environment refers to spaces for living and working, such as neighborhoods, business parks and developments.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff in the plan, that has to do with data collection and measurements,” Wachtel said. “In the past two years, we’ve been getting a lot of the early steps in place and established, which means we can now start working toward some of our goals.”
From the start, Lakewood has been working on ways to conserve and improve the efficiency of energy, gas, and water — all admittedly complex systems. Discussions with partners like Xcel and Denver Water are going a long way to help in possible goals and plans, Wachtel said.
“Part of this is just providing resources to residents who want more information,” he added. “So much of sustainability is about co-benefits that come with these changes, like economic and social improvements.”
As one of the main stewards of Lakewood’s facilities, both in and outdoor, the community resources department made sustainability a key feature of its recently adopted updated master plan.
“One thing we’re going to be doing is set up about 70 new smart trash and recycling bins in our more regional parks,” said Allison Scheck, public engagement and operations manager with the community resources department. “We’ll be able to monitor how full they are remotely, which will help increase employee efficiencies in addition to expanding recycling in parks.”
Lakewood has a range of popular events throughout the year, including Cider Days and Earth Day, and staff worked hard to make these zero waste events, not just for visitors, but also the vendors.
One of the most important keys to sustainability success, according to Wachtel, is resident buy in. And in in the city’s sustainable neighborhoods program that resident enthusiasm shines brightest.
“We started out with five existing neighborhoods, and added three new ones in 2017 alone,” said Alyssa Vogan, Sustainable Neighborhood program coordinator. “This voluntary program shows how even small steps contribute to the bigger picture.”
The city’s eight Sustainable Neighborhoods are Applewood, Belmar, Eiber, Green Mountain, Lake Lochwood Village, Morse Park, South of 6th, and Southern Gables. To receive this designation, neighborhoods receive credits by participating in and achieving sustainability goals.
“This year Applewood launched a free produce market that got about 100 residents to participate,” Vogan said. “Mors Park held a neighborhood-wide recycling event, and Green Mountain held a sustainability 101 workshop.”
As Wachtel sees it, these are just the first signs that Lakewood is about to really get going on delivering a sustainable future for everyone.
“I think we’re really turning a corner now that we have our foundation set up,” he said. “We’re going to need the entire community’s help to get where we want to be.”
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