By Alex Russell
The Church of the City of Falls, like any community on the planet. can make a difference in the fight against climate change, said Kate Walker, the city’s environmental program coordinator, at a virtual Earth Day event here last month.
The Falls Church Chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) and Citizens for a Better City (CBC) jointly sponsored a virtual Earth Day event last month led by Walker.
The focus of the meeting was on local environmental protection, improvement and how to reflect these efforts in future policy development “here at Falls Church”.
Attending the meeting were Tim Stevens, Member of the FC Planning Commission and Past Chair of the Environmental Sustainability Council; Hal Lippman, president of the RSC; Erica Thomas of the LWV; and Phil Duncan, from the Falls Church Town Council.
Walker’s presentation, titled “Environment for All,” highlighted the importance of the community playing a “big role” in managing environmental sustainability as well as the policy implications of the issue at the local government level. Walker stressed that “we have to act and we have to act now… there are things we can do here [in F.C.] it will have an impact.
Among the main ideas discussed at the event was the importance of managing consumption, whether it’s food or any store-bought packaged product.
“It’s not really about managing waste, it’s about managing consumption…one of the biggest problems with food in this country is [that] 40% of food… is thrown away. Walker explained how recycling is as vital a practice as ever, yet has often eclipsed other equally important methods that should generally come first. She explained that, ideally, “recycling should be the last step.” From a political point of view, “the City needs a zero waste plan”, adding that “reuse, reduce, recycle” is “in that order for a reason”.
Walker’s presentation included recent major storms that have hit the city over the past year. “We must recognize that this is, in part, attributable to changes in the environment,” and therefore sustainable flood mitigation will need to be a major shift reflected both in policy and by ordinary residents.
“Trees are a thing of beauty, but they are also water pumps” and are therefore “an extremely important part of our stormwater management plan”. Lawns, on the other hand, are “not much better than paved areas” in terms of holding water. “We don’t need to have lawns… the rest of the yard could be trees and plantings,” with trees supporting flood mitigation and other plants helping to support pollinators.
The Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) operates the RainSmart program to improve stormwater management, conduct public education and awareness activities at Falls Church, and provide grants for rainwater projects. rain garden and landscape conservation. Funding is being provided to help residents use rain barrels and rain gardens that help rainwater infiltrate into the ground on site in the service of flood mitigation and to help protect backyards. local water.
Walker strongly recommends mentioning the establishment of trees and gardens for flood and stormwater mitigation “when writing to local and state legislators.”
Expanding on tree health, Walker touted the benefits of programs like Tree City USA, a program that provides communities with a four-step framework for maintaining and growing their tree canopy. In fact, “Falls Church was the first Tree City USA in the state of Virginia.” Additionally, an increase in a community’s tree cover can lead to cooler temperatures, cleaner air, and even increase property value.
In terms of commercial ownership, she clarified that “you cannot fell a tree without consulting the arborist” and that in the event that a tree is felled by proper means, “a replacement tree is required”.
Along with trees, flowers, and other plants, Walker illustrated how the city is a prime location for urban agriculture. Small-town Sandy Tarpinian, a master extension gardener with over 22 years of experience, offers container gardening seminars that focus on how to grow herbs, vegetables and flowering plants in a limited space, such as on a balcony or patio.
Organizations like Hands On Harvests – beginning with the Grow a Row FC initiative in May 2020 – that work to support food pantries and help feed those in need with fresh produce grown by people in their own backyards. court provide a link between environmental responsibility and civic engagement.
Besides growing fresh food, proper composting practices can have positive contributions to a community’s ecology. “There are three composting programs in the city,” including one focused on “home composting,” run by Tarpinian. There is also a curbside compost collection program “at a huge discount here in the city” and a compost drop-off station at City Hall.
Walker pointed out that “managing our impacts on climate change requires us to change the way we use [and manage] our energy,” too. There is “only one LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified building in the city at this point” – the “Flower Building” at 800 W Broad St.
Meridian High School’s new building is also “designed for energy efficiency”, with its “mitigation of heat loss” and “implementation of a geothermal heating and cooling system” making it a extreme help for the environment.
Walker concluded that any practical change that occurs is influenced “by zoning” and policy making. “Developers are being asked to provide concessions” to Falls Church, “letting the city negotiate environmental benefits in new buildings.” There’s also the proposed idea of a “city energy consultant,” an expert who could help FC “get a really substantial energy plan for…the community.” Tim Stevens commented that the employment of an energy expert “is becoming more common in other localities”.
Returning to citizens speaking to their leaders in local, county and state government, Walker pointed out that advocating “for federal and state legislation” in support of “regional and local action” goes a long way. way and can have lasting benefits. However, ongoing work and new initiatives always start with concerned citizens making their voices heard. “Community really matters.”
To learn more about the city’s Environmental Sustainability Council, visit fallschurchva.gov/171/environmental-sustainability-council. More information about the VPIS and their RainSmart program can be found online at vpis.org. To learn more about how to participate in Hands on Harvest, visit handsonharvests.org/about. Visit virginiageneralassembly.gov to learn how to best contact your state government officials.