Guest blog by Kara Bowlin:
Mayor Slay is the first mayor in the history of the City of St. Louis to make sustainability a priority - and he has proven his commitment by hiring a sustainability director (the very green Catherine Werner), asking all departments to view their missions through the lens of sustainability, and, most recently, by producing the first-ever Mayor's Sustainability Conference, which recently wrapped up two days of speeches and idea sharing. In just the last few years, the City has made some huge strides in its sustainable practices. We're in the process of implementing a City-wide recycling program, which makes it easier for City residents to recycle and cuts down on the amount of trash that has to be landfilled. We have one of the largest Compressed Natural Gas fleets in the state, we're a bike-friendly city, we have a "no net loss" tree plating policy, and we're rich in beautiful, historic buildings that have been or are waiting to be rehabbed and reused. But the Mayor wanted more. And, for that, we're glad. So, the Sustainbility Summit kicked off on Tuesday night with a keynote speech from Majora Carter, a famed neighborhood-sustainability advocate. Her speech hit home with St. Louis - especially since it came just days after Mayor Slay traveled to DC to accept the EPA's "Smart Growth Achievement" award for Old North St. Louis. The evening concluded with the inaugural "Mayor's Sustainability Awards," given to five forward-thinking, green companies, people, and organizations. Wednesday afternoon brought a technical work session, where 80 sustainability experts and practitioners joined with 15 City leaders to share ideas and suggestions of possible goals, objectives, and strategies for achieving a more sustainable City. Finally, on Wednesday night, all St. Louis residents were invited to share their goals and ideas. What did we learn? Initial reports show that sustainability isn't a movement - it has become a quality of life that people expect to have in a forward-thinking City. Right now, the experts are examining the ideas and suggestions, and will work to bring those things together into our sustainability plan. Sustainability is, undoubtedly, important to St. Louisans. And, now that we've all basked in the success of the first Mayor's Sustainability Summit, we'll start to plan for the next one. Stay tuned.