ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The City of Alexandria says it was one of the first in Northern Virginia to draft an “environmental action plan” in 2009. Of the 363 action plans it identified, the city adopted and instituted a majority of them.
The city will soon adopt the second phase of its plan to combat climate change. “You need somebody to champion and to advocate for that sustainability,” said Alexandria’s Sustainability Coordinator Ellen Eggerton. “I worked with all the departments in the city to coordinate the plan. We have experts in energy, green buildings, land use, stormwater, sanitary, transportation, solid waste, environmental health, air quality…all those people worked together with me and came up with this Environmental Action Plan.”
Alexandria plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and by 80 to 100 percent by 2050 with a number of targets, including glass recycling.
The state of Virginia requires municipalities to recycle 25 percent of its solid waste. Eggerton says the city recycles about 48 percent. In partnership with Fairfax County, that number may rise; its optional glass-only drop off bins will contribute to gravel and sand used for projects throughout the city.
Alexandria residents also have the option to compost at several farmers markets.
Thanks to its public transportation options, Eggerton reports the city reduced its vehicle miles traveled by 12.5 percent from 2010 to 2016.
“You have to look at the contribution from our available transit, our bike paths, our multi-modal trails…all those things contribute to our reduced vehicle miles,” said Eggerton. The city offers free trolley rides throughout Old Town, a reliable DASH bus system, and bike shares.
“When you reduce your vehicle miles traveled, you increase your air quality, which reduces your pollution, which decreases your fuel use, which also contributes to reducing your greenhouse gas emissions,” said Eggerton. “So they’re all interconnected.”
Eggerton says Phase 2 of the Environmental Action Plan may not have over 300 goals, but they’re higher-level, “aspirational, and achievable.”
“We move forward with the programs that we can implement and control,” said Eggerton. “We have a program right now where we’re replacing street lighting with LED lighting. That has a very short turn on investment.”
Phase 2 also includes a tunneling system that will hold mixed sanitary water and storm water to treat it in a staged way without overwhelming the system to prevent sanitary overflow from going into the Potomac River.
Mayor Justin Wilson says the city council will officially adopt the plan next week.