What is the #NedZero Action Plan and why does the Town of Nederland want one?

A sustainability action plan is a tool that will help the Nederland community realize and refine what sustainability looks like for Nederland. The Sustainability Advisory Board defines sustainability as follows:

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is the conscious lens through which to view all issues. It is the answer to a society that is using up it’s finite resources by structuring conditions under which humans and nature exist in productive harmony.

It incorporates a holistic approach to community planning and policy making that enables residents to meet their needs and maintain a high quality of life, without compromising the ability of future residents to do the same. Nederland’s sustainability model is based on the understanding that the economy and social fabric are concentrically nested within the restraints of the larger environmental system, and are limited by the carrying capacity of the natural environment.

The "nested" model of sustainability incorporates economic, social and environmental sustainability into one formula.

With proper planning and forethought, sustainable practices actively support opportunities for a localized economy, an independent and self-reliant community, and small-town resiliency while demonstrating how people can voluntarily work together within the mountain community to obtain a more harmonious existence with our ecosystem.

Why do we need Sustainability?

If adhered to, sustainability achieves a net zero strain on our finite resources. Moreover, sustainability can be profitable and achievable. A collective sustainable consciousness will maintain our planet in order to offer future generations the very same opportunities for a healthy lifestyle and existence that we are currently struggling to preserve. In fact, “Sustain” implies maintaining status-quo. To achieve sustainability will provide the opportunity to not just maintain current standards of living but to actually thrive as a town and culture. This is our common goal.

How do we facilitate sustainability?

Sustainability is a civic philosophy whose time has come to move into civic policy. We can achieve sustainability by aligning our built environment and socio-economic activities with the constraints of natural systems that support life, now and in the future. Moving towards sustainability requires a shift in consciousness to one of regional and global awareness and may demand innovative methods of living beyond small behavior changes and product development. Sustainability requires deep and sometimes difficult reflection upon the lasting impacts of our current cultural norms and everyday decisions. The underlying message of sustainability embraces resource conservation, waste minimization, and putting resources back into the system at the same rate as using them. Therefore, achieving sustainability requires a coordinated approach for action-oriented planning and periodic review of quantifiable indicators that involves community participation. Success depends on widespread understanding of the critical relationship between people and the environment, and the decision to face our own lifestyle choices and ethics which compel change.

That definition forms a basis of understanding, but the practical realities of how that is expressed in Nederland will be determined by the actions that the community takes. As Little Richard said in 1956, “It ain’t what you eat, it’s the way how you chew it.”

This plan lays the framework to document which actions have been taken, are being taken and will be taken that are helping make Nederland a place that endures. As an iterative and living plan, revisions will include a list of all the actions taken to advance sustainability in the prior year as well as a prioritized list of the actions to be taken in the next year and beyond. The plan also includes actions that have not been adopted, whether due to a lack of champions/resources or a lack of desire. The annual goal setting and prioritization exercise will grow out of the goal setting exercises from the various boards in Town as well as an open and inclusive community process. The Sustainability Action Matrix (SAM) is the spreadsheet that tracks all of the actions, priorities, relations to other plans, etc. that will form the backend of this plan and document progress.

The actions in the SAM range from very specific (for example, replace fixed-speed Big Springs water pump motor with a Variable Frequency Drive) to the more outcome focused (for example, continue to support the Community Center as business incubator space for food products.) In each of the main sections of the plan, there is a brief description of the goal area and then the relevant portion of the SAM is included. As time passes, actions will be added, moved to higher priority, and occasionally disappear as they are completed. The record of accomplishments will be saved each year and appended to the annual report, which will include this plan. The critical component of the SAM is the Priority column, where each action is given a priority for the upcoming year. Each action in the SAM that is designated as High priority has a Lead Organization listed that will act as the shepherd for that particular action. The blank spaces in the SAM and progress reports will be their responsibility as the year moves on to have completed. Some of the actions are more fully filled out, with remaining steps, timelines, support organizations, specific champions and co-champions, etc. Where the priority is Medium or Low, those actions will need extra support to be realized.

In order to figure out where the community as a whole wants to go, it is helpful to know where it is at. The efforts to baseline and manage data are critical to measuring progress, though the acts of baselining and measuring do not in themselve have an immediate impact. Metrics will be added as each Lead Organization decides on them, and reviewed as appropriate. Through the STAR program, and through this Sustainability Action Plan, the Town will make those efforts to gauge where things are at in as objective a manner as possible. Some weight will be given to the way that the community is rated by the STAR system, but of more importance will be how the community sees itself. This process will be documented as much as possible in a transparent and available manner, and there will be information available prior to the annual review for the community to see. If the information is valuable, community members can support it; if not, there is the option to advocate for preferred options.

The Town of Nederland wants a sustainability action plan so it can track and report progress towards sustainability goals, determine where to most effectively allocate resources, and position the town effectively for funding opportunities. As sustainability goals become more defined, whether via the annual update process and/or other Town actions, the system initiated by this plan will demonstrate what success looks like. The Town already has a Sustainability Resolution to look to, a Comprehensive Plan that calls out sustainability in various ways throughout, an Envision 2020 guidance document, and even models of sustainability from Boulder County in the form of their Environmental Sustainability Action Plan. The hard work is to find the actions that best support these various plans with the least conflicts and then provide concrete steps to pursue each. This plan takes a first step in that direction, but that goal setting effort needs a wider community embrace in order to be fully realized. One way to do it is to define discrete goals in each aspect of Sustainability, and in the sections below there is language that will be used for this iteration. Once those are solidified, they can be formally adopted over a long term and the annual actions can be in support of whatever the community decides.